Same ventilator, different problem

It is a difficult time for every country’s government to protect their people who are infected with COVID-19. The pandemic came uncalled and unannounced for everyone. Hence, to have adequate resources and ways to contain it beforehand was not possible for most of the countries. Recently the U.S. started facing a new kind of shortage of people who know how to operate a ventilator. How deeply does that affect medical treatment?

Two of Northeastern University’s presenters talked to a lead faculty head of Master of Science in Respiratory Care and leadership in one of their litmus (podcast) episodes. He explained in detail the problem the U.S. government is facing regarding the ventilators. A ventilator is one of the most complex machines. A ventilator breathes for you when you can’t do it yourself, and this situation arises a lot in the case of COVID patients. It has three different LED screens that depict the breath pattern and blood levels of the patient. It is connected to the patient breathing circuit by a tracheal tube. A person who operates ventilators is called a respiratory therapist. He/She is trained specially for the task, and it takes two years on an average to become a certified respiratory therapist. On an average in a community hospital, there are 20 respiratory therapists for 200 beds who can normally handle the situation pretty well, but the COVID situation is a lot more complicated. Usually, patients are on a ventilator for 5–6 hours. However, COVID patients are on a ventilator for 7–10 days which makes the therapists’ work even more hectic.

It is an adverse issue; hence, difficult decisions are being taken to deal with it. Some therapists are coming out of retirement and joining temporarily to handle the situation. Students meant to graduate in June and July are given degrees early and put to work. Nurses aren’t adequately qualified for the job but they try to use their ICU experience to be a helping hand in the process. Everyone is trying their best to contribute and praying that we get out of this pandemic with minimum life loss.

Luvpreet Singh

Originally published at