Respiratory therapist play key role in fighting COVID-19 pandemic

Memphis, Tenn. — When you think of frontline workers, doctors and nurses usually come to mind. There’s another set of workers that don’t always get the same recognition. Respiratory therapists work alongside doctors and nurses every day. Their workload has also increased since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Larry Hopper, Assistant Director for Respiratory Therapist at Baptist Memorial Hospital, tells FOX13 respiratory therapists help with patients from the beginning.

“We’ve always been there at the bedside alongside the doctors and the nurse,” said Hopper.

What is a Respiratory Therapist? Hopper explains they essentially help make sure a patient is breathing properly, give oxygen when necessary and they’re also responsible for intubating and placing patients on ventilators. Hopper said their work starts as soon as a patient enters the hospital.

“The whole time when you’re a respiratory therapist, you’re delivering therapy to people who need it for their pulmonary conditions,” Hopper said.

Because COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory virus, Hopper said the job has become even more important.

“The majority of the mortality that’s taking place because of covid is because respiratory failure,” said Hopper.

Hopper told FOX13 that, since the pandemic, ventilatory care has gone up.

“We’ve had triple the increase in our ventilatory care,” Hopper said.

Ventilator supply is still good according to Hopper. One final task respiratory therapists are responsible for is one Hopper said is probably the biggest task.

“One of the big responsibilities of respiratory therapy is the functionality of dealing with resuscitation,” Hopper said.

Respiratory therapist often work similar hours as other frontline health care workers.