In response to the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic and the anticipated increase in respiratory care staffing needs, the University of Michigan has begun an expedited process of creating a novel role in its health system: the Respiratory Therapist Extender (RTE). The RTE role will be designed to alleviate the burden of Respiratory Therapists by providing routine care to stable patients on non-invasive supplemental oxygen. While still in the early stages, this conception of RTE training is made of two components: appropriate clinical review for medical professionals and trainees, as well as in-person training to demonstrate competency in completing the daily tasks that will be asked of RTEs. At this time, Michigan Medicine is currently training senior medical student volunteers and RT technicians in this role. Different health systems could implement a similar model using any group, deemed by hospital leadership, that possessed the appropriate skills, education, and experience to fill out the role of RTE.
The University of Michigan understands that other health systems may be facing similar respiratory care staffing challenges in the wake of the current pandemic. Therefore, it is openly sharing its current materials with any interested healthcare providers. The online clinical review modules cover basic respiratory anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology of respiratory failure and diseases, mechanical ventilation (as well as considerations in ARDS), blood gas interpretation, pulse oximetry, oxygen & humidity therapy, ventilator display interpretation, and PPE training. This can be helpful review both for medical students, but also for more experienced clinicians who are being asked to take care of general medicine patients for the first time since early in their training. While the development of the RTE role is a work in progress under continuous evaluation, Michigan is happy to share its process and materials with interested centers.
If you are interested in learning more about the online clinical review models, or would like to discuss further the concept of RTEs, please email RTELeadership@umich.edu.