Submitted by: Lynae Cooper, 2nd year Fanshawe Student

With the onset of the state of emergency, my daily life shrank to a home office until I completed my fourth semester at Fanshawe. As a respiratory therapy student, I hoped to someday join those in the fight against COVID-19. Following exams, I was granted the opportunity to work as a Respiratory Aide at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. Eager for my first day and a little unsure of the responsibilities of the role, I hoped to alleviate part of the increased workload that the pandemic presented for the respiratory therapists. Over the first couple weeks, the position evolved as needs were identified. Initially, our duties included anesthetic gas machine checkouts, disinfecting and circuiting ventilators, and restocking equipment. As the role became more defined, our days quickly filled with tasks and procedures to keep us on our feet.

While working in the hospital, I observed firsthand how practices changed according to the most recent information and equipment availability. I had gone to my first code on my hospital visit a few weeks before my school went online. A plethora of frontline workers gathered in the patient room; a line of several clinical students prepared for CPR, a handful of nurses controlling the defibrillator and preparing medications – a vastly different picture than a code blue in today’s hospitals.

A PPE shortage isn’t something we covered in our courses and I would have never predicted that I’d be wearing a surgical mask and face shield for an entire 12-hour shift. Although COVID-19 has presented new challenges to Canadian healthcare, we’ve seen individuals and organizations rise to the occasion with innovative ideas. Many of my peers were deployed in hospital as clinical aides and screeners, while others went to work in long term care or various other essential services.

Working as a respiratory aide, I have gained many practical skills that will allow me to roll into my clinical placement better prepared.  Although this year is nothing like I expected, I have never been so excited to be a part of this amazing field.

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