Respiratory therapy student wants to be on the front lines

BGSU Firelands offers respiratory care degree, specialization

Kent-Skrada

By Andrew Addessi

With an influx of patients at hospitals due to the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists are more important than ever before. Kent Skrada, a BGSU Firelands student studying respiratory therapy, wishes he could be helping his coworkers and patients right now, but because of an autoimmune disorder, he is not able to work.

“After battling childhood cancer at the age of 13, I saw how amazing all my doctors, nurses and nurse’s aides were,” Skrada said. “I knew I wanted to be in the medical field when I grew up.”

In March 2018, Skrada, who is from Wakeman, Ohio, started working at Firelands Regional Medical Center as a patient care tech. It was here that he learned about respiratory therapists and how they assist with a number of respiratory issues — something that has become incredibly important. They tackle diseases of the cardiopulmonary system, asthma, emphysema and lung disease just to name a few.

BGSU Firelands offers a Bachelor of Science in respiratory care and registered respiratory therapists who are working in the profession and have completed an associate degree program can come to BGSU to advance their career with the Bachelor of Applied Health Science respiratory care specialization degree.

The program is offered at BGSU Firelands and through a satellite program offered through a university partnership with Lorain County Community College.

“A big factor on why I chose BGSU Firelands was because a lot of the RTs at my hospital graduated from the program and had nothing but good things to say about the program, professors and all-around experience,” Skrada said. “It is honestly one of the best decisions that I have ever made.”

Skrada added that the smaller class size allowed for more one-on-one learning, which helped tremendously. The faculty, students and professors made sure the students were prepared for every class, whether through staying after class or with Zoom study sessions before tests.

“They work with us until we fully understand something before moving on to something else, they make you feel like you belong and always make sure we are fully prepared before testing us over anything. It's like my second little family,” Skrada said.

And the support and understanding has continued into the shift to online classes.

“COVID has also impacted my work life because I am currently on FMLA and not able to work as a PCT right now because I have an autoimmune disorder. I don't want to risk anything with this, especially since we do not fully understand the virus or have a vaccine for it yet,” Skrada said. “Thankfully, my director at work has been superb with understanding not only my situation but also those of other employees at work who have medical conditions and is giving us the time off until this clears up or at least gets better.”

Quarantining with his girlfriend and her family to protect his grandparents, who he normally lives with, Skrada misses the normalcy of seeing his friends, family and school. However, he knows the precautions that need to be taken, as difficult as it is.

“It kills me knowing I could be helping my coworkers out right now and helping my patients get through this difficult time,” he said. “You grow a bond with some of them and they definitely make your shift better by listening to their life stories and just taking 10-15 minutes out of your time just to sit there and talk with them,” he said. “I wish I could be back at work doing what I love doing, and that is patient care, helping treat patients and just making a positive difference in a patient’s life.”

With his eyes set on graduation and becoming a license respiratory therapist, Skrada continues to support the fight against COVID-19.

“Before working at Firelands, I did not even know what a respiratory therapist was,” he said. “But after watching what they do and socializing with them about the roles and responsibilities that they have, I knew I had more of an interest and passion for the respiratory aspect of the medical field.

“Now, my goal is to graduate and become a licensed RRT, and hopefully get my Neonatal/Pediatric specialist and get a job in a NICU/PICU to still achieve my passion of working with babies and kids.”