How health care workers are moved to areas of highest need

Respiratory therapists are among the health care workers most involved in the hands-on care of patients infected with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

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Respiratory therapists, or RTs, work in emergency departments, intensive care units and all other nursing units with patients who have lung disease or breathing issues. They work closely with nurses and intensivists – the physicians who work in the ICU – to care for patients in respiratory distress, including those who are on a ventilator.

During the current pandemic, that means caring for the increasing number of critically ill patients.

“We are on the frontlines of giving care, along with the nurses, intensivists and others,” said Mary Silder, RRT.

Mary is the manager of the Respiratory Therapy department at OSF HealthCare Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Evergreen Park, a southwest suburb of Chicago where the number of COVID cases has rapidly increased.

Because of the increase of critically ill patients, respiratory therapists have been in high demand.

“Normally, we would staff five to six respiratory therapists on each shift. Now, we are going up to as many as nine or 10 because we need to place one respiratory therapist in every ICU where there are patients on ventilators,” Mary said.

A resilient team

The team is “putting 110% into each shift” to respond to this pandemic, Mary said.

“They have not stopped caring. They are working as hard as they can to give the very best care to every one of their patients in this unprecedented time of the unknown. They just step up, begin their patient assignment, and they don’t stop until the end of their shift. Our team is very resilient. We have become part of the huge team to care for these patients 24/7,” Mary said.

OSF Little Company of Mary became a part of OSF HealthCare on Feb. 1, weeks before the first patient at the 298-bed hospital would test positive for COVID-19. The hospital is situated in one of the hardest hit areas of the state of Illinois.

While other OSF hospitals have a seen slow, steady rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, cases at OSF Little Company of Mary have increased at a much faster pace.

A helping hand

To help meet the needs of this increasing number of patients, OSF HealthCare shares resources throughout the Ministry, which includes 14 hospitals in Illinois and Michigan. That means sending resources like masks and ventilators where they are needed most. It also means sending Mission Partners, like respiratory therapists, to the area hardest hit by COVID-19.

OSF respiratory therapists from Peoria, Bloomington and Ottawa, where COVID-19 infection is not as widespread, have been temporarily reassigned to work at OSF Little Company of Mary.

“Our respiratory therapists have always been a family. We’ve worked together for many years, and when new people join us, they become part of our family,” Mary said. “We are so grateful that they are leaving their home and family, coming to Evergreen Park and helping increase staffing on all shifts to care for these patients.”

Last Updated: April 9, 2020

About Author: Laura Nightengale

Laura Nightengale was a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. 

She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and worked as a reporter at a daily newspaper for five years before joining OSF HealthCare. 

When she’s not working, Laura loves to travel, read, and spend time with her family, including her sweet and ornery dog.

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Categories: COVID-19, Working at OSF