"Why did you become a Respiratory Therapist?"

“Why did you become a Respiratory Therapist?”

One of my favorite questions to be asked when I’m working in the hospital is “why did you
become a Respiratory Therapist?” I get asked this often. Almost daily. I get the “why are you not a nurse?” and “why aren’t you a doctor?” questions as well. For people without lung disease or without a family member or loved one with lung disease often times they don’t even know exactly what a Respiratory Therapist is or does. When I interact with my patients, specifically asthmatics, they are almost always scared. They’re nervous, anxious and can’t breathe. But when I hold their hand and tell them that I am a severe persistent steroid dependent asthmatic myself, they almost always seem to relax a little bit. Because they know I know EXACTLY what they’re going through. What they’re feeling at that exact moment. I’ve been there. More times than I count on all of my fingers and on all of my toes.

I decided I wanted to become a Respiratory Therapist when I was 10 years old. I can remember the moment vividly. I was attending a week long summer camp for kids with asthma. Kids like me. I LOVED this camp. I attended it for several years until I was 13 and too old to continue attending. I remember the medical staff members making learning about my disease fun and for that one week of the year, we were all the same. We all took our medications and no one batted an eye or gave a judgmental look.

After I graduated from high school I went straight into college and breezed through the Respiratory Therapy program and passed the licensing exam. I felt like I had a bit of a leg up on everyone else in my class because I already had knowledge of the medications and nebulizers, peak flow meters etc. Working in a hospital setting was always my goal. I absolutely love doing what I do. Lungs are my life, both personally and professionally. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’ve also found a love for teaching and asthma education. For almost a decade, every summer I have returned to the exact same summer camp I attended as a child with asthma, only this time as a respiratory therapist on the medical staff. Being able to connect with these asthmatic kids & tell them my story is so powerful. At first they are shy and timid but once I tell them I’m just like them & that I attended the same camp over 20 years ago they light right up. You never know how your story will impact someone and being able to connect with my patients is a big part of why I do what I do.

So the next time you’re at your doctors office or hospital, ask the question. Ask to hear their story. Because you never know, it might be exactly the same as yours.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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