By Lisa Azzarito Pepino, RRT
I knew I wanted to be a respiratory therapist right out of high school. When I was a child our neighborhood kids used to play “WAR.” The boys would shoot at each other and my childhood friend and I would play “paramedic” and “fix” all the injured. We were diehard fans of the television show “Emergency” and I had a crush on Johnny Gage (Randolph Mantooth).
As high school students we were counseled regarding our career choices. I found out paramedics didn’t make good money, so I didn’t want to do that anymore. But I knew I wanted a hands on health care field. I love working with people. I declined nursing because I didn’t want to be in the same place, taking care of the same faces all day. Respiratory therapist seemed ideal. Yes, I was going to specialize and be all over the hospital.
I graduated from Manchester Community College 1985 with an ASRT degree and got a job right away. I continued in my education and earned my BSRT by going to classes at night. I left the profession after nine years, pregnant with my first child, because I didn’t want to work the hospital shift hours.
A real emergency
I was out of the traditional RT role for 20 years. Then, while employed as a medical assistant for a group of surgeons I experienced a patient in our office having an anaphylactic reaction and in need of emergency care. I jumped into action, securing and managing her airway and breathing for her until the paramedics arrived. This was such an eye opener for me. I realized I needed to get back in the hospital and back into respiratory therapy.
Shortly after that I moved to Massachusetts to be married and found myself looking for employment. I was unable to find an RT position and decided I needed to make myself more marketable. I enrolled in an online nursing program and began working toward my ASRN. Months later, the manager of the RT department at the local hospital called and asked if I was still looking for work, as I had stopped in to introduce myself to him six months prior in hopes that he would remember me when a staff position opened up.
I was hired on as a staff member at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, MA, in June of 2012.
Like riding a bike
Transitioning back into the role of a hospital respiratory therapist was pretty easy. Just like that day with the anaphylactic patient, it was like the proverbial “riding a bicycle.” It all came back to me fast. It had been 20 years since I had performed an arterial stick, and with butterflies in my stomach and a willing patient, I hit the bull’s eye.
Fairview Hospital is a 23-bed critical access hospital and I now hold my dream position. We perform many outpatient tasks, such as running pulmonary rehabilitation classes, performing PFTs and EKGs, and applying Holter and Event monitors — all while covering the hospital inpatients and the emergency department.
I encourage anyone looking to return to this profession to follow your passion as I did. I was out of the field from 1994-2012. I am now very happily employed. I love my job and I still love being all over the hospital.