Lead

I was checking my Facebook app on my phone where I received a notification from 7 years ago.

Divi standing in front of the board and walking us through the formula. We watched as he went through the steps and the reasoning. I guess I had put down my probably third cup of coffee of the day to capture this image. Watching this process unfold was a smile-worthy experience that I wanted to record and share.

Seven years ago, I was a student at The Michener Institute. A group of us sitting in the library working through math questions as we tried to apply them to respiratory care. There was a lot of information that was covered at a fast pace. Some of us, including myself, had weekend jobs, which meant even less time to get comfortable with the material. I had completed my undergrad just prior to this program, so being a student was not foreign to me, however, I felt the pressure. Luckily, I was not alone. When faced with a common challenge, people get together and unite. With each person having their strengths, we stepped up to help the group at different times and in different ways. I can say with confidence that without my classmates, my time as a student could have been a lot more difficult.

I encourage you to spend the time to identify your strengths and weaknesses. This time, not because a course requires you to complete a questionnaire or because you have to write an assignment about it. Do it for yourself. Be honest with yourself. What are the areas that you could ask others for assistance in? What are your strengths, and how can you utilize them to help others?

So share with us… what are you doing to give back? How has a colleague or a mentor made a difference in your life? What can you do today to make a difference in the lives of others?

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Annette

Hi everyone,

Thanks for joining me for another interview with an RT who I believe is doing interesting and unique work and is contributing to the field of respiratory therapy.  Please enjoy this conversation with Annette Lievaart.

Annette, you were a highly recommended RT to interview as an individual who is making a difference outside of Canada. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Southern Alberta.  My respiratory therapy education was completed at Northern Alberta Institute of Technology,

Majority of the first half of my almost eleven years long respiratory therapy career has been in Alberta and the latter half in Kenya.

I started volunteering abroad before Respiratory Therapists Without Borders (RTWB) existed. I discovered them when they were just starting out; I became a board member. Due to logistics, I am serving with a long-term missionary organization called Reach Beyond.

Outside of RTWB, I enjoy playing games with friends, walking my dog, exploring Kenya, reading books, and trying to figure out how to live in a culture so different from my own.

My hopes with this interview is to shed light on the need for better respiratory care abroad, and that RT’s can be helpful in developing hospitals!  Also, I hope to have people think about what it means to work with limited resources.

 

When did you first hear about the respiratory therapy field? What made you decide to become an RT?
In high school I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my career was going to be. I knew I wanted to be working in healthcare but not exactly sure which area. I found a description for Respiratory Therapy online.  It piqued my interest. My mom knew of someone who was a home care RT. I spent a day with her and really enjoyed it. Applied to colleges at age 18 and was off to NAIT to study Respiratory.

 

What are some of your memorable roles so far?
My most memorable role is the one I hold right now. I work at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya, Africa. Tenwek is a Christian mission hospital and I work here as a missionary Respiratory Therapist. The role is unique. I am the only RT in a 300-bed hospital. We have 13-17 ICU beds (depending if our CVICU Is open). We have 7 and a half ventilators, the half is an old Servo 900C that no longer delivers PEEP.  We only use it if as a backup when the others are in use. I also have 2 vents in the nursery, but we don’t often use surfactant, so the ventilators are used more for Post-ops or other short-term ventilation needs.

I love this role as it is very diverse.  As the only RT, I function as an educator and a bedside RT.  For example, this morning when I went up to rounds I discovered that my 3-year-old burn patient was intubated overnight for worsening sepsis.  I optimized his vent setting, an insp time of 0.4s is a little too short for my liking. I was thankful to see my 30-year-old trauma patient was doing well. We had put her on APRV yesterday and today her FiO2 is 50.  I extubated a post-op who hadn’t reversed well from surgery. In assessing my 50-year-old who had a pneumonectomy for aspergilloma, I was saddened to see her GCS is still low. Not sure why she is not waking up. We recently got some ETCO2 detectors donated.  Never had this in the ICU before so with nurse shift changes, I provide some education on why this is such a great thing.

Then, I went down to my other ICU, discussed the probable futility in intubating a boy with AIDs who has PJP pneumonia, and severe sepsis. Where we are limited in ventilators and patient and their families pay the bill, we must count the cost of what we do. In this case, given the severity of illness and pre-existing conditions, we probably won’t intubate him. This is the biggest challenge of working here. Illness is so severe and for various reasons that we are limited in what we can do… we see so much death. Death of young people, babies, middle age and the elderly. Pray for us as we continue to do the work.

This was my day before breakfast, the rest of my day will include educating staff, following up on the above patients, attending to emergencies, and whatever else is needed. One of the jobs I also do here is fixing ventilators. Last week I replaced a speaker in my ServoI (good thing as I needed it this week for APRV/BiVent) I also fixed a Servo300. The contacts were dirty, so I spent an hour cleaning it with a toothbrush.

After all this, I need to tell you about one other role I have held in my RT career. In 2015 I was back in Canada and worked at the UofA hospital (as well as being a typical bedside RT). I also worked part-time in the respiratory workshop with 3 RT’s who do this full time. They were a wealth of knowledge. I helped and, more than that learned many things that I can use when I am called upon here to fix ventilators (Thanks Guys).

 

How did you get involved with RTWB? What are your responsibilities and Duties?
I was first in Kenya in 2010.  Upon my return, I thought there needed to be an organization that connected hospitals with RTs’ who are willing to go. I stumbled across RTWB online. RTWB was just starting out at the time so I joined in.

I admit I do not have a lot of responsibilities directly with RTWB. As currently the only member who is working long-term abroad I think of myself as an advisor, helping out where I can.

 

Have you gone on any volunteering trips through RTWB?
As a founder, I have done some site visits to other hospitals. Setting them up so other RT’s can visit.

 

Who would be a good candidate to be involved with RTWB? How can RTs get involved?
Let me speak about being deployed with RTWB abroad, there are various ways to be involved in Canada, but I have less experience with that. To work abroad, first, you need some good bedside RT experience. The scope of practice can be very broad when working abroad and you will be asked to do a lot. So, make sure you know what you are doing before you go. Also, one needs to be flexible; I prefer intubating with a mac blade but if the Miller blade is the only one with a working bulb, miller it is. Be willing to use clinical assessment skills rather than all the numbers. An ABG here costs 15$, many people make $5 a day. Is an ABG in this situation worth 3 days wages? If I can get by without it, then I skip it. If you want to get involved check out the deployment page on our website. Or if you know of a place that could use volunteer RT’s help set them up as a Health Education Partner on our website.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about working outside Canada?
Most of my work has been in Kenya. I have also worked at Tenwek.  Aside from my work at Tenwek, I have also done some education at 2 other mission hospital in Kenya A month was also spent in Cameroon training some ICU nurses.

I came to Tenwek as I was looking for a place that I could share the love of God with my patients as well as fill a needed role. Tenwek was that fit.

The experience is amazing, exhausting, depressing and uplifting all at the same time.

RT as a profession does not exist in Kenya. I hold a practice license from the Physiotherapy Council of Kenya (strange I know), I had to define the Role of RT here. The role I created is a lot of education and a lot of acute care

ICU’s are becoming a lot more common in developing countries, however, there is not a lot of knowledge about how to ventilate well, what different ventilator modes really do, etc. RT’s can come alongside Doctors and Nurse and help fill this knowledge gap.

 

What advice you have for RTs who may be interested?
Become an experienced RT with varying experience. I often wish I had more pediatric experience. Maybe next time I am in Canada for a year I will work with peds to gain more experience in that area. Then look for places where you can serve. Get in touch with RTWB or other contacts to see where help is required. Also, be willing to go for longer than 2-3 weeks. Work in Africa is all about relationships and without that base it is difficult to create change.

 

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?
I love to explore this beautiful country of Kenya, this year I climbed Mount Kenya, last month I was able to go to the rainforest and see amazing birds and monkeys. Tenwek is really in the middle of nowhere so games with friends, pizza nights (with homemade pizza) and relaxing with a book are typical ways I wind down.

 

Who are the roles models and source of inspiration in your life?
I would say my biggest role model is Jesus Christ, He loved the world so much that he died, and rose again for us, during his time on earth he spent time healing the sick and loving them. I pray for a love like that.

Also, my mom is also a big role model, she died in 2016 after a fight with Scleroderma. Even when she was sick her love for life, for other and for serving other persisted.

 

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
This is the biggest challenge in being the only RT at Tenwek. I wear my pager 24/7 when I am here. It has been a few weeks since I have been paged out of bed, but it will happen.  I schedule weekends away either exploring or just groceries and eating out in Nairobi. I am encouraged by my community and the people back home who pray for me. I find joy in simple songs of praise to God and I give the control to him.

 

As an RT who has not worked out of the greater Toronto area, this has been an eye-opening interview.  Thank you for your time and for your compassion for your patients in Africa.

If you are interested to learn about volunteering opportunities visit RTWB.ca
There is an upcoming event to raise money for RTWB (visit http://www.Respiratory.Blog/5k/ for more details.)

Annette has been kind enough to share few photos to give us some visual perspective of her work and personal life.   Enjoy these photos, and thanks for taking the time to read this blog post!

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Social Media

As some of you know, I used to have photography social media accounts and now have focused my energy into my respiratory therapy blog. This involvement with social media for these years have brought an awareness to some of the mindsets, trends and external observations to online presence. I would say with confidence that now there is more noise than useful information. If people didn’t see or follow the evolution of Internet and social media, they may mistake the online “noise” as the true front of these online individuals and companies. While I do not consider myself an expert or a role model in this area, my involvement in this field has allowed me to identify individuals who have more realistic views of the online “process”.

In the following video Gary V. talks about one’s willingness and drive to dedicate “spare” time to achieve the desired outcome. Pay attention to how his advice is focused on what individuals truly want versus what they should want due to the influence of social trends and peer pressure. Also that you need to enjoy being involved in the process than necessarily the outcome (as there is learning in failure as well).
Personally, I believe in actions speaking louder than words. Also that there is hard work involved in every process. There are few true “easy” ways to reach greatness. In my respiratory therapy blog I have interviewed many successful individuals in the RT field and while their journey and achievements vary, they share characteristics such as hard work, self reflection, resilience and at times unique opportunities.
I encourage you to step back and re-evaluate what truly makes you happy, and that what you do or think is in line with that mindset. Continue to grow, learn and connect.
Stay curious.
Be kind to yourself and others.

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Who is helping who?

 Last Monday I was driving through my usual path to work.  At the Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) laboratory of Markham Stouffville Hospital, my colleagues and I perform PFT, 6 Minute Walk Test, Home O2 assessment, Arterial Blood Gas and occasional Exercise Induced Asthma test.  In the gaps between tests we provide patient education including Asthma, COPD and Smoking Cessation. On my drive to work last Monday around 7am, I was waiting to make a left turn when a car ran a red light and collided with the vehicle travelling in the perpendicular direction.  Because of the impact, the cars changed path and hit my vehicle. Everyone was okay. The cars had to be towed to collision reporting centre before being heading to repair shops. While I sat in the tow truck, the driver walked me through all the steps, gave me advice on what to expect that day and for the following days.  He even helped me organized all the required documents as I called my insurance company. As we were waiting for my rental vehicle to arrive, he said, “You said that you are a respiratory therapist… I have a bad habit”. He paused for few seconds and then continued… “I have been trying to quit smoking”.

Over the next 15 minutes we covered some smoking cessation information. I asked him questions and we went through some options.  He was motivated and willing.

 A few days later I was reflecting on this interaction and the conversation with him.  Sometimes you get to help someone when least expected. In my case you may get to help someone while they are helping you!  

 Yet another thought, or possibility, came to my mind.  Perhaps he asked me a question so I would talk about something I am passionate about.  Because over those 15 minutes, I was not thinking about the accident, being late for work, nor the hassles of fixing my car. In that time I was in the zone of helping someone else.  It was such a simple way to get someone’s mind off the stress of the situation.

 Are there any patient scenarios where this “technique” can be utilized? I am hesitant to call it a technique as by interacting with patients we, the health care providers, can establish a genuine rapport which can further improve patient care.   Maybe this method or technique can be used while getting things ready for an ABG? Perhaps before or while having a patient in the PFT body box or CT/MRI machine?

 

 Find out what the patient is passionate about during your ongoing conversation with them.  Ask them a relevant question or advice, and watch them focus on something positive.

 

Let me know if you have used this approach before and how it went!

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Shawna

Shawna (Urquhart) MacDonald is an active Respiratory Therapist at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS).  I got to know Shawna as she also volunteers on the Board of Directors at the Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario (RTSO).   Unbeknownst to me, I had actually been exposed to Shawna’s work over the past four years, as she has been one of the creative minds behind RTSO Airwaves, RTSO’s publication.  I am a fan of Airwaves because this publication celebrates respiratory therapists (RTs), and creates a sense of community in our field. I am fascinated by her level of dedication and contributions in the field.

When I heard that she has been helping with Respiratory Therapy Educational Retreats, I used the opportunity to gain more insight about her experiences and the Retreat.

Here is my conversation with Shawna:

 

Shawna, I know how busy you are with your family, work, RTSO Airwaves, Inspire 2019 planning, and the upcoming HHS RT Educational Retreat.  Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions!

Let’s take a moment and share little bit about you with our audience.
What made you decide to study respiratory therapy?

I have asthma…diagnosed when I was very young.  My childhood was filled with visits to hospital, different medication trials, and even a spontaneous pneumothorax! One summer I participated in a memorable pool exercise and educational program for asthmatic kids that was hosted by the Lung Association, so lung health strategies and Respiratory Therapy have been an influence in my life for a very long time.

I knew I wanted to be in a helping profession, specifically in healthcare in some capacity.  I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a pharmacist, a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist or a respiratory therapist!  However, the decision was an easy one after time spent shadowing each profession towards the end of high school.  My asthma experiences fuelled my passion for the profession!  I am a proud graduate of Fanshawe College, class of ’92.

 

Glad that you decided to study respiratory therapy!

What have been some of your memorable RT positions/roles so far?

I have held many positions over the past 26 years, and all have them have grown me into who I am today, with many wonderful memories along the way. From bedside Clinician to Student Clinical Coordinator to Education & Development Clinician (RT Educator), and now back full circle to bedside Clinician again.  I have also volunteered in many different capacities over the years, sitting on various committees and working groups; planning RT Week displays, activities and events; and volunteering with professional bodies.  I was a CRTO PORTfolio reviewer for 10 years, and I thoroughly enjoyed that opportunity and learned so very much!  My favourite part of this was learning about what amazing things RT’s were doing across the province…this always provided such inspiration and sparked a renewed passion for the profession.  In 2014, I began volunteering with the Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario (RTSO) as Editor of RTSO Airwaves (a quarterly publication of the RTSO) and as a Board member…my way of giving back to a profession that has given me so much.  These experiences and roles have shaped me into a well-rounded and seasoned therapist, but there is always more to learn and more ways to grow, both on a personal and professional level.

You definitely have a rich portfolio.  As someone who has volunteered with you, your level of dedication is clearly evident and appreciated!   I would like to ask you more questions for a possible second interview piece, but for now let’s talk about the upcoming Educational Retreat in Hamilton.

 

What is the goal of this conference and what can RTs who are attending this conference expect?  

What I love about the HHS RT Retreat is that it is a conference designed by Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) RT’s specifically to meet the educational needs of Respiratory Therapists.  I am proud to share that a number of people involved with this event have been on the Planning Committee for several years…it is so rewarding! I have had the pleasure of wearing many hats with this event, from planning committee member to speaker to chairing the event one year…all wonderful experiences!

 

The HHS RT Educational Retreat offers professional networking, lectures, hands-on facilitated workshops, tremendous vendor support, and lots of prizes!  What is great about our event is that over the years, it has grown to support regional LHIN RT’s and affiliated RT Programs for Student Respiratory Therapists and RT Educators.  We have also built in ample time to liaise with our many corporate (vendor) supporters…we couldn’t run the event without them, and we have a unique approach get people mingling with our vendors through our ‘vendor passport’ system and prize draw.  It is truly a marquis event! 

 

Thank you Shawna for your insight!

This year’s HHS RT Retreat is happening September 18th, 2018 at Carmen’s Banquet Centre in Hamilton. The cost for this full day event is only $60 ($35 for students).

For those who are interested to learn more about this conference and to register, please click on the following link:  www.hamiltonhealth.ca/rtretreat2018

 

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