COVID-19 Update

Qualitative Research with Respiratory Therapists

To help guide our teams through these uncharted waters, Fusion has sponsored market research with RNs and Respiratory Therapists.

While the research is ongoing, we’re sharing this snapshot to provide you with initial insights on this important target audience.


Two key findings have emerged:

  1. The COVID-19 crisis is bringing recognition to the field of respiratory therapy.
  2. Respiratory therapists want details on what you are doing to keep them safe.

Listening to Respiratory Therapists

“It’s really stressful, but we have really good leadership and that makes it a lot easier. We have a definite protocol for everything and it’s even more stringent than the CDC. I feel that they are leading the way."

RRT in Boston

I’m the one closest to the patient.

How will you keep me safe?


Respiratory therapists, like nurses, are looking for evidence that the employer is making smart decisions to minimize the risk of infection. This seems to be more acute for the therapist who administers treatments and procedures that require that they are very close to the patient’s face where droplets can be transferred. 

Beyond PPE, respiratory therapists are looking for evidence that the hospital’s administration is creating the needed policies and that department and unit managers are executing those policies on the floor. 

What can we do?

Consider all the things that you are doing to protect your workforce. Interview managers to find out the specifics of the changes they have made to address the COVID-19 challenges. Then, arm your recruiters with this knowledge so that they can address these very real concerns during interviews with respiratory therapy candidates.

Here are a few examples of the procedures that respiratory therapists mentioned in our research, in terms of what both leadership and front line managers can do.

Hospital leadership focused on staying ahead of the curve is vital to feeling safe.

  • Having a strong supply of the best PPE available.
  • Making sure employees are well-versed and prepared by educating them using videos or HealthStream on how to put on and take off PPE, enter a patient’s room, using and cleaning the respirator, which exits to use, down to how to properly dispose of gear.
  • Proactive (before the CDC states it), specific and strict policies early in the game including protocols on protection against cross-contamination when taking care of multiple patients, no-visitor policy, low census, postponing anything elective, segregating patients.
  • Vigorously screening patients before they are brought to the floor.

Managers that can translate leadership direction on the ground.

How managers staff varies, but the goal is to limit cross-contamination and/or the number of exposures to a COVID-19 patient by any RRT:

  • One manager is padding the staffing so that one RRT stays with the same 3 or 4 COVID-19 patients all day and is not pulled away to cover for an RN that would have normally gone home early because things are slow.  
  • Another RRT manager is decreasing the exposures of RRT staff by letting the RNs do some of the RRT tasks if he/she is already going into the room.
  • Managers are fighting for the rights of RRTs needing the most protective equipment over the rest of the hospital or at least equivalent to the ED.
  • RRTs require that the PPE and ventilators that they use be a supply that is given to them to manage, rather than doled out to them daily.
  • Make sure that PPE and ventilators are kept near the units where they will be needed so that they don’t have to walk to different floors or buildings to get what they need.

The silver lining: COVID-19 shines the light on the respiratory therapy profession.

The therapists we spoke with were encouraged by the recognition that their profession was receiving because COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. While the recognition makes them feel proud, the hope is that this will translate into more people entering the profession and more funds from employers for conferences and continuing education.


What can we do?

  • Include a message of gratitude with every communication. Whether it's an ad, email or interview, make sure that you convey that you understand they are on the front lines and your organization values every healthcare worker. 
  • Putting the word out to the community to provide free meals and food for RRTs especially for hospitals that have closed their cafeteria.
  • Finding temporary housing or setting up hospital quarters for RRTs working multiple nights in a row so families are not affected.