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Franciscan Companies’ Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRTs) are instrumental in carrying out our mission; they personally work with patients every day, helping them to live home and live well. However, if you were asked to name the people who work at a healthcare facility, your answer would likely be nurses and doctors. Respiratory therapists probably wouldn’t make your Top 5 list unless you have experience with asthma, COPD or ventilators. This group often stands in the shadows.

“What they do not understand is that a Respiratory Therapist is a lung specialist who can treat their lung ailments and hopefully make their life better,” says Timothy J. Curtis, RRT and Respiratory Care Manager for Franciscan Health Support. “We teach the patient about the disease process and what they need to do to either overcome it or to live with it the best way possible.”

This education is essential to the success of respiratory treatment at home. Given a historically high rate of readmissions for these conditions, Franciscan’s RRTs put utmost importance on the transition from hospital to home.

“We enable the patient to go home and continue his or her care in order to improve their quality of life and activities of daily living,” Curtis says. 

Every day, Franciscan’s RRTs work one-on-one with patients, showing parents how to use apnea monitors on their infants, setting patients up on CPAP machines, evaluating people for oxygen devices,  fitting CPAP masks, and more.  

Mary Jane Luke, RRT, works primarily with CPAP and BIPAP patients; people who sleep poorly and are seeking treatment. As an obstructed sleep apnea sufferer, too, Luke understands both sides of the condition – as a patient and a therapist.

“Not only do I educate the patients about the machine and fit their masks, but I also explain the outcomes of not using the equipment,” Luke says. “I reassure patients that this treatment helps them sleep better and gives them a much better quality of life.”

Respiratory problems often cause a domino effect. If you’re not sleeping, for example, you are likely suffering from other problems that do not seem to be related to a lack of sleep, such as memory problems. 

“When I call patients a week or two after they are set up on CPAP/BIPAP and they tell me how amazing they feel, I feel so rewarded,” Luke exclaims. “This treatment is not only good for patients but they actually feel so much better all-around!”

Franciscan Companies is soon launching a program called TLC – Teach, Learn, Comprehend. The in-home patient education and assessment program will benefit patients by providing them with the tools and support they need to live well at home. For example, respiratory therapists will reinforce the proper techniques for medication use which will improve the quality of patient's lives. Physicians will benefit by receiving direct feedback from the therapist on how the patient is doing in the home setting and information on additional equipment or services that may improve their health.

“Living with lung disease is not an easy thing and I feel patients can use all the support they can get to achieve a more comfortable, fulfilling lifestyle,” says Linda Tillson, RRT, who is on the committee spearheading the project. “I am very excited about it because I feel we will be able to more fully utilize our skills as Respiratory Therapists to help patients live well at home and improve their quality of life.”

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