After finishing my associate’s degree in respiratory therapy, my desire was to move forward with a bachelor’s degree, as I knew that is what many fields, such as management, sales, or furthering medical careers, require. However, I needed to support my children.
I waited almost six years to start the B.S.R.T. Postprofessional Program at NSU. I kicked myself for not starting sooner. The online classes allowed me to work at the same time. In fact, I worked two jobs. The material I was learning strengthened my role as a respiratory therapist every day. When you take your board exams and start working, there are plenty of things you learn, but without detail. Once you gain experience and relearn those things, they make so much more sense.
The most compelling moment for me occurred mid-program. One required reading assignment was a journal article discussing ICU-acquired weakness—how the combination of steroids, paralytics, and the number of days on a ventilator were all catalysts. I had two situations that directly related to this article.
A four-year-old at the children’s hospital where I worked was intubated twice for an MRI. In the pediatrics field, paralytics are often used during an MRI to keep children still. The child had an obstruction of his airway for which he was receiving steroids. The airway obstruction was resolved with the steroids; however, his mental status became a concern. This later required him to be re-intubated for a CT scan of the brain, which came back normal. I was able to raise the possibility of an ICU-acquired weakness, and a need for more physical therapy, plus time. The doctor agreed, and the boy walked out of our ICU just fine.
As if that were not gratifying enough, I also had a 45-year-old patient who was intubated for asthma. I was there on the initial intubation and again on day five. During rounds, I questioned the combination of steroids with paralytics. I even brought my copy of the article and gave it to the intensivist. He was willing to listen, because he knows the importance of evidence-based medicine. He changed the patient’s medications, and we were able to extubate him the next day.
The intensivist took me to the patient’s bedside and told him, “This girl saved your life.” Of course, it was teamwork, but this made me feel great because burnout is very real. When you feel like you have made a difference or saved a life, however, that fulfillment makes it all worth it.
One of my coworkers started NSU’s B.S.R.T. program right after I did. She, too, wished she had started sooner. Another coworker was trying to decide on a B.S.R.T. or a bachelor’s in health administration. When the discussion came up, a health administration alum advised them to follow me and get the B.S.R.T. at NSU because, “You are going to learn so much more toward your field, rather than just about management.”
I am happy I chose NSU’s B.S.R.T. program, and I plan to continue my education with NSU. I am only two prerequisite courses away from applying to the Anesthesia Assistant Program. The difficulty of the online courses was the perfect level of comfort for me as a returning student. It was the right stepping-stone to move on gradually to a better career and a better life.