MUSC respiratory therapist
Brooke Yeager recently joined representatives from across the country
on behalf of the American Association for Respiratory Care to support
lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C.
On March 8, Yeager spoke
for the nearly 3,000 respiratory therapists in South Carolina in
meetings with Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint, newly-elected Rep.
Tim Scott of Charleston and the rest of the state's congressional
delegation. Yeager and other respiratory therapists lobbied for a
Medicare Respiratory Therapy Initiative bill.
Brooke Yeager with Scott Lane,
left, a respiratory therapist from Columbia, and
Rep. Joe Wilson, S.C. Second District.
The bill, which was
introduced in the House of Representatives on the day of the visit,
would allow qualified respiratory therapists with a minimum of the
advanced registered respiratory therapist credentials and a bachelors
degree in a health science field to practice under the general, rather
than the direct, supervision of a physician.
therapists work primarily in hospitals or in physicians' offices under
direct oversight. The bill would free physicians to spend more time
with patients and would allow respiratory therapists to provide
essential services such as inhalation medication management, smoking
cessation education, management of the non-hospitalized patients on
ventilators, and education about disease states, such as chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Yeager said currently,
there is a revolving-door effect going on with COPD and other chronic
disease patients who would benefit from having more educational
support. "They come into the hospital with a problem, are treated and
released with minimal attention paid to educating the patient on
avoiding further problems. There simply is not enough time to properly
teach disease management while patients are admitted, and it also
involves poor timing. As most health care professionals know, trying to
teach a patient anything new while they are in acute pain or are
stressed is simply ineffective."
Patients often only have
access to respiratory therapists in hospital settings. Currently, the
education efforts only reach a small number of respiratory patients who
are eligible for pulmonary rehabilitation programs, she said.
"COPD and related diseases
have become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. This is an
increase from the fourth leading cause of death just last year.
Unfortunately, the number of cases is increasing with the aging
population and our health care system is facing the daunting task of
providing these patients with effective care. It's like trying to stem
the flood by sticking your finger in a dam," Yeager said.
"This bill would most
certainly save us money in the long run as the cost of a respiratory
therapist providing care outside of the hospital is drastically less
than provision of care within the hospital."
Rep. Mike Ross, Arkansas,
introduced the bill in the House. Senator Mike Crapo, Idaho, will
introduce the companion bill in the Senate. Yeager works in the
newly-renovated Cardio-Pulmonary Rehabilitation Facility inside the Bee