Student-led COPD clinics combine treatment and experiential learning

NBCC is proud to celebrate National Respiratory Therapy Week, October 22-28, an opportunity to celebrate the respiratory therapy profession and the outstanding dedication and passion of respiratory therapists.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is one of the leading causes of acute care hospitalizations in our province. Students enrolled in NBCC’s Respiratory Therapy program are working to keep patients out of hospitals and bring quality, care programs into New Brunswick communities.

NBCC is partnering with Horizon Health, the University of New Brunswick, the University of Manitoba, and Social Development to deliver student-led pulmonary rehab clinics for patients diagnosed with COPD. These clinics are built into existing clinical rotations, giving students from a variety of NBCC health programs, including Respiratory Therapy, opportunities to work with real patients and apply what they’re learning in the classroom.

“When we look at the resources NBCC already has in place, we have the ability to help seniors confidently manage their COPD at home, while simultaneously offering important training and skills development to the next generation of respiratory therapists and other healthcare professionals,” said Tammie Fournier, Chair of NBCC’s Allied Health department.

During the eight-week clinics, students facilitate education sessions and lead seniors through a series of low-impact exercises to teach them how to manage their COPD symptoms. Participants have reported experiencing a better quality of life, feeling fewer COPD symptoms, walking farther, and having a more positive outlook on their overall health.

Adam Hunter, a third-year Respiratory Therapy student, knows first-hand the positive impact clinics like this one can have on patients.

“When I was younger, I was asthmatic,” said Adam. “I was fortunate enough to go to an asthma clinic at the Saint John Regional that was headed up by an RT (respiratory therapist). I had such a better understanding of my condition because of what the RTs in that clinic did for me.”

For Adam, his own experience, and the experience of working with COPD patients, have reinforced his decision to pursue a career as a respiratory therapist.

“Learning about pulmonary rehab is one thing,” he said. “Actually going in and doing it, and talking to patients who say ‘I’ve been doing this for six weeks and when I first got here, I couldn’t even walk my dog and now I can,’ that’s what tied everything together for me.”


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