Respiratory therapist student prepares to start career amid COVID-19

As a result of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, Sarah Khan and more than 110 RT students like her across the province will soon be on the front lines, working with other health-care staff to save lives. 

Sarah Khan hasn't graduated yet, but has received an emergency graduate licence to get to work

While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario says it's fast-tracking the certification to get students into hospitals as quickly and safely as possible. (Jean-Pierre Clatot/AFP via Getty Images)

St. Clair College respiratory therapist (RT) student Sarah Khan hasn't technically graduated just yet. 

As a result of the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic, however, Khan and more than 110 RT students like her across the province will soon be on the front lines, working with other health-care staff to save lives. 

That's because the College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario is fast-tracking the certification of RT students, as a means of adding more bodies to help care for patients, providing emergency graduate licensure to any student in the provice who is within 10 weeks of graduating.

"They're pulling retired RTs and they're pulling RTs that are just about the graduate, and graduating them just to be placed on the front lines," Khan said. 

Sarah Khan is a respiratory therapist student at St. Clair College. Soon, she'll be one of more than 110 newly licensed respiratory therapists on the front lines against COVID-19. (Sarah Khan/LinkedIn)

Once licensed, Khan said she'll perform vital intubation and ventilation work to help patients suffering from COVID-19 get much needed air and oxygen. 

"[We're] going to be in charge of a ventilator and [we']re going to be establishing an airway into [patients that] are needed," Khan said. "It can be multiple different types of airways, and then we have to manage not only access to breathing, but we also have to look at the entire picture."

Khan, who has spent the last seven years studying to be an RT, said she's already spoken to her family about the risks associated with the work she'll soon perform. 

"I'm living in a house with six people," she said. "We've prepared a quarantine room if things go south, and I feel it's my responsibility to do so. If things go bad, I have my quarantine room."

Watch below to learn why ventilators are necessary to treat COVID-19:

Why are ventilators important for treating COVID-19?

10 months agoVideo
Hospitals are scrambling to secure more ventilators amid the coronavirus outbreak. A respiratory therapist explains how they work. 2:59

And even though Khan hasn't graduated just yet, Ed Dudan — manager of allied health services at Windsor Regional Hospital — said he's confident that Khan will know how to keep herself and others safe.

"We've impressed on them, even before this began, the importance of proper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment, the elements of hand hygiene, keeping themselves safe before anything else," he said. 

"A lot of what we do is urgent in its nature, so we have to rush into rooms, but in efforts to keep safe and to make sure that we're not spreading this any further, those elements are very, very crucial."

With files from Windsor Morning and CBC Ottawa


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