Respiratory Therapist Traveler Switches Gears During Coronavirus Crisis
By Jennifer Larson, contributor
La Shune’ Pradia-Hargrove was excited about her second travel job as a respiratory therapist with Club Staffing.
In mid-March she was assigned to the sleep lab at a hospital in Northern California. After completing orientation, she took her first weekend shift, caring for four patients.
But that weekend was her last one in the sleep lab. As the coronavirus crisis worsened in California, hospital leaders made the decision to temporarily close down the sleep lab and focus all resources on more urgent concerns.
On the way to work, La Shune’ got a phone call from her lab manager, informing her about the news. It was then that her lab manager threw her a curve ball. She asked La Shune’ if she might be willing to pitch in and help out in the emergency department.
La Shune’ was momentarily shocked. She hadn’t worked in an emergency department setting in a dozen years. But she quickly regained her composure. She knew she could give breathing treatments and help out in a number of other ways.
“I said, you know what? I’ll do it!” says La Shune’, and she headed for the ED.
Life in the ED for an RT
When she arrived at the emergency department, her lab supervisor introduced her to the ED supervisor. A quick tour later, La Shune’ easily found ways that she could be useful.
The ED was busy that night. Some of the patients who came in were under investigation for possible exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19), and the nurses were swamped with work. La Shune’ jumped into high gear. As the night wore on, she ran blood samples up to the lab, got prescriptions for patients, escorted patients to radiology for x-rays and CT scans, and helped out wherever she was needed.
“Anything they needed, I was there,” she says. “I did not feel my feet the next morning when I left. I had been on my feet the entire night. I did not sit down once.”
She returned again the next night for more of the same.
“I think we’re all just doing what we can to pitch in,” she says. “And that’s what I love to see: people stepping up when we need them.”
Previous disaster response experience helps her stay calm
One might wonder how someone can be so calm, so unflappable, so ready to serve during a crisis. Some of it’s just La Shune’’’s personality. She’s just the kind of person who jumps into help.
“I have always been that caregiver, ever since I was young,” she says. “I probably get that from my mom.”
La Shune’’s experience as a frontline caregiver in a large hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 helped prepare her for this current crisis, too. Imagine spending seven days in a large, acute-care hospital, with no electricity, no way in or out, with no way to contact her husband, trying to care for frightened patients. La Shune’ did it. She made it through.
La Shune’ brushes off compliments for her generosity in being willing to work in the ED during a time of crisis, even though that’s not what she originally signed up for.
“All I did was go to work. I showed up and went to work,” she says.
But La Shune’ plans to keep showing up in the ED for as long as they need her. She doesn’t know exactly what’s going to happen–nobody does, she says–but she can use her abilities to help make other people feel better. Her specific experience as a respiratory therapist is very likely to come in handy very soon.
“I think I’m probably where I’m supposed to be right now,” she says.
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