I am the I in IWK: Ashdynn Bramfield, registered respiratory therapist (RRT)

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COVID-19 is many things to many people, but first and foremost, it’s a respiratory illness. So what was it like to work in the field of respiratory therapy while this illness ran rampant across the globe? IWK Health’s Ashdynn Bramfield, a registered respiratory therapist, shares her experience

Q: How did your role as a respiratory therapist (RT) change during the pandemic?
A: In general, I think our role became more vital than ever before. There were a lot of responsibilities on RTs to be up-to-date with new protocol changes and the latest information on the virus. A lot of the procedures we do as RTs have high potential to spread COVID-19 and I think we really felt that pressure as a profession.

Q: What was your biggest fear at the start of the pandemic as it relates to working as an RT?
A: The start of the pandemic was really terrifying. I was scared that I could bring the virus home to my family or spread it to a patient who may not be able to fight it. Not to mention that as we learned more about the virus, guidelines and procedures also changed. I think the whole world went through a major traumatic experience dealing with the pandemic, and I think health care workers really felt that too.

Q: Now that we are well into the pandemic, what is your biggest pride point as it relates to working as an RT?
A: I feel like I’m making a real difference. That may be such a generic answer but it’s honestly what I’m most proud of. Not many people even know RT’s exist, let alone how important our role is within a hospital setting, but it’s an amazing profession. My coworkers truly are heroes and I deeply admire the people I get to work with everyday.

Q: Covid-19 is a respiratory illness, how do you think that impacted people’s perception of respiratory therapy?
A: I think COVID-19 actually did highlight a greater need for RTs and even highlighted the scope of our profession. I’ve heard the profession mentioned on news outlets, social media, and even television shows (we even got a mention on Greys Anatomy!) and that never really happened before. That representation is so important because it draws potential for our profession to grow and expand.

Q: How did you feel about being an RT during the pandemic?
A: In the beginning there was a lot of fear and anxiety, at other times I was proud that I could play such a vital role, and at other times still I was frustrated and angry. That said, I do think that after this virus ceases to be an imminent threat to our communities and our health care system, the feeling that will last will be a feeling of pride; pride from being able to be a fighter in the defence against COVID-19.

Q: What learnings from the pandemic do you hope will stay for future respiratory therapy practice?
A: The biggest thing that I hope RTs take from the learnings of the pandemic is how important we really are and how much we’re capable of! I think it’s easy when you show up for work day in and day out to feel that maybe you don’t make a difference, or maybe that it’s just a job. But with something like the pandemic that was not just a threat in our workplace, but a threat to everyone in the world, it makes you realize that what you’re doing really does matter.

October 24–30 is Respiratory Therapy Week in Canada.

photo by Gabrielle Gallant