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CNM’s Respiratory Therapy Program Lends Ventilators to Local Hospital to Help with COVID-19 Fight

The ventilators, which were being used to train students, are now saving lives at UNM Hospital
CNM’s Respiratory Therapy Program Lends Ventilators to Local Hospital to Help with COVID-19 Fight
The ventilators waiting to be moved.

Apr 21, 2020

When CNM moved to all online classes, lots of training equipment at the college stopped being used. That included eight ventilators in the JS Building that are part of the Respiratory Therapy program.

Knowing those machines could be put to use on COVID-19 patients, Amy Tixier, the Respiratory Therapy program director, immediately reached out to local health care facilities and eventually realized the machines were most needed at UNM Hospital. 

“We had these ventilators in our classrooms, so I decided why not get them tested and approved for patient care,” Amy says. 

Luckily, Amy had the perfect contact. John Blewett, the Director of Pulmonary Services at UNMH, and the person who would be in charge of receiving the machines, is a former associate dean in CNM’s School of Health, Wellness & Public Safety (HWPS).

To get the machines lent out, Amy, along with a crew of helpers from HWPS and the Facilities department at CNM, cleaned and loaded the machines in a CNM truck and took them to UNMH. At the hospital, John had his staff evaluate them for use and all eight were cleared within a day.

Photo of CNM staff moving the ventilators.
CNM staff moving the ventilators.

Six of the eight ventilators are ICU-level machines. One is a transport ventilator, and the last is a neonatal ventilator. The neonatal machine can’t be used on COVID patients, but it will free up one of the regular ICU ventilators currently being used in UNMH’s neonatal department. 

“We were extremely thankful for the machines,” John says. “We’re doing okay in terms of how many ventilators we have right now, but these eight additional machines give us an important buffer.”

John says a buffer is critical because if there’s a spike at UNMH, it’s hard and time consuming to track down ICU-level machines. 

“These are sophisticated machines and cannot be mass produced quickly,” he says. 

Not surprisingly, John says that many of the 95 respiratory therapists (RTs) he oversees, who will be in charge of these and all the other respirators in the hospital, are CNM graduates. John himself got his RT degree back when CNM was TVI (Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute). 

He says CNM RTs do everything from run the machines to intubate patients. That puts them on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight. 

“Being an RT is stressful on a normal day,” John says. “But nowadays they’re in short supply and vital to a good outcome. I’ve been stunned by how many have said they’ll do whatever it takes to help out.”

Watching her graduates perform vital work is exciting for Amy, too.

“It's an honor and privilege, and it’s amazing to see our graduates from CNM do great things in this community, especially when it comes to COVID-19,” she says. 

Find out more about the Respiratory Therapy program.