Community Corner – Meet Nikki
Meet Nikki Turpack RRT-NPS. She works at a small community hospital in North Eastern Pennsylvania. To be honest, respiratory therapy was never her first choice as a career. She began her college career at a local university studying elementary education. Shortly thereafter, she realized she would never find a job in her hometown as a school teacher. At the same time her grandma became ill. Not due to anything respiratory related but found myself taking her to countless doctors appointments and actually moved in with her to make life a little easier for her. Making sure she took her meds and basically did ANYTHING to make her comfortable at the time. At this point Nikki realized that helping people was what she wanted to do for a living. Nursing was the first career that came to mind. Then soon realized poop isn’t her “thing” so she started looking into careers in the medical field that didn’t necessarily have to do with bodily fluids. As Nikki states, “Flash forward 4 years- the joke is on me. Now I suck sputum for a living!”
Although, COPD does not directly her effect, she sees how it effects others on a daily basis. Some advice she offers to her COPD patients (and their families) is:
1. Stop smoking. There are many ways to do this these days. The patch, the gum, there are even support groups. Do whatever it takes.
2. Take your medications and take them as prescribed. Don’t stop using your inhalers because you’re “feeling better”. You may be feeling better because you’re using your breathing medications!
3. Remember your breathing techniques (pursed lip breathing/diaphragmatic breathing)
4. Know the difference between when it’s time to use your rescue inhaler vs when it’s time to go to the doctor or hospital
Throughout her career she has gained a lot of experience and the advice she would give aspiring respiratory therapist is the advice she mentions she wished someone had given her only a few short years ago. First and foremost, study as though someone’s life depends on it. Because one day it will. As Mark Reid said, “Student, you do not study to pass a test. You study to prepare for the day when you are the only thing standing between a patient and the grave.” Know your blood gases and how to correct them. Know your respiratory equipment (vents, BiPap, HFNC) and modes inside and out. Know your pulmonary diseases and treatments. Also know other diseases and how it can effect the pulmonary system. To sum it up- know a lot about a little and a little about a lot.
Second, remember that your patients are human beings. They’re not inanimate objects. Treat them the way you would want your family members treated because the woman in bed 209 IS someone’s mother, sister, daughter etc.
Lastly, never lose your desire to learn. There are new advances in medicine each and every year. Stay current. Search for the newest treatments, the newest equipment, the newest techniques to help your patients. Take pride in your job- because it is an important one.
Nikki offered priceless advice and wisdom that can certainly help many individuals. We then asked her about her thoughts about technology in Respiratory Therapy, she states “One thing I believe COPD patients would benefit from is having an action plan much like asthmatics have their action plan. An app or booklet that you track your symptoms and take appropriate actions. Green is great! Yellow means the patient and/or family needs to evaluate the situation and what can be done to help. Red means get the heck to the hospital! “
Nikki, thank you so much for your time and all of your valuable responses. We are very appreciative and know that your words will inspire and equip others to continue saving lives.