Stanly Community College provides staff, equipment to Atrium Health during COVID crisis

(Beth LaBerge/Pool Photo via AP, File)

ALBEMARLE — As Stanly County faces the healthcare challenges associated with the novel coronavirus, the county’s community college has been contributing to the efforts, providing both trained staff and medical equipment to Atrium Health, which operates the hospital in Albemarle. 

Stanly Community College’s Respiratory Care Therapy Program announced in April that seven of their students just accepted positions with Atrium Health. COVID-19 is known to cause severe respiratory symptoms, making more workers in this area necessary during the crisis.  

“They interviewed last week and were offered jobs this week,” said Amy Witschey, director of clinical education for the Respiratory Therapy Program at SCC, in a press release. “We usually prepare our senior students by hosting ‘mock interviews’ with real department managers before they actually interview for jobs. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to schedule mock interviews this year, but it does not look like it hurt them in any way,” 

Mechanical ventilators, also known as life-support machines, help patients with respiratory issues, including COVID-19, to breathe until their lungs are strong enough to do so on their own again. The health professionals that operate these machines and perform other cardiovascular therapies are Respiratory Care Practitioners.   

The North Carolina Respiratory Care Board sent a letter to SCC on March 19 telling them that due to an urgent need for respiratory therapy care, the board was directing SCC to create a “Respiratory Care Assistant Program” which would allow current seniors to begin working immediately “under the supervision of a licensed Respiratory Care Practitioner.”  

“As RCAs, students will alleviate a greater workload from the licensed RCP by treating patients with the needed oxygen therapy, aerosolized medication therapy, and chest physiotherapy,” said Dr. William Croft, executive director of the North Carolina Respiratory Care Board. “While these procedures may be considered routine in other circumstances, these procedures take on a much greater significance during the COVID-19 crisis. They will be a valuable resource for the Respiratory Therapy departments and their contributions will help save lives.” 

In addition to the RCAs and RCPs they are training, SCC has donated four Siemens Maquet Servo-i Ventilators to Atrium Health Stanly “to help battle the spread of COVID-19.” The ventilators aid patients having breathing difficulties due to pneumonia or other lung problems, including those caused by coronavirus cases.  

“We appreciate the great working relationship that Atrium Health Stanly has with Stanly Community College and feel very blessed to be able to donate the ventilators and other medical supplies,” Dr. John Enamait, president of SCC said. “We want to help our community, patients, and our Health Science graduates who are working to help battle COVID-19, to stay safe and healthy. It’s going to take everyone to do their part to help fight this disease.”  

The spring semester at SCC is nearing its end, with students taking courses online due to the statewide shutdown. Outside of class, students in healthcare-related programs are receiving their clinical hours on site at medical facilities like Atrium Health Stanly. 

“Clinicals are a vital component for our students to finish their degrees and to be able to graduate and pursue their dream of becoming a health care professional,” the SCC press release said.