The first video in a series highlighting rtNOW’s amazing telerespiratory therapists. This video introduces Kathy Waterhouse. For more information, visit https://rtnow.net
Justin: I have the privilege of interviewing Kathy Waterhouse today. Kathy is a telerespiratory therapist with rtNOW and she has 30 years of experience as a respiratory therapist. She’s a registered respiratory therapist in minnesota and probably some other states as well I would imagine is that correct?
Kathy: Yep, I have Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri and Minnesota
Justin: That’s fantastic, and let’s start with an easy question: Why respiratory care?
Kathy: So when I was younger I was really sick and I was in the hospital a lot when I was growing up, and I was gonna go to be a surgical tech. I got really really sick and ended up in the hospital and that didn’t work out. So then I took interest tests to see what I would score higher in and respiratory came up and at that time they were just starting a program. So it was my open door.
Justin: Well that’s great and what what areas of respiratory care have you been involved in?
Kathy: So I worked rural so it’s all of acute care. I’ve worked long-term care with vent management, weaning. I do everything from babies to old people so and then recently I do pulmonary rehab. I started the program and my next adventure which by the end of the year I will start with doing pulmonary function tests.
Justin: Fantastic. Great, well what do you believe – how do you believe actually – telerespiratory care can benefit patients and before we start
with that how long have you been doing telerespiratory care now with rtNOW?
Kathy: Just a little over here.
Justin: So how do you how do you see telerespiratory care benefiting patients?
Kathy: Just recently it’s been a big thing with the pandemic. You know these hospitals get equipment that they don’t know. So just even last evening I got a call that you know they just don’t know the equipment. They have it at work and they don’t know it, so just simple easy questions. I know we’re all strapped right now with everything kind of ramping up and I think this is a big door for us to be there and help people out. So just trying to keep the machines running, try and keep people alive you know – just day to day when we’re seeing everything kind of explode these past couple weeks here.
Justin: Have you found that a lot of your job is – so it’s it’s helping to help nurses work with the equipment – and do you think there’s a degree of comfort that comes along with having a respiratory therapist available there?
Kathy: Definitely, you know if you don’t know the equipment and to be, you know, forced, well you know it can be life or death. And (to) not know what to do next – to have that reassurance to just be able to call somebody and somebody to walk you through it -I think it’s going to be, it is big. And it’s going to be pretty amazing because we just can’t be everywhere at one time and right now that is evident that we can’t be everywhere at one time.
Justin: Absolutely, yeah. And the respiratory therapist shortage is also projected to become worse in upcoming years as well so I think it’s even more important that people like yourself are able to reach the staff at hospitals that need your expertise. So what attracted you to rtNOW in particular?
Kathy: For me it was that a big COPD component. I knew at the time you guys were doing
the hospitals and doing the rtNOW, you know, at the bedside but for me what I really want to see is this in homes. I want to see us being able to reach out to these people that have chronic diseases and make a change from day to day. They just don’t know what to do out there. You know they might call the doctor, you know, “My appointment’s a month out, I’m having trouble now,” and they have no idea where to go with that, so then they end up in our hospitals and I just think if we could break that and be at the homes and just being even a phone call to say “Hey, you know if you use what you have”, you know. “Have you called your doctor and got your meds?” Have you, you know, just even looking to see what they’re doing at home. Is their equipment clean? Are they using it right? I just think it’s just that’s where I want to be, that’s where I want to go. I just think those people really, really struggle and it’s really sad because, you know, we end up seeing them then in the emergency room or in our hospitals because they haven’t been able to get what they need from point A to point B. And then they end up in the hospital in a crisis situation and I think that could be averted very easily.
Justin: I couldn’t agree more. Yeah, and thankfully that’s the direction we’re going. It’s a, as you know with healthcare, it’s a long field to be plowed especially these initial times here breaking into that home environment from acceptance, to adherence, to payment, all those different areas, so it’s encouraging that we’re making steps in that direction. I sincerely hope we get exactly what’s what’s on your heart.
Kathy: Yeah and I knew I mean that’s where I want to go and I tried and tried and tried through where I work you know and it’s like, well there’s too many barriers here. I ain’t gonna be able to break them so I need some help. So you guys just were there to kind of bridge that gap and get things moving and, you know, I’m able to help people in between and I think it’s great.
Justin: Wonderful. So let’s talk about some of those obstacles. So what what are the obstacles
that you have seen between connecting patients and respiratory therapists – just at large in the scope of healthcare today?
Kathy: We’re not recognized by Medicare as a player yet. That’s one of the biggest huge hurdles – you being able to recognized to be in the homes. It’s really sad when it’s okay for a paramedic to go out and see my patients that the COPDrs out there and I mean, they have some wonderful programs, but it’s really sad when you have other professionals being able to go out to the home and and be able to you know see firsthand and try to coach these patients and it’s like wow, you know? They’re trying to do my job, which is great, I mean we need that, but they don’t have the expertise to be able to put it all together and to branch that. You know they’re out there in the homes but I don’t think they have the expertise and then relaying what they need to the physician can be difficult because that piece still really isn’t there.
Justin: Right. I couldn’t agree more those are some huge obstacles and I think that would dramatically change the face of healthcare if we could get respiratory therapists recognized and being able to bill for some of these services. It would be a game changer. So let’s imagine for a second that some of these obstacles were overcome then what would it look like? What can you imagine respiratory care looking like?
Kathy: I work a lot with cardiac rehab and chronic heart failure and they have an amazing piece that they have so they have a nurse that works Monday through Friday on the phones. So what they instruct their patients is if you gain more than three pounds in a day or five pounds in the week you need to call us. So they start at the bedside when they’re in the hospital. They give them this information. Those patients are able to, most of them yeah not all of them do it but most of them do it, will reach out to the nursing staff and then the nursing staff has a physician that’s right there to answer her questions and be able to get back in contact with that patient and and make a change in their medication or you know maybe they need some lab work or maybe they need an appointment. They may be seen you know a lot quicker and I just think if we had something like that for the COPD population it would be game changing and we would be able to make a difference out there in how we manage it.
Justin: Great thoughts. Last question for you – when you’re not empowering respiratory
care with rtNOW what are you doing in your free time?
Kathy: So currently I’m kind of that sandwich generation, so I am currently I helped take care
of my granddaughter who’s five. I have a grandson who is ten, and then I’m also kind of rolling the dice and happen to take care of my parents so they’re late 70s to 80s so on my days off I’m running either one direction or another direction trying to keep things at bay and everybody moving, so I love my family so that’s kind of what I do.
Justin: Oh that’s great. You obviously have a big heart and you’re very caring and compassionate person and thanks for taking the time to meet with me today, and for empowering respiratory care with us all. We really are thankful for you.
Kathy: Thank you