Robyn Klages: It Takes a Village
For Robyn Klages, being a respiratory therapist means taking it all in stride, even in the midst of a pandemic. “Respiratory therapists are often very grounded individuals and have a great knowledge base,” says Robyn, who is the Corporate Clinical Services Manager for Respiratory Therapy at Osler. “We come to work, we roll up our sleeves and we do what needs to be done – pandemic or not.”
Respiratory therapists are involved in the care of almost every single COVID-positive patient, especially during the most critical moments, providing each patient with the breath of life. They track and monitor oxygen levels and play a key role in the management of their breathing. When breathing becomes difficult, respiratory therapists have the skills to “take over the work” by inserting a breathing tube and using a ventilator.
“It’s a unique specialty,” says Robyn. “Most of our patients are intubated on ventilators, but we are also heavily involved in their care journey.” Robyn points out that respiratory therapists are one of a few health care practitioners that rotate through various areas in the hospital. “Today, I might be in the Critical Care Unit. Tomorrow, you might find me in the Emergency Department,” she says. “We certainly get a global view of what’s going on in the hospital.”
Being part of the continuum of care also means that many respiratory therapists form a strong relationship with their patients. “I can see a patient that comes into the Emergency Department and then they get intubated in the Intensive Care Unit.” With a no-visitor policy in place to protect patients and staff, Robyn emphasizes that the respiratory therapists are there for patients who are not able to be with their families. “Some of our respiratory therapists see their patients on the ward and then later, they might be the ones that liberate the patients off the ventilators,” says Robyn, sharing that it is a truly rewarding experience when it happens.
Having worked at the hospital during the SARS outbreak, Robyn currently wears two hats: leading the Respiratory Therapy team across all three sites and using her myriad of experiences to refresh an Osler-wide pandemic plan with members of the Project Management Office and Public Safety and Business Continuity team. “You often don’t get to refresh a pandemic plan in the midst of actually living it,” says Robyn. “This is a unique opportunity to talk to people and ask them questions in real time.”
Robyn truly believes it takes a village to make a difference. She gives credit to her extremely supportive team, which includes Francesca Fiumara, Director of Medicine, Critical Care and Respiratory Services, Tony Raso, Director, Professional Practice and Quality, and the entire Respiratory Therapy Department at Osler.
To get her through the difficult days, she looks to the little things in her life. “I have a pond in my backyard and every day I look outside and see the goldfish—they have survived the winter and are swimming around. Life has come back,” she says. “It’s these small details that you wouldn’t have noticed a year ago. Now, you look at these moments as precious.”
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