The reason why I wanted to participate in the International Fellowship Award Program could be a good beginning for this summary
Since a long time ago I had been asking myself about how respiratory therapy is being taught and practiced in the country where it reaches its highest development. Therefore I applied two times (1999 & 2001), without reaching my goal. In 2004 I sent my papers as my last chance to get involved, and I received the wonderful news of being selected to participate in such an important program.
The host cities were Miami, Florida, and Omaha, and Lincoln, Nebraska. During my days in the program, I had the chance to visit 9 hospitals and 2 colleges.
First city: Miami.
In Miami I had the chance to visit only one hospital. It was very good, because I could deeply analyze how the American respiratory therapists work in a full working day. I saw unusual practices for me such as Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy and Hemodynamic Monitoring performed by RT´s.
Miami is a "very Latin" city, and there I met with many Cuban-American therapists that helped me a lot with the language. My reception breakfast was warm and crowded indeed. As well as, on the previous day of Thanksgiving Day, I had the chance to share a delicious lunch with my colleagues. I ate some typical dishes as smashed sweet potatoes mixed with cinnamon and honey, and pumpkin pie, both very uncommon to the Argentinean taste.
In the Dade College I could see how respiratory therapy is taught in the USA. Students learn with an active participation during the lessons and they have an intense practice training in fully equipped laboratories. I realized that they have more ventilators in the Lab than my hospital’s ICU. Moreover they have a human simulator that can simulate a lot of pathological scenarios. I particularly think that those ways of teaching are the most remarkable differences compared with our teaching possibilities.
Second cities: Omaha and Lincoln.
My experience in this cities was quite different than in Miami, because there were no Latins living there, but I was given a warm welcome from the persons that were waiting for me, making those days something I will never forget. On the other hand, the activities turned more intense and varied, and cold weather increased (plus snow).
In fact, between Omaha and Lincoln, I visited 8 hospitals in 4 days! (What a schedule!), so that , I had the opportunity to see lots of Respiratory Therapy Departments, Sleep Labs, Pulmonary Function Labs, ICU, PICU NICU and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Programs. However what amazed me more, were the organization of the RT departments and the huge amount of equipment they use to work with.
The Nebraska Society for Respiratory Care gave me a nice reception dinner where I spoke about respiratory therapy in my hospital and Argentina. After that the president of the NSRC gave me, as a present, a pictorial book about Nebraska and a "Corn Huskers" stocking hat, that was very useful in order to protect my bald head from the freezing weather.
On my last day I visited the Methodist College where I spoke again about R T in my country, but also answered questions from students and professors. Nice experience, indeed!
The program was very helpful, and in our hospital it will first impact on our young residents’ way of learning. Through the revision and modification of the educational program, we will try to emphasize more on the practice topics of this profession.
In my hospital we practice Respiratory Therapy in a similar way as the American one, because our department was created long time ago following the American model. Anyway, the difference between both kinds of hospitals is the huge amount of equipment available in the USA. The problem here, in Argentina, is not about knowledge, it is about the lack of equipment and resources.
This experience will also be helpful as a motivation to continue with the growing of respiratory therapy education in Argentina, which has been going on for many years.
The International Fellowship Award Program had, as I consider, the perfect balance between intensity and variety, and I wouldn’t change or add anything. The International Respiratory Congress, with its ceremonies and receptions, completed the program, giving it the perfect ending that no one will ever forget for many years.
Finally I would like to thank again to all the persons that make possible this dream come true: AARC, ARCF, International Committee, my host in Miami, Mikki Thompsom, my host in Omaha, Jane Matsui; and all the Nebraska Society For Respiratory Care.
Horacio Abbona PT
AARC International Fellow 2004