For the role of a COPD case manager it really takes a certain type of person – and for the role of a respiratory therapy COPD case manager. Not everybody you know wants to do it. Not every therapist wants to work in the NICU or the PICU, or with the emergency traumas that come in our department.
It really takes someone who's smart, who's caring. Most importantly, you have to be empathetic towards this patient. And a registered respiratory therapist can do just that.
One of the things with the respiratory therapist and the COPD patient is when the patient comes into the emergency department with an exacerbation, we are the first ones there, along with the nurses and doctors, to help the patients breathe better.
Through their hospitalization they're met with the respiratory therapists. Usually, we see them around the clock to do their therapies. And as a COPD case manager, utilizing respiratory therapists allows for us to provide education to the patients on what really helps them to manage their disease best. I not only treat them acutely in the hospital, but manage their disease at home and to transition them home safely.
We are knowledgeable on the disease process. We spent many years in school learning just about their cardiopulmonary system. And when it comes to COPD, we're knowledgeable about not only the disease process, but the medications used to treat this disease – the different equipment out there that the patient can utilize.
We really are there to let the patient know that COPD might not be curable yet, but it's very treatable, and that we want to educate the patient and work with the whole interdisciplinary team to make sure the patient can manage this disease, go home and live with this disease.
So we want to make sure that this therapist really has the drive to want to think about not just working in the critical care setting, but thinking about the continuum of care.
You need someone who's caring, who wants to take their time at the bedside with the patient – talk about their home life, their social issues, their family support – and recommend patients for outpatient pulmonary rehab, different support groups for that patient, to help not only treat their disease with medications, but also get them out of the house, get them breathing better, get them exercising. And really, that social aspect helps with their spirits and helps them feel better as well.
You need that therapist who wants to really fill that role, and – not only treating the patient in the hospital – we do follow-up phone calls. So, a therapist who wants to call the patient at home and see how they're doing, or get those calls from those patients.
We need someone who is really driven to want to help the patient manage their disease at home and to help improve quality of life, not just saving a life at that moment.
It's really a rewarding role. I felt in my career as a respiratory therapist this has been the most rewarding for me. I felt like I have given the most and helped the most patients in doing COPD case management.