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Respiratory Therapists – Helping Patients Breathe Freely

Published on Jun. 11, 2020

Breathing is part of life. When it becomes difficult respiratory therapists can help.

Angela Hanna, BS, RRT-NPS, ACCS, CHT, has been a respiratory therapist at Munson Medical Center since 2011. She received her respiratory therapy training at Muskegon Community College and went to Grand Valley State University for her bachelor’s degree in allied health. She appreciates the technical challenges of her job.

“I enjoy working as a respiratory therapist,” she said. “It has provided me with so many rewarding moments helping patients and their families through some of the most difficult times in their lives.”

As a respiratory therapist, Hanna said she can provide patients with medicated breathing (nebulizer) treatments, help patients with breathing exercises, or use specialized technology to assist with breathing or even perform the breathing for patients. Respiratory therapists also are part of the cardiopulmonary resuscitation team in the Emergency Department.


A Day in the Life of a Respiratory Therapist

A typical day involves a 12-hour shift and an assignment to a particular area of the hospital. For Hanna it could be the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or the ICU working with critical care patients, or hospital floors where patients need nebulizer treatments and other therapy.

“We take care of everyone from the 24-week micro preemies at the beginning of their life to the elderly at the end of life. It’s a unique and wide range of people that we serve,” she said. “We also assist with transports for NICU babies, and that’s the part I really enjoy. Our team leaves the hospital by airplane, helicopter, or ambulance to pick up sick babies at outlying hospitals, stabilize them, and bring them back to Munson Medical Center. It can be challenging and exhilarating at the same time.”


Helping All Patients Breathe Easier

As part of their work with ventilators, BiPAP, CPAP, and nebulizer treatments, respiratory therapists are trained on topics such as “respiratory rates,” “tidal volume,” “fractionated oxygen,” and “peak inspiration pressure.” Not every patient breathes exactly the same as another and therapists need to take several factors in mind as they initiate this therapy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, respiratory therapists have also worked very closely with patients on isolation floors – something that Hanna has not been part of because of her supporting role serving and protecting babies from the disease in the NICU. Despite that, she frequently works critical care in a non-COVID-19 unit.

A typical day shift sees 11 members of the team at work in the hospital. Night shift has fewer staff, but the department staffs the hospital 24/7, 365 days a year.


What Brings Hanna to Work Every Day?

“I like the people and the friends I have made along the way. I like the challenge of being a NICU therapist. If you are part of the NICU team you can work anywhere in the hospital and that was enticing to me,” she said. “I want to be an asset and resource for our department and one who can do anything that we offer kind of person that can do anything that we offer for therapy.”

In addition to her role as a NICU therapist, she also serves as an adjunct instructor for respiratory therapy students based in Traverse City who are part of the Muskegon Community College program. Hanna leads the clinical or hands-on portion of the training.

Hanna is married and in her down time she enjoys fishing and hunting. In the right season, she skips the rifle and puts a glove on her hand to hunt with her red-tailed hawk named “Zayda.” Hanna has been a falconer for 20 years.

Would she recommend Munson Medical Center to her family?

“Absolutely. We have very skilled staff who go above and beyond for our patients every day.”