CRAFTING WELLNESS STORY
"LIFE AS A FIRST YEAR RESPIRATORY THERAPIST DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC"
Life is in the fast lane when you are a Respiratory Therapist in one of the epicenters during a global pandemic. Garry sat down with MDF to talk about being a night shift RT in Los Angeles; he gives advice for students who want to purse a similar career, and why he loves what he does! Check out this inspirational podcast episode with one of the many healthcare heroes fighting the fight to keep us all safe and healthy.
SPEAKERS: Garry, Brooke Smith
First year as a respiratory therapist, and there's a global respiratory pandemic going on, you know.
Brooke Smith 00:12
Hi, everybody, this is Brooke and on behalf of MDF Instruments, I would like to welcome Gary, can you just introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your job and what you do?
Yeah, sure. So I'm a respiratory care practitioner, also known as the respiratory therapist. And basically what we do is we work in all areas of the hospital, and we work with all patient populations. So starting out with infants, we are there when they're born during labor and delivery. And, you know, sometimes if there's complications, we have to get their airways handled and protected and sometimes intubated. And then we're also doing breathing treatments for as medics or COPD patients, and we manage the ventilator, so patients on life support in the
Brooke Smith 00:58
ICU. That's really very important job. And I'm sure with what's happening, I'm sure that you've been very busy.
Yes. it's been, it's been really, really busy. And, yeah, it's a lot.Brooke Smith 01:13Oh, how long have you been a registered respiratory therapist?
So I actually just surpassed my one year mark, like the other day, so I'm still a new grad are dead. It's exciting. It's crazy. It's just like, flew by. Wow. So
Brooke Smith 01:30
can you tell us a little bit about schooling for that and how that works?
Yeah, so um, every program is different. They have some fast track programs. And but the way that I went is I went to community college. And so I took all of my pre clinical courses at two different colleges. And then I transferred to the college with the respiratory therapy program. And I applied for the college. And it was about like, a year and a half of just the program. And we rotated at five different facilities here in LA. And yeah, I graduated last year.
Brooke Smith 02:08
Amazing. So you graduated and now you work full time.
Yeah, I work at two different facilities. I work at one and like the South Bay Area, and then I work at one here in LA. So I'm more full time at the one here in LA and then I'm like, part time at my other one.
Brooke Smith 02:25
That's really very important job. So for shifts how do shifts work? Do you work like night day? Does it like kind of change? Depending on your schedule? How do you really kind of make that happen?
Yeah, so um, I actually have the luxury of working any shifts that I wanted to, but I'm at my main facility, I work nights. So at my per diem facility, I also work nights. So you know, working night shift that both of them
Brooke Smith 02:53
What time does the night shift start? And like, what time does it end?
We started at 6pm. And we end at 6:30am. So thankfully, I'm lucky that both hospitals they start at the same time because I remember as a student, some facilities start at 630. So start at seven. But yeah, my hospital is six to 630.
Brooke Smith 03:12
Wow. Okay, so you do not go to sleep at night?
Definitely not. I try and go to sleep from like, 8am until I try to sleep until like 4pm. Okay. It doesn't always work out. But I try. Right, so
Brooke Smith 03:29
what kind of advice you have for people who have to work night shifts? Do you have like any advice on how you kind of get through that or did your body just kind of acclimate as you do it longer.
You know, I feel like I was really blessed in the sense that I was already a night owl. So it wasn't too hard for me to adjust to staying up a few hours later, because normally I'd stay up until like two to three anyways. But a big thing that I say is snacks. I bring like three meals throughout the night because I eat when I get there and then you have to eat again in the middle of the night and then in the morning before you leave maybe. So you just have that the food and the fuel to keep you going and definitely drink lots of water.
Brooke Smith 04:14
Stay hydrated. Do you have favorite kind of snacks that you like to have?
I love any kind of like bars that have that are higher protein, because they can like fill you up. Like for a period of time if you're super busy, so you can kind of just like to down on a bar. But I'm actually kind of obsessed with these frozen meals called devour, and also pF changs pF changs makes frozen meals and they're really good.
Brooke Smith 04:43
So did you always know that you wanted to get into respiratory therapy or did you kind of just fall into it? Can you tell us a little bit about how you really came in to do what you do?
Yeah, for sure. So um, growing up, I was actually a really creative individual Lauren to like the arts and entertainment and, and the past history of like being an actor and all that stuff. But my grandma was actually a respiratory therapist. And so as a kid, I don't really think I knew exactly what it was. But back then they used to wear the white coats and they would kind of like doctors. And I just knew that she was like something really cool in the medical field. And I just always had an interest in it. And, you know, I would actually go to work with her, like she worked night shift also. And I would just go and hang out. And now I don't think that's allowed, but maybe back then it was a little different. It wasn't allowed, but But yeah, so I was just always intrigued with what she did. And I always looked up to her. And so when I was in college for film, like I said, I was already acting, so I knew what it was like to work on a set. And I really loved editing. And I was just working on that I was like, it's not really financially stable. And so I started looking into other programs at my college at the time. And all they had was nursing, but I was looking at like medical programs, and all they had was nursing. And so I started to research like other medical careers, and I came across respiratory. And I was like, wait, my grandma's and RC? Like, why didn't I think of this sooner? You know, it's so weird. I don't know why it never clicked. But then I started reading about it and researching more, because I don't think I ever really knew what she did. And it was just so intriguing, because it's such a specialized field. And so I just looked up respiratory programs around me and I went to the nearest school and yeah, that's how I got into it.
Brooke Smith 06:40
Oh, my gosh, that's amazing. Sounds like it was just kind of be you found your way in and doing what your grandma did. That's a beautiful story. I love that.
Yeah. And she's like my best friend. So she really loves that I followed in her footsteps.
Brooke Smith 06:54
I'm sure she's so proud of you. And I bet you can go to her for advice and be like, hey, Grandma, I found this issue. What do you what do you think? And then just she loves being able to help you with that.
Yeah, it's really cool to have her there and to have that extra support system.
Brooke Smith 07:07
That's awesome. Are you originally from Los Angeles? Or where are you from originally?
Yeah, I was actually born in Burbank, and I grew up in Santa Clarita, and like the Valencia area, a lot of people know like Six Flags Magic Mountain. So I grew up over there. And yeah, now I live in Hollywood.
Brooke Smith 07:25
So other than your passion in medicine, obviously, is, what else? What other things do you have passion for aside from healthcare? Is it are you into like health and fitness? Or are you still doing acting? Or do you have other things that really interests you?
Well, I wasn't going to the gym before COVID-19. So that's, those body goals are kind of squashed right now. Gotta keep up with the home workouts. But yeah, like I said, you know, I'm really creative individual and into the arts and acting. I'm not full productions are shut down right now. So I haven't been doing anything lately. But um, yeah, I just love I love editing. I love bringing any sort of like conceptualize ideas and like to fruition that I have, like doing short films and writing, and I love traveling and hiking. And so I think anything to kind of get out of the health care, because like, I work all the time. And when I come home, I'm still thinking about my patients. So kind of anything to have, like a little side passion. You know, it's, I think it's really important.Brooke Smith 08:32Yeah, absolutely. Especially right now Your job is, is already stressful. But adding COVID-19 into the mix. I'm sure it's even more stressful and more tiresome and worrisome. So it's good to have some sort of outlet that you can kind of just unplug for a little bit. Know that, that health care workers especially like you guys, put your heart into everything. And I know that it's really hard sometimes to disconnect from that. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with COVID-19?
Yeah, for sure. So, um, you know, every week, it's definitely different. Sometimes, like a couple weeks ago, we actually our ICU was completely full. And we had no more ventilators. So it was a little scary in the sense that, like, if there's a Code Blue right now, what would we do, you know, but now, that was about two weeks ago, and now we have a whole bunch of ventilators and our ICU is not full. So it's definitely, you know, a week by week thing, sometimes we think, Oh, it's kind of slow down, and then it picks up. But it's definitely been harder and more different than anything. I think we approach everything completely different. It's a little more scary going into the rooms and you know, trying to make sure we have all of our protective barriers. Yeah, it's definitely it's definitely different and it's tough, but at the same Time, you know, like on a day off, I'm always wondering, like, I want to, like go back to know, like how that patients doing? You know what I mean? But yeah, it's definitely it's a lot. Yeah,
Brooke Smith 10:12
I imagine it is I, I can tell just by talking about it, that it's, it's definitely something that because you, um, you're walking into that battle and you know, you know that you're you want to help other people but you also know that you're putting yourself at risk and to be able to do that is so brave, and we really commend you and, and thank you so much for stepping up and, and sacrificing and taking risks to help other people. It's really beautiful. And I want you to know how much we appreciate you. And what you do, because without you, you are literally like the barrier between us and and COVID-19. So, thank you so much.
Thank you. Yes, certainly I know, it's, it's a lot, you know, my first year as a respiratory therapist, and there's a global respiratory pandemic going on, you know,
Brooke Smith 11:06
what, what do you think that, if you were to say like, this is something that would help us or if people only knew to do this, or something that you need, for your job that you're not getting? Is there anything there that you can kind of shed light on?
You know, I think it's really hard for people to truly understand how intense COVID-19 is, um, you know, you can look at the numbers, you can see that it's happening everywhere. But there's also videos of people old, not wearing masks, and people just going out and drinking go into the bars. And because it's not affecting you, you don't necessarily some people don't think much of it, you know, and I kind of wish I could record a day. And just show everybody what it's like, and how intense these situations are, and just how different you know, these patients are we honestly don't know what to do. We're trying experimental drugs and different procedures. And, you know, we're trying to look at what Italy did and what New York has done. And it's just, it's scary that like we don't, we don't know what to do, and we don't have the answers. And we don't have that medicine, you know. So I just wish that people could just do one little thing and wear a mask and not complain about it. And keep up hand hygiene and social distance. Because I think when it was getting really crazy, especially here in California, when we did implement those measures, the safety measures, the closing of businesses, and mandatory mass, you know, we weren't over flooded in our hospital. And so I think it really did help to flatten the curve. And now with more businesses opening up, I think it's, you know, a little scary because the numbers are climbing. So I think it's just important to still act as if this is like a really scary thing. You know, I think, you know, we do have to go back to living life and doing things. But still, if you don't have to go outside, don't go outside. And you know, we're, we're sometimes using trash bags, like as shoe covers, so we don't always have the protective stuff.
Brooke Smith 13:28
I think people need to also realize that, you know, it's not just about them, it's not just about like, Oh, I'm you know, in my 20s. And if I get too big, no big deal. I'm fine. Like people are making a big deal out of this. And it's like, it's not about you. It's it's about, yeah, you might be in your 20s. And you might be perfectly healthy, and you might be fine. Not be fine. But also it's about it's about what you're bringing to the immune compromised people, the older people. And also just I'm not I try to explain to people I'm like it, it's also just not making the hospitals feel like so overwhelmed if we don't have beds for people who have other kinds of concerns, because if their beds are filled with everybody, as COVID-19, then where are they going to put people who have issues if the beds are full, you guys have been breaking your back for a month and a half. And there's only so much energy that we have that you know, you can keep working like this and the hours and the stress before it just starts to wear on you so much. So everybody really needs part, wear their masks, stay home, if they can, you know, social distance, wash your hands and just really stay home for the health care workers so that you guys can do your job until we can get it back to you and get this under control because it is very serious. And I think that people need to be aware of that, that it's not just about them and if they get sick, they're going to be fine. It's just not so much of a bigger picture than that.
Oh my gosh, I wish everybody had your mentality. But I couldn't have spoken to her words. Yeah, it's, you know, and actually, lately, we've been seeing a lot of like 25 to 35 year olds. So I think a lot of people with that time young and healthy mentality, you know, we're hoping that it's not as bad for people without issues. You know, so, yeah, that's crazy. I just, I wish it was over already. You know, there's definitely healthcare workers who aren't even coming into work. In more short stuff. It's Yeah, it's scary.Brooke Smith 15:43And and has your production rpp? Or do you feel like, you're still not getting the proper equipment that you need to feel safe.
So thankfully, especially at my main facility, like I have to say, We're so lucky with everything that we have, you know, every day, we are given a face shield, and we're giving, like five surgical masks, and we're given and 95 mask, and, and they have washable gowns, we ran out of plastic gowns, but they ended up getting some washable gowns from a company and, you know, so they're doing everything that they can. But at my other facility, we aren't getting care packages every day, I'm using my same face shield from three months ago, they're having us reuse and 95 masks, or they're giving us like an off brand that some of us don't really like trust, you know, and that's the facility where I'm using, like patient belonging bags to like, cover my shoes, and you know, but there's definitely been people who have bigger issues where they're not getting anything. So I'm grateful for the things that we do have.
Brooke Smith 16:56
we definitely all need to work on that and making sure you guys are protected. That's the least I think that everyone can do to make sure that you guys are well equipped to do your jobs. What advice would you have for students who are interested in doing what you do or interested in getting into healthcare? in general? Do you have any kind of advice on anything you would like them to know going in or how to kind of get involved in
think, like such a big part of it, it's just don't doubt yourself. You know, I was there and somebody messaged me saying that they don't know if they can do it. And, you know, thinking of it, like a big MediCal program, it sounds scary. So I always tell people just think of it like another class, just treat each class as it comes and read and study. And, you know, you'll do you'll do fine. And you know, there's people who are scared because they come from a different country, or they speak a different language or English isn't their first language. And there's so many healthcare workers who English isn't their first language, you know, they're all from different countries. And it's so beneficial for patients because our patients don't just speak English. So I think people who have that mentality, you know, definitely don't think of it like that I feel for the patients to have somebody who speaks a different language. And yeah, if it's genuinely, genuinely something that you're compassionate about and interests you, then go for it. And don't give out and you know, when it's something that you're interested in, it makes you want to learn more. And when you know that you need to know certain information to save someone's life. It just makes you like, want to study and want to know it. So just don't give up and don't doubt yourself and you'll be fine. Yeah, LA, good. Los Angeles Valley College for respiratory therapy, because it was a really good school.
Brooke Smith 18:51
Amazing. Yeah. I love that. That's awesome. I think, yeah, I think one foot in front of the other. Sometimes it's just doing one step at a time, and persistent and not getting discouraged if you fail a test or you fail something, because that's how you learn. That's how you grow. And then you're not gonna feel that time and you got to be persevering and keep going. And if you if you dream it, you can achieve it. I totally agree with that. And I think
and don't be scared to be hands on. A lot of people are, you know, once you get into your clinical rotations, a lot of people get a little shy. And you know, that's really where I learned to be my best was as a student and just like going for it or saying, Can you show me this? Can you teach me how to do this? Because once you're no longer a student, you're on your own. So you really want to know how to set things up and, you know, handled events and speak up. Yeah, it's important.
Brooke Smith 19:50
In order to learn how to swim, you just got to jump right in, you know. That's the best way to learn. Sometimes as you get you have to practice and you have to put all that knowledge from reading and studying to practice and use and with, with practice. So that's awesome that you, you learn best. It was so much fun talking with you. I'm so glad that you sat down with us today. I really enjoyed having a conversation with you and kind of helping to inspire young people who want to get into what you're doing. And also, we want to say thank you so much for all of your hard work. And we you are Cho hero going out there and and helping people so we really appreciate you We're so happy to have you.
You guys are so supportive and everything and you know, having such a big company like you guys, help represent people of all colors, shapes and sizes and everything is giving us a voice. It's just really important. So thank you.
Brooke Smith 20:50
It's our pleasure. It's our pleasure. And we'll go ahead and link your your Instagram and all of your information so that people can find you. Okay, thank you. I appreciate it.
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