The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

2000 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

Pro: RTs Should Modify Equipment to Meet Patients' Needs

Robert S. Campbell, RRT FAARC University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

My first job in Respiratory Care was as an "equipment tech", where my primary responsibility was to disassemble, clean, and reassemble equipment. The experience gained during that period of my career is irreplaceable and cannot be duplicated in today's healthcare environment. We have long ago entered into a "disposable" society and this mentality has permeated through our profession as a result.
Today, young respiratory care practitioners are entering the profession with a better understanding of physiology than ever before. As a whole, we better understand physiologic derangement's associated with the diseases our patient's possess. We now have more advanced technology, equipment, and techniques available to prevent and treat any physiologic derangement than ever-imagined twenty years ago. And I ask you, "What does that get us"? What's missing from this picture? I think it is common sense, imagination, and old-fashioned "know-how". As respiratory care practitioners, our value has always been the ability to make something out of nothing, or make something happen when others couldn't. The idea may not have been original to us, but when challenged by physicians or engineers, we provided new ways and applications to improve the care of our patients. Eventually, the ideas started coming from us and we became leaders as well as providers in the healthcare system. We knew how things worked, and combined with an intricate knowledge of clinical goals, created/modified equipment to reach those goals. Of course, this was also the beginning of the "litigation era" and there was fear of leaving the door open for lawyers or insurance companies to peek through. My impression is that many RCPs have become too "procedural" and need to think more globally and use their imagination. Of course, RCPs must be "allowed" to think and act this way. This is something that must be nurtured by physicians, administrators and manufacturers.
We should modify equipment to provide for and improve the care and outcomes of our patients, but we must do so very cautiously. Ideas and equipment must be tested and/or validated before applying them to critically ill patients. When necessary we must "ask for permission" from the appropriate authorities or at a minimum communicate and advise those who may be affected (families, agencies, manufacturers, etc.).

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