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Respiratory therapist students head straight to pandemic's frontline

Posted at 6:07 PM, Apr 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 21:08:02-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Twenty-two students studying to become respiratory therapists are heading to the frontline of COVID-19 care this week.

Scripps Health hired the students from California College San Diego this week. When the outbreak began, students getting clinical experience were forced to leave the hospitals.

“I was two weeks into my last week of clinical, and they were like, ‘we can’t have you guys here anymore,’” said Jonathan Ayala, a respiratory therapist student. “That’s when things got real.”

Ayala said he was supposed to finish his clinical units in May, a requirement for graduation in June.

But with the anticipated rise in the demand for respiratory therapists, the state and federal government implemented a new policy, allowing eligible students to work as externs.

“This group of students will be able to complete their remaining clinical hours, while also providing life-saving measures at San Diego hospitals because of this emergency bill,” said Rachel Quinlan, the Executive Director of the San Diego and National City campuses of CCSD.

They will still need to be under the supervision of a licensed respiratory therapist, but Ayala says it will ease the burden on existing staff.

“I’ll be following another RT and helping them with their tasks when they get overwhelmed,” he said. “At least we can help the back-end.”

Respiratory therapists have been key players in fight against the COVID-19, a disease that specifically targets the lungs.