Kevin Feeney, BS, RRT, NPS, AE-C
Senior Respiratory Therapist
St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center – Paterson
AARC member since 1987
What made you decide to pursue a career in Respiratory Therapy and how long have you been working in the field?
I wanted to work with sick people. My college grades wouldn’t let me get into med school or physical therapy school. June Walker at Passaic county community college welcomed me into her program in 1977, at a time when all the other schools rejected me. Yes! I owe June many favors. I’ve worked in respiratory for about 36-37 years now.
What was your proudest moment on the job as a Respiratory Therapist?
There have been many. One of them is when I orient a new therapist who has minimal experience in the NICU or PICU. It gives me a sense of pride to see their fear and uncertainty turn into confidence and knowledge. I’m convinced that the NICU / PICU preceptor not only has to be technically knowledgeable, but they need to be able to convince the person they are training that they are not only going to be able to do the job, but that they are going to be great at taking care of babies and children.
It makes me proud when one of the therapists I am orienting ask why or how. Or when they question the doctors or nurses or myself and suggest an alternative way of doing things. I’ve learned to be open to these moments because they can trigger a very lively discussion that can shed new light on things. These moments can create a feeling of mutual respect and teamwork between the various disciplines.
What do you believe is the most rewarding part of being a Respiratory Therapist?
Again, there are many. Seeing a newborn baby turn from dusky to pink because you placed him on CPAP in the labor and delivery room. Seeing the look on an asthmatics parent’s face change from “level 10” stress to “Yes! My child can breathe now!” Is another rewarding moment. A couple of times I’ve had a parent come up to me with their child in the supermarket or Walmart and say “Hey, remember us? These times are special because my kids may be with me and both families get to meet each other.
What is your favorite thing to do as a clinician (i.e. patient care, intubation, blood gases, work with ventilators) and why?
My favorite thing to do as a clinician is to use noninvasive techniques like bubble CPAP, high flow nasal cannula, BiPAP, and heliox to prevent babies and children from being intubated. Many times these are better for the patient. St Joseph’s recently started an asthma education program. Working part time for this program is also one of my favorite things to do. With the necessary push for frugal management of staffing resources, I never thought I would see the day where a respiratory therapist’s sole assignment would be to sit down with asthmatics and share information and feelings about their disease.
What are the most significant changes you have noticed in the field of respiratory care since you become a licensed practitioner? Do you think the profession is moving in a positive direction?
A few changes come into mind. The first is the digitalization of information and the computer control of our respiratory machines. I would love to hear the answers if you asked most 20 something respiratory therapists the question “Did the early ventilators have rheostats and what did they do?” Googling is not allowed!
The other side of the coin is that the younger respiratory therapists’ knowledge of the digital world is fresh and invaluable. I don’t hesitate to seek them out to keep me from falling off the train.
I don’t know how much control we have over our profession as a whole. However, I think we have a greater chance of making an impact at the individual patient level. Share your knowledge, be good, be excellent, be flexible, be kind, be happy are qualities that will advance our profession.
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