UCHealth respiratory therapist addresses ventilators for COVID-19 patients, educates on how they work

April 3rd, 2020

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Large numbers of patients with COVID-19 infections need ICU care, and most of those need ventilators. This makes the medical device one of the most critical needs for hospitals. UCHealth hospitals currently have adequate numbers of ventilators to care for patients, but as patient numbers continue to increase every day, UCHealth is working to acquire more units.

Physicians and respiratory therapists are finding that COVID-19 patients can experience lung damage. Often these patients don’t feel too sick right away, but their condition can decline quickly.

“If we’re seeing an increase in their oxygen needs, we are evaluating at a much quicker pace than we would on a normal basis. We are making sure we are intubating proactively and then we don’t run into bigger situations down the road,” said Candice Kmetz-Parkinson, manager of respiratory therapy at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

Kmetz-Parkinson and respiratory therapists throughout UCHealth have been closely monitoring ventilator supplies and planning on how to best care for growing numbers of patients with the new coronavirus.

Ventilators are needed for patients when the lungs stop being able to oxygenate the body.  “Your heart pumps the blood through the lungs, which pumps the blood through the rest of your body to make sure your whole body is oxygenated,” said Kmetz-Parkinson. “The ventilator allows us to deliver a higher concentration of oxygen and really push it in to the lungs and make sure that we’re keeping the lungs open, called a PEEP.”

The ventilator will essentially inhale and exhale for a patient and help work with all of the gas exchange that needs to happen in the lungs, which can take the work off of the patient.
“The medications kick in, the virus passes, and the body can kind of take its time while on the ventilator. That way your body’s not having to work so hard to fight everything at once,” said Kmetz-Parkinson.

UCHealth is working with commercial suppliers, the state of Colorado and others to bring more of these life-saving devices to our state.

About UCHealth

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience.  UCHealth includes more than 25,000 employees, 12 acute-care hospitals and hundreds of physicians across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. With University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor and the only adult academic medical center in the region, UCHealth is dedicated to providing unmatched patient care in the Rocky Mountain West. Offering more than 150 clinic locations, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.


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About the author

Jessica Berry is a spokesperson for UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. She brings a rich mixture of military, political and journalistic experience to the position.

After graduating from the University of Colorado in 2000 with a degree in Communications, she traveled the country working in television news for stations in Texas, Montana, Alabama and Georgia.

Her travels brought her up close and personal with military issues post 9-11, and she found herself inspired to leave the world of television behind to enlist in the Air Force Reserve. She also worked for a state senator in Denver, a retired Air Force Colonel whose district covered a large portion of Colorado Springs, home to a sizeable military community. 

On July 2, 2008, Berry left the Air Force and was sworn-in as a Public Affairs Officer in the United States Navy Reserve. Ms. Berry has been a spokesperson for Nashville Navy Week, Denver Navy Week, L.A. Navy Week, Cincinnati Navy Week, Fargo Navy Week, Albuquerque Navy Week, Fleet Week New York, the USS New Mexico commissioning, and the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. In addition, she provided media training for more than 300 foreign and U.S. senior officers for the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.