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Patients breathe easier with respiratory therapists of Women’s College Hospital

November  3, 2014

Juvena Mendonca and Kheya Biswas
Juvena Mendonca and Kheya Biswas

For the respiratory therapists (RTs) of Women’s College Hospital (WCH), the best part of the job is making connections with patients.

“It’s so rewarding to form bonds with patients. It’s great when we get to know their stories,” said Melanie O’Leary, an RT with WCH. “It's a great feeling being able to witness and be a part of the progress your patients are making.”

Typically, RTs tend to work in acute care. These healthcare providers might practise in emergency departments, operating rooms, intensive care units and other urgent service areas. 

At WCH’s Pulmonary Function Lab, which specializes in ambulatory care for patients with chronic respiratory disease, RTs have the opportunity to follow patients over the course of many years or months.

“Our patients develop a trust in us,” said RT Kheya Biswas. “I’ve noticed that patients feel at ease when they see me again. They know they are working with an RT who knows their case.”

The Pulmonary Function Lab at WCH is a respiratory health program that is supported by a strong interprofessional team that includes respiratory therapists, patient educators, pulmonary function technologists and physicians. 

On a typical clinical day, RTs at WCH perform tests for various respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These RTs also counsel patients previously diagnosed with respiratory conditions and provide smoking cessation support.

“Some patients might overlook the therapy aspect of our role,” said RT Juvena Mendonca, who is also the professional advisor of respiratory therapists, anesthesia assistants and pulmonary function technologists at WCH. “We are always happy to listen and provide advice on how to enhance easier breathing.”

Mendonca noted that much of her role involves patient education – which includes reviewing breathing techniques, going over how to use inhalers and answering general respiratory questions.

In addition to all these responsibilities, WCH’s RTs also train new residents on respiratory testing and they deliver presentations across the hospital.

“We cover everything – from how to use equipment to respiratory testing to strategies for quitting smoking,” said RT Jalasah Kokulanathan. “Our goal is to make sure that everyone at the hospital is well-informed about respiratory health.”

Respiratory therapists of Women’s College Hospital
Mustafa Wahaj (student), Shilpi Desai (student), Melanie O’Leary, Kheya Biswas, Jalasah Kokulanathan
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