Respiratory therapists across the country are playing a vital role in helping patients fight and recover from the coronavirus disease 2019.

Bayhealth Hospital, Sussex Campus Respiratory Therapist Andrea Weimer is trained to care for people with acute pulmonary — lung — conditions.

No one could have predicted that when Weimer arrived at Bayhealth in July 2018, after graduating from Delaware Technical Community College, that she would be treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Just like this outbreak rocked the world, Weimer said her work days have changed the last six weeks. “We’re taking care of more critical patients, so we’re using more intensive modes of ventilation. The patients we are seeing are very sick,” she said.

Weimer explained, because COVID-19 is a virus that affects the respiratory system, the respiratory therapist is a vital part of the frontline patient care team. We work alongside the nurses and doctors to provide care to these patients from the time they enter the hospital to the time they are discharged.

Because the patients are so sick, Weimer says they require constant monitoring.

“We do what we call proning,” she said. “The patients have to be turned onto their bellies in bed, and every four hours their heads have to be turned. While the patients are intubated, we give them various inhaled medications, which help their lungs recover. Because of the disease process, it takes a while for them to get back to normal.”

Weimer is also involved with patients being evaluated through the COVID rule-out process, and she adds “that not all COVID patients require a ventilator.”

Like other health care professionals working in a hospital, some challenges extend into her personal life.

“The days have gotten long,” she said. At the end of the day, she has nothing but praise for her coworkers. “I have to thank our respiratory team. We’ve really learned to work together; it’s great to have a team like this.”

To be prescreened for COVID-19 through the CMT, call 310-8477 or email coronavirus@bayhealth.org.