a diverse group of student respiratory therapists smiling

Respiratory Student Takeover!

As I checked into the pulmonary function testing lab today. The clerk called over her shoulder “Justin, this lady is here for spirometry.” As I stepped onto the scale I glanced over to him, as he acknowledged her statement. I went and sat in the waiting room, contemplating if my boots were responsible for the half-pound I’d gained since I last stepped on my aunt’s smart scale. A few minutes later, Justin was back, calling my name.

“Hi, I’m Justin, a student respiratory therapist.”

“Nice to meet you. I like students AND respiratory therapists, so we’re a good match.”

And it’s true— I love getting the students, whether it's in the clinic or in the emergency room, whether they are doing all the care with some consultation, or whether they are “just” observing. Anytime I’m seen by a soon-to-be healthcare professional, I am more than happy for them to be involved. I might even request them if I could!

Learning how to be pros while already being pros

As I expected, the student respiratory therapist was a total pro at doing my PFTs. He called his supervisors in to do the final check to see that my results were valid (and of course, they were!). We had a brief chat while waiting for the computers to do things, and I quickly had a printout in my hand to take down to the clinic with me (why they can’t just send them electronically down a floor, I’m not terribly sure). I may have had to wait a few extra minutes, but it’s not like my doctor was ready for me when I got there anyways! Although, now that I think about it, I regret not asking him if he had any questions for me!

And, when I got called out of the waiting room for my appointment in the outpatient clinic, it was my lucky day—it was a medical student (who promptly realized he wasn’t wearing his name badge, and while I’m sure he introduced himself, I can’t remember any semblance of his name!).

We went over my last few months such as my meds, the exacerbation/infection that landed me in urgent care, my generally good breathing otherwise, and my weird possibly a spider bite but nobody is really sure and then he briefed my pulmonologist and we had a quick chat and I was on my way. I’m a bit disappointed I likely won’t encounter another student when I return in July!

The perks of student-provided care

Beyond students normally being closer to my own age (which I do actually like, as it’s most often been the case that we build a good rapport very quickly), I find that their knowledge is very, very up-to-date and so is that of those supervising them.

Depending on how far along they are in their training, students are often able and expected to take their time getting to know patients. They are gaining experience and effectively drilling down what they need to know and relaying that to their supervisors. And of course, whether it’s checking their work, having your recent history considered twice, having an extra person in or observing a conversation in the clinic (like the student doctor I saw in my respiratory therapist appointment 20 minutes later), it makes me feel more confident that everything that needed to be done has been done.

Two doctors are better than one

After all, I’ve had my share of errors made in regards to my care. While “too many cooks in the kitchen” can be true, I think in terms of these encounters with students and more experienced doctors involved, two is certainly better than one a lot of the time!

In fact, when I was in the ER once for a blood transfusion due to fibroids, the resident doctor, Stephanie, was the one who really advocated for me to get surgery that day— which allowed me to get on with my life after 8 months of hell. So, while that may be enough indication of why students are my favorite, it’s also very probable they might just be right anyways!

An under-utilized resource

I’ve always felt that students, in healthcare or other fields, are a pretty under-utilized resource. They are passionate, usually energetic, and they strongly want to put their knowledge to good use and put it in practice.

When you think of doctors, think of how many of them have been working towards this for literally their whole lives and dreamt of doing nothing else. Some people may want someone “more experienced”, but I want someone who is personable, wants to understand what matters to me, and of course, is up to date on the clinical stuff too.

Fortunately for me, when I get a student in addition to Dr. Smartypants, my pulmonologist, I get all of that times two, and that’s pretty cool.

Do you like having students involved in your care as a patient? Comment below!

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