• Don't Panic

    MHCC Respiratory Care Grads Share Experiences Treating COVID-19

    Students in the Respiratory Care program at Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) are provided with a wealth of classroom and hands-on clinical experience so they are prepared to begin caring for patients immediately after graduation.

    Respiratory Care

    Upon completion of the program, students work in hospitals, clinics, skilled nursing facilities and beyond. They are ready to care for all ages ranging from pediatric and neonatal patients to adults needing general and intensive care.

    These students have much to learn during their time at MHCC, but there is one simple rule that they all know by heart from day one: Don’t panic.

    “Not only do we emphasize ‘Don't Panic,’ but we value and encourage critical thinking, service above self and, most importantly, providing the best cardiopulmonary critical care to the ill, injured and most vulnerable members of our community,” said Carl Eckrode, director of the Respiratory Care program. “Our strength is our students, those willing to rise to a challenge and engage disease, disability and death head-on.”

    These lessons have been especially applicable through the COVID-19 pandemic. Stacey Clark, who graduated from the Respiratory Care program in 2017, is now a registered respiratory therapist in Hillsboro.

    “They taught us the skills and knowledge to do our jobs well, but the key ingredient in accomplishing this job is not panicking,” she said. “When you don’t panic, you can do what needs to be done with a clear mind. During these difficult times that is extremely helpful!”

    As with all health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, those working in respiratory care have faced concerns of potentially becoming infected themselves or exposing their families and loved ones to the virus.

    Joseph Greenetz, a 2016 graduate of MHCC’s program, is now a respiratory care practitioner in Portland and Vancouver. He’s felt well-supported with the tools and personal protective equipment he’s needed through the pandemic but has been primarily concerned with keeping his family safe from exposure.

    Like Stacey, he practices what he learned at MHCC: Don’t panic.

    “That’s the first rule of respiratory therapy!” he said. “MHCC’s program is accredited by the (Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care), super affordable and very flexible. I was able to attend classes while working, all without taking on any student loans. I had an awesome experience and highly recommend the program to anyone who asks me about getting into respiratory care.”

    “Don’t panic” might be their mantra, but that’s certainly not all that Respiratory Care students learn at MHCC. The Respiratory Care program only admits 20 students every Fall term and curriculum includes coursework in the classroom and in the clinical setting beginning the second year.

    Stephanie McHugh graduated from the program in 2017 and now works as a registered respiratory therapist in Washington state. She said the hands-on experience she gained through the program combined with the expertise of her instructors prepared her to confidently treat patients of all types in a typical setting, as well as during the chaos of a pandemic.

    “It has been amazing to watch (respiratory therapists) really step up to these new challenges. It has really felt great to play such a critical role supporting these patients,” she said. “I am so grateful that my instructors at MHCC helped me achieve my professional goals and become passionate about respiratory care. I can never thank them enough because I truly love my career!”