Perspectives in Respiratory Therapy: Senior Jenna Miller
Although some students first learn of the respiratory therapy profession when they get to Mizzou, Jenna Miller has known that she wanted to be a respiratory therapist since eighth grade.
Miller’s family lost two members to Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder that causes thick mucus to build up in the lungs and can lead to life-threatening infections. Respiratory therapists help people with CF manage their disease through breathing treatments, medications and other therapies.
Miller grew up attending annual Cystic Fibrosis walks with her family to raise awareness and money to help cure the disease.
“While attending these walks I became interested in all the vendors that the walk would bring in,” Miller says. “They would promote the newest medicines and therapies. I soon realized that the biggest way I could give back was by becoming a respiratory therapist myself.”
Miller was set to graduate in May 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospital where she was earning clinical hours stopped allowing students to work there the week of March 15.
“In the weeks leading up to the outbreak I was still attending clinical but was not allowed in any isolation rooms,” Miller says. Hospitals across the nation stopped student clinicals in order to conserve personal protective equipment for essential health care providers on the front lines.
While Miller understands the need to conserve PPE, not being able to work in the hospital the second half of the semester has thrown a wrench in her plans. Students have to complete a minimum number of clinical hours before they can take board certification exams and begin working as a respiratory therapist.
“This is an issue for me, as well as a lot of my classmates, because we already have start dates at the hospitals we intend to work at after graduation,” Miller says. “There is still a lot of unknown.”
It would be understandable if Miller and other RT students felt wary about beginning their careers during such a risky time for health care providers, but the opposite is true for Miller.
“This pandemic just solidifies why I chose this profession,” says Miller. She feels passionate about respiratory therapy because of the relationships she can build with her patients, and she wants to get started right away.
“This profession gave my family hope in times of fear,” Miller says. “I want to be that for someone else.”