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We will go further together

Spotlight on Healthcare

Q&A WITH… Respiratory Therapists
Brent West and Eva Leek, St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto)

 1. Could you please introduce yourself?

Our names are Brent West and Eva Leek.  We work as Registered Respiratory Therapists within the division or Respirology at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.  As Respiratory Therapists, we provide respiratory education and support to individuals living with cystic fibrosis and other respiratory and cardiorespiratory disorders.  We have both worked as part of the CF Team, under the direction of Dr. Elizabeth Tullis, since the program transitioned from The Wellesley Central Hospital in 1999.

2. Why did you choose to work in a CF clinic?

Our choice to specialize in the treatment of individuals living with cystic fibrosis was based on a couple of factors.  Firstly, we were attracted to the fact that we could help to improve an individual’s quality of life through prevention and maintenance. Traditionally, respiratory therapists work in a critical care environment where they find themselves bouncing from one emergency to the next.  Working with the CF population allowed us the opportunity to have an impact on someone’s life before they had a need for more acute interventions.  Secondly, by 1999 the CF Program had already been well established and possessed a leader with a clear vision who believed strongly in a client-centered, inter-disciplinary approach to health care.  Dr. Tullis expected each of her staff to be experts in their respective fields and to operate with a certain degree of autonomy.  When you’re doing something good, word tends to get around, so when the opportunity presented itself and positions became available, we were eager to apply.

3. What is a typical day like?

A typical day for us depends on what area we are working in.  If we are in the out-patient clinic, you will find us performing breathing tests, providing education, trialing patients on new inhaled medications and assisting them with their home oxygen and inhaled medication delivery needs.  If we are working on the in-patient ward, you will find us performing respiratory assessments, administering inhaled medications, providing oxygen therapy, performing arterial blood samples and when necessary, assisting patients with their breathing using non-invasive ventilation.  As our out-patient clinic and in-patient unit are located on the same floor, patients will often be admitted directly from clinic on the day they are seen.  This results in a smooth transition from clinic to hospital and provides the patient with a good continuity of care.

4. What has been the greatest highlight of working with people living with CF for you?

Having the opportunity to provide care to this unique patient population has been both rewarding and meaningful.  Getting to know patients and their families on a more personal level and being able to follow them throughout their journey, has been a very humbling and enlightening experience.

5. Why do you think it’s important to support CF Canada?

Supporting CF Canada is so important because cystic fibrosis continues to be the number one fatal genetic disease for children in Canada.  Despite huge advancements in therapy over the past 30 years, there is still no known cure for cystic fibrosis.  We have seen first-hand how this disease affects both patients and their families and we owe it to them to continue doing whatever it takes to make their lives a little bit better.