Ottawa

Regulator, colleges rush to get respiratory therapists working

As the Ontario government scrambles to acquire more ventilators for hospitals in the province, the regulatory body that licenses the specialists who operate the machines says it's working to get more of them to the front lines of the war against COVID-19.

Students could soon be monitoring ventilators on front lines of COVID-19 crisis

Respiratory therapists intubate patients and monitor ventilators, vital tasks as hospitals prepare for a growing number of COVID-19 patients. (CBC)

As the Ontario government scrambles to acquire more ventilators for hospitals in the province, the regulatory body that licenses the specialists who operate the machines says it's working to get more of them to the front lines of the war against COVID-19.

There are approximately 3,700 respiratory therapists in Ontario. They intubate patients and ensure those on ventilators receive enough oxygen.

The College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario says it's now fast-tracking certification for respiratory therapist (RT) students to get them into hospitals to begin helping out.

"They've been training for three years to do this role and the last year has really been in the critical care setting itself. So they're already familiar with the ventilators that are in use, the infection control protocols and all of the precautions that are required at this time," said Kevin Taylor, the college's registrar and CEO.

Taylor said 117 students will soon join the ranks of the province's respiratory therapists.

Kevin Taylor, CEO of the College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario, says final-year respiratory therapy students are being registered quickly to help hospitals run ventilators in the case of an increase of severe COVID-19 cases. 1:36

La Cité students ready

Around 10 of those students will likely come from the respiratory therapy program at Ottawa's La Cité. The students have been finishing their clinical rotations and are ready to begin working in hospitals, said Justine Verville-Fiset, co-ordinator of the college's respiratory therapy program.

The COVID-19 virus can attack the lungs and restrict the patient's ability to breathe, which is when a ventilator may become needed.

Respiratory therapists are vital right now, especially since each can monitor up to five or six ventilators at a time, Verville-Fiset said.

"If you don't have an RT in your hospital and people come with COVID symptoms and need to be intubated or need to be on high oxygen, you do need an RT to assess and respond to those patients," she said.

La Cité has handed over some of its extra ventilators to The Ottawa Hospital, and has donated extra personal protective equipment to Ottawa Public Health.

Students in the respiratory therapy program at Collège La Cité are being tapped to help. 7:15

With files from Radio-Canada's Kim Vallière

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