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My Success Is Determined By You Living Well

I wrote a blog post recently called, "What Determines Success?" For hospitals, I said that success is not determined by how many sick people we see. It's not determined by how much money we make. Success is determined by how many patients are able to stay home and live well. That's a success.

Wouldn't you rather stay at home?

Management doesn't like it when I say things like that. But, aren't I right? Wouldn't you rather stay at home than see me? I mean, if you didn't get sick, you probably wouldn't even know what a respiratory therapist is. Sure, I'd miss all my COPD patients. I'd miss our awesome discussions. But I'd feel joy knowing you're doing well at home. I'd feel joy knowing you're with your family and friends living your life the way you want.

If you are at home and breathing easy, I might be sitting around twiddling my thumbs. My boss will be paying me to just sit around. He might not be so happy. But, if I'm just sitting around, that's a success. It means you are at home breathing easy. It means we did a good job of educating you.

I want to give you a great example. I'm going to start with asthma and segue back to COPD. So, bear with me a second here. I have a great point to make.

The 1980's asthma epidemic

During the 1980's, there was an asthma epidemic of sorts and I was one of the asthmatics. If you want, you can read "My Asthma Story: The Pithy Version." As an asthmatic, I spent lots of time in doctor's offices. My parents took me to my doctor many times for unscheduled doctor visits because I was breathing poorly. They drove me many times to the ER. I was also admitted many times to the hospital.

Apparently, there were many asthmatics like me. There were many asthmatics with poorly controlled asthma. And so we were a huge burden as far as healthcare costs. Poorly controlled asthmatics were costing insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid a lot of money. Isn't it funny how money motivates? Surely they wanted to help us. But, what motivated them was the fact we were expensive.

And so all the greatest asthma experts in the world recognized this. They put their heads together. They created asthma guidelines.

You see, they recognized that regional doctors were poorly prepared to help their asthmatic patients. I believe this because my doctor was awesome. I really liked him. But he really didn't know what to do for me.

So, what they would do is send their asthmatic patients to research hospitals. A good example is National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado. This was a big research center. They did asthma research. And the doctors there had access to all the greatest asthma wisdom. So, regional doctors sent their asthmatics to these hospitals.

This is what happened to me back in 1985. My parents were stressed. They were stressed because they thought I might die. But they were also stressed because my insurance company didn't want to pay. You can bet, sending me there was a hefty price. It was way more than sending me to all the ER and hospital admissions. And those too were expensive.

So, asthma guidelines were created. And regional doctors got together with research hospital doctors. And regional doctors were educated on how to manage their asthmatics. They were encouraged to utilize the new asthma guidelines.

I got to "Love My Respiratory Therapists." I also learned a ton about asthma. So, I decided to become a respiratory therapist. I did so thinking that I'd get to care for other asthmatics. I'd have empathy for them. In 1997, I graduated from a qualified respiratory therapy program. I became a respiratory therapist and got a job as one too. And, lo and behold, there were no asthmatics.

See, all those experts getting together worked. It was a huge success. The guidelines give all doctors access to all the greatest asthma wisdom. Today, most asthmatics are able to obtain good asthma control. So, most are able to breathe easy every day and live normal lives. Rarely do we have asthmatics admitted to hospitals anymore. I rarely see them.

And, for the record, my asthma is well controlled too. Sure, I still have issues, but it's way better than it was way back then.

We need a similar initiative for COPD

COPD, so it seems, is at epidemic levels today. It's just like it was for asthma in the 1980s. Asthma guidelines were very successful. So, COPD experts have gotten together and created COPD guidelines. The most common one used is the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (GOLD) COPD guidelines.

We are even using these where I work. We are using these guidelines to help us best educate our COPD patients. The goal is to teach about COPD. We also use the guidelines to determine the best medicines for helping these patients. The guidelines have a neat algorithm to help us determine this. And then we show our recommendation to the doctors. And they are using our recommendations. It's really cool how this works. It's new, so we'll have to wait and see if it works.

So, the guidelines are very helpful here. So, the goal here is to help all people living with COPD find the best treatment regimens. We teach the importance of taking medicines every day. We teach proper inhaler technique. We help determine who needs supplemental oxygen. We teach about oxygen. The same with BiPAP and the machines used to help people with COPD stay healthy and stay home.

Learning from asthma

Asthma is still a very common disease. However, most asthmatics are able to obtain ideal asthma control. Sure, some asthmatics still need our services. But it's way fewer than back in the 1980s. Today, one of our most common patient populations are people with COPD. All of us healthcare workers are working really hard to help you.

We are hoping that someday COPD admissions to our hospital will be rare. And this will be a huge success. Sure, we RTs might have to resort to watching movies during our long downtimes. But, the success will be that you are home breathing easy and doing the things you enjoy. Thoughts?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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