SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – A respiratory therapist from Baystate Medical Center met with students at Springfield Technical Community College during Respiratory Care Week to talk about the profession and announce a proclamation from Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.

Karla Bouchard, a graduate of the STCC Respiratory Care program and manager, Respiratory/Pulmonary Care at Baystate, told students it was important for respiratory care to be acknowledged especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She contacted Mayor Sarno asking to highlight Respiratory Care Week.

“We worked so hard for so many years, and we now have a respiratory pandemic,” she said, noting that the demand for respiratory therapists surged. “The mayor did this for us, and I wanted to share it with you and let you know how our profession is being perceived in the real world.”

Sarno issued a proclamation urging residents to be aware of National Respiratory Care Week, Oct. 24-30.

“Most respiratory therapists in the area are graduates of Springfield Technical Community College and hold an Associate’s Degree in Science of Respiratory Care,” Sarno wrote in the proclamation. A “Respiratory therapist can be found aiding a newborn to take their first breath, at the bedside when their patient is struggling to breath or taking their last breath, educating patients about lung diseases and pulmonary medications.”

The pandemic has created a significant demand for respiratory therapists. Therapists work “tirelessly at the bedside of COVID patients, assessing patients’ breathing, managing ventilators and supporting patients’ clinical needs,” Sarno wrote.

“Throughout it all, respiratory therapists continually show up and have become a resilient group of clinicians,” Sarno stated in the Proclamation.

Speaking to students in Building 20, Bouchard said after they graduate they will enter a challenging yet rewarding profession.

“You’ll be amazed at how important your job is, and sometimes it goes unnoticed, but finally it’s being noticed,” she said.

Bouchard said medical centers and health care facilities throughout the region rely on STCC to train and provide them with respiratory therapists. STCC Respiratory Care is the only program of its kind in the region and one of only a handful in Massachusetts.

“If we didn’t have the students here, we would not be able to fulfill the need of our job force,” Bouchard said. “This program is vital to our success.”

Esther Perrelli Brookes, Chair of the Respiratory Care Program at STCC, said she was thrilled the mayor recognized the profession and the STCC program.

STCC donated ventilators to health care facilities during the pandemic. Some students obtained limited permit licenses to care for COVID patients.

“The STCC program was a big part of the success (in helping patients during the pandemic) and hopefully helping the front line therapists out there,” Perrelli Brookes said.

To learn more about the program, visit the STCC respiratory care page at stcc.edu/explore/programs/rspc.as/

Interested in applying to STCC? Visit stcc.edu/apply or call Admissions at (413) 755-3333.