Health Professions

Respiratory care students give PA students a lesson on mechanical ventilation

Respiratory care master's student Mayce Sadi points to show PA studies student Bryce Holmgren how to use a mechanical ventilator

By Kate Hunger

When first-year Physician Assistant Studies student Bryce Holmgren recently had the chance to learn about mechanical ventilators from a group of graduate respiratory care students, she peppered them with questions.

“I was honestly shocked by the whole thing,” Holmgren said. “I was like, ‘Wow, they are expecting us to be able to write orders and know the machines and see what needs to be changed.’ I can’t believe what it would be like to go to clinics or the real world and not have that experience.”

Mayce Sadi, one of five second-year respiratory care master’s students who led the sessions, emphasized the importance of PAs understanding the various types of ventilators, their settings and modes. She and her fellow presenters showed the PA students how to calculate ideal body weight, tidal volume and carbon dioxide volumes so that they will be able to write orders.

“I am really passionate about this area of study,” Sadi said. “This experience of teaching the PA students was an opportunity to learn from one another and to learn the skills to work as an effective team early on, so that hopefully we can improve patient care in the future.” 

This was the third year the interprofessional activity has taken place, said respiratory care Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education Kristina Ramirez, MPH, RRT, CHES, FCCP. The respiratory care students are well prepared to teach mechanical ventilation because of their own rigorous training and their clinical experiences, she said.

“I love letting the students teach,” said respiratory care Assistant Professor Thomas J. Stokes Jr., MA, RRT, who noted that UT Health San Antonio offers one of just four entry-to-master’s respiratory care programs in the country.

A study presented at the Physician Assistance Education Association (PAEA) Education Forum 2020 identified UT Health San Antonio’s PA program as the only PA program in the country to provide specific mechanical ventilation training to its students, said Leticia Bland, DHSc, MPAS, PA-C, assistant professor-clinical and admissions chair.

The interprofessional session will benefit both the respiratory care and PA students as they begin their careers, Sadi said, with the added benefit of an increased level of trust and understanding among PAs for the expertise of respiratory therapists.

“Both of these professions are fairly new,” she said. “People are still trying to understand what we do and what our role is in the hospital.”

The experience highlighted how much there is to learn about other health professions, Holmgren said.

“It not only gives us such a huge appreciation for what the RT students are learning and what the RTs will do to work with us in our practice, but also the awe,” she said.

Having the exposure to a range of mechanical ventilators before heading to clinicals will be a huge advantage for her and her fellow PA classmates, she added.

“The amount of exposure we have allows us not be playing catchup when we go into our training,” she said. “Even just to be able to have those conversations right away [such as], “If I were going to be putting orders in for this patient, what would they look like?’ That is a level of curiosity we may not have had before that will allow us to ask questions and dig a little bit deeper into something we will be responsible for in the future.”

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