06Jun

Since first being proclaimed in 1982, National Respiratory Care Week has been celebrated in hospitals and clinics by respiratory therapists, their healthcare colleagues and patients.

This year is different. COVID-19 has made us all acutely aware of the important work respiratory therapists do. In the early months of the outbreak, therapists traveled to the places that were the hardest hit to help overworked staff. They managed patients on ventilators and when there were more patients than ventilators, they improvised.

As one respiratory therapist told MedpageToday a few months ago, “When you’ve maxed everything out, where do you go from there?”

Not only are they frontline workers, their jobs brought them in close contact with the sickest patients, exposing them to the virus in a way few other healthcare workers were.

In more normal times, respiratory therapists work in a variety of settings, including in private homes, hospitals, care facilities and sleep centers, treating patients with lung and breathing problems. The range of these problems is broad, from asthma and bronchitis to trauma patients and including those with Lou Gehrig’s disease and sleep apnea.

Becoming a respiratory therapist requires an associate’s degree in respiratory care and licensing by the state. The National Board for Respiratory Care conducts a formal exam, which is recognized by the licensing boards of several states. Once licensed, a therapist must maintain their skills, demonstrating that by earning continuing education credits.

For the lifesaving work respiratory therapists are doing this year, and the critical job they do all the time, we say thank you to these professionals and honor their commitment to us all.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

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Green Key
Jun 6, 2023

Wide Scale Testing Beginning for COVID-19 Vaccines

Researchers are making so much progress in developing a vaccine against COVID-19 that the first wide-scale testing could begin in a matter of weeks.

The New York Times Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker says a vaccine developed by the 10-year-old biotech company Moderna expects to start wide-scale testing this month. If it does, it would mark an almost unprecedented acceleration of the clinical testing process.

Typically, testing and approving a new vaccine takes two or three years. Sometimes more. But under the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, Modena received a fast-track designation from the Food and Drug Administration. It also got a $483 million award to further its Covid-19 vaccine.

Through its Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker The Times is updating the status of all the vaccines that have reached human testing, along with a selection of promising vaccines still being tested in cells or animals. Because of the number and especially speed at which bioscience and pharmaceutical firms are moving to develop a successful vaccine, the Tracker is being updated almost every day.

The World Health Organization lists 149 different vaccine projects underway worldwide. 17 are in clinical evaluation, meaning they are being tested in humans, either in small groups to ensure their safety and basic efficacy, or in hundreds to see the effect among different age groups.

The Vaccine Tracker lists five vaccine candidates that are in or about to launch Phase III testing, the broadest testing category where thousands of volunteers are enlisted to determine if the vaccine is widely effective and how well it protects people from becoming infected. That’s the test Moderna expects to begin soon.

A vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford is already in Phase III testing in Brazil and South Africa and is in a simultaneous Phase II and III study in Europe. This program, like Moderna’s, is part of Operation Warp Speed.

The Vaccine Tracker lists two Chinese firms – Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm – as ready to soon start broad testing of their respective vaccines. Sinopharm’s testing will be conducted in the United Arab Emirates. Sinovac plans to conduct its Phase III study in China and Brazil.

A fifth vaccine, which is not a vaccine specifically for COVID-19, but a sort of immune system booster, is being tested in Australia. Bacillus Calmette-Guerin, a vaccine originally developed for tuberculosis, has been found over its 100 year history to help fight off other types of infections and parasites. The Phase III testing will determine if it also helps protect against COVID-19.

Image by Angelo Esslinger

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Tech Team Leadership Takes More Than Coding

You’ve just been tapped to lead a development team on a new project. It’s a sign of the company’s confidence in you and the opportunity you’ve been wanting for a while.

Now that you’re back at a workstation, reality is setting in. What do you need to get your team on board and rowing together?

In a word, it’s leadership. And that has far less to do with your coding skills than your ability to communicate, motivate and collaborate. Your team will look to you for guidance in setting priorities, advocating for them up the food chain, and working with them to solve problems.

“In today’s world,” says The Ohio State Engineer Magazine, “It is essential for an engineer to possess strong communication skills; it is the biggest determiner of success in the modern engineer’s professional career.” This goes double for project leads and managers.

Clear communication starts with knowing the details of the project, defining the end goals clearly, assigning roles and setting expectations. Clarity is essential, so even when you see nodding heads, don’t assume everyone understands. Ask for discussion. A diplomatic way of ensuring your team understands what needs to be done is ask if the process and goals are realistic; does anyone see any potential problems. Invite pushback on the timeline.

Besides uncovering misunderstandings or communication gaps, you’ll demonstrate your openness to disagreement and differing points of view. Creating an environment of psychological safety is the single most important component of team success, according to Google, which exhaustively studied team leadership.

Slack blog post describes how a team lead creates psychological safety:

  1. An empathetic approach – “Strive to read your teammates. Are they content, stressed out or struggling?… Aiming to empathize with their point of view is key to gaining their trust.”
  2. Practice active listening – This means listening to understand what the person is saying rather than thinking of how we will respond.
  3. Avoid finger pointing – Constructive feedback is helpful. But blaming does nothing good. When problems arise — and they always do — focus on how to solve them. Involving the team in finding solutions is often a smart way to find creative ways to resolve problems.
  4. Be humble – When you make a mistake, admit it. When you’ve been short with someone, apologize. Say “please” and “thank you” often.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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