By Kate Hunger
Respiratory Care Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education Kristina Ramirez, MPH, RRT, CHES, FCCP, spent two weeks this summer treating COVID-19 patients in South Texas.
Ramirez was deployed to Laredo and Edinburg by a recruiting agency that works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“They send you to areas that are overwhelmed and understaffed and need as much help as they can get,” she said. “It was a great opportunity and very rare, so I was excited to be able to work on the front lines.”
The experience made an impression on Ramirez, who described the high degree of illness she observed.
“To be in a place where they are in crisis mode, it’s not only devastating, it’s unreal,” she said. “For those people who don’t really understand COVID, if they were to walk into this kind of facility and see how many patients were on ventilators and how sick they are, I think they would understand the magnitude of the disease and that people are dying.”
The work demanded the ability to think creatively and apply critical thinking skills taught in the classroom and refined in clinical practice. Ramirez lauded the efforts of health care workers who have been caring for patients throughout months of the pandemic.
“I just want to recognize their hard work and doing this every single day,” she said. “I don’t think we give them enough credit for what they do.”
When Ramirez returned, she shared her experiences with graduating students in an online meeting.
“I just wanted to give them that real-life talk to give them an idea of what to expect,” she said. “I wanted to let them know how important our job is as respiratory therapists. They are the experts on anything having to do with the airway.”
Program Director and Associate Professor Richard Wettstein, MMEd, RRT, FAARC, FCCP, supported Ramirez’s decision to deploy.
“Respiratory therapists are always on the frontlines fighting life-threatening diseases and conditions,” he said. “It is imperative that our faculty continue to stay at the forefront to maintain clinical skills and bedside experience, in addition to providing our expertise in saving patients’ lives during this pandemic.”