Editor's Note

Have You Thanked an RT Today?

Recently, my stepfather was having trouble breathing. During the exam for what turned out to be pneumonia, the doctor asked, “Are you a smoker?”

My stepfather, always ready with a joke, replied, “Yes, and that’s why I’m here. Can you fix me so I can get back to smoking?”

Certainly, physicians are presented with some odd questions, but in a recent interview with a respiratory therapist for the article “Aging with Asthma” (page 18), I realized it’s the RT that knows how to answer patients’ questions — from the jokes, to the serious concerns, even the questions they don’t ask.

I started out with a general question and Carol Proctor, RRT and asthma educator, immediately answered my next five questions before I could ask. She also responded in a way that I easily understood.

In fact, Carol gave me so much detailed information about educating seniors with asthma that I was blown away by her attention to detail. For example, she told me that handouts shouldn’t be printed on colored paper, like blue or green, because seniors have trouble reading it. How impressive that RTs think about these potential obstacles to compliance!

Would patients get this same education if physicians were the only source? Unfortunately, we have a health care system that affords little time with most physicians, which would mean no time for detailed background information or several case-specific questions. I suspect many patients do not even know what questions to ask.

The RT is one of the few people in health care that sits down with a patient to thoroughly explain a condition and how to cope with it. Sometimes, the RT might explain information repeatedly, in different ways. For seniors, it might well take several times before they fully grasp the information. RTs can even explain why it’s important not to smoke and what impact smoking can have on a patient’s disease, rather than simply saying, “Don’t smoke.”

Thinking about the RT’s role led me to a very important question: What would happen if these valuable staff members could no longer be supported in home care because of funding cuts?

Certainly, respiratory HME providers understand that RTs are important. I have yet to talk to a provider that doesn’t employ an RT or several. Perhaps it’s time for us to make Congress aware and ensure that patients don’t lose this vital support.

At press time, S 2704, the Senate companion to H.R. 3968, the Medicare Respiratory Therapy Initiative Act of 2007, which would grant reimbursement for respiratory therapy, had just been introduced.

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management April 2008 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Elisha Bury is the editor of Respiratory Management.

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