Doug Hahn has never experienced anything quite like this in all of his 26 years of working in respiratory therapy.
“My favorite part of being a respiratory therapist is meeting and helping patients that are in need,” and the need has never been greater than during this pandemic, where he is directly involved in treating respirational distress in COVID-19 patients every day at Aurora Medical Center in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.
“These patients present with a variety and severity of symptoms. This virus provides us with a variety of challenges because of these differing presentations,” Hahn says. “We have some patients that only require a low level of oxygen and others requiring high-flow oxygen systems to maintain adequate oxygenation levels. In more severe cases a patient may require ventilatory support via BiPAP, or in the worst cases, being placed on a ventilator.”
With patients experiencing an array of emotions – ranging from anxiety to nervousness to sadness and more – being a respiratory therapist during these times often means also becoming a companion and aide to patients who are confined and unable to be with their loved ones.
Sometimes, it’s as big as assisting to calm their nerves and talk them through their feelings. And other times, it’s something as simple as making sure patients’ cellphones are charged and within reach, and even assisting with setting up video calls to loved ones.
“With visitor restrictions in place, stress and anxiety levels are increased for COVID patients and their families,” explains Hahn. “Cellphones are an important means for communication between patients and their loved ones. This is their only contact with the outside world. When these patients are in the hospital, it’s the little things we focus on to help make their treatment and recovery less frightening.”
While providing compassionate and thorough patient care is important to Hahn, he also recognizes that there is a list of things people in the community should know.
“Some advice to the public would be to never stop living,” he says. “Find things you enjoy and do them safely. Take care of yourself and eat healthy to help maintain a healthy immune system. Protecting the elderly and other vulnerable populations is essential. Each person must take responsibility and do their part to protect themselves and people most vulnerable to COVID.”