Time was of the essence and Joe Swinderman knew what to do. His wife, Dawn, was suffering from a massive heart attack and he had to be an active participant in her emergency care, including helping with chest compressions.
"If it hadn't been for the training I got at Concorde, she might not have made it," said Swinderman, a registered respiratory therapist. His wife, who spent 12 days in the intensive care unit, is now doing well.
It helps that Swinderman, who works at two hospitals north of Kansas City -- Cameron Regional Medical Center in Cameron and Mosaic Medical Center in St. Joseph -- has been on the frontlines of many life-and-death situations since graduating in May 2019 from Concorde Career College in Kansas City, Missouri.
In his short career as an RT, he has treated several hundred patients, including many who have suffered from the effects of the coronavirus. It's quite a change from his decades in the printing industry.
Back to school at 52
When he started his career in the printing field 30 years ago, there were a few dozen union print shops in the Kansas City region, which dwindled to about four by the time the shop in which he worked closed its doors.
He decided health care would be his new career path, which was influenced by several family members who are nurses. But a friend said going to school to become a nurse at 52 years old might be a bit too much, so he recommended Swinderman do like he did -- attend Concorde to become an RT.
Swinderman was familiar with the profession because his father worked with RTs during his years-long struggle with lung cancer. He signed up for an accelerated 18-month program at Concorde and struggled a bit to adapt to the reality of full-time school.
But he excelled and passed the Therapist Multiple Choice examination, which is administered through the National Board of Respiratory Care, with a high score, as well as the Clinical Stimulation Examination to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist.
"It was a huge blessing to me," Swinderman said of his Concorde education. "There was a little cost involved, a little time involved and a whole lot of work involved."
On the frontlinesHe was offered several jobs and took one at Mosaic. He has since taken on a full-time position at Cameron, which
is closer to his home, but still works when he can at Mosaic.
"There are days when it's a tough drive home," Swinderman said. "I've seen stuff normal people don't see and done stuff normal people don't do. But every day I feel like I've helped a lot of people."
Swinderman starts his day reviewing the morning schedule. As an RT, he is usually given an area of the hospital to work in, and that could mean both routine patient care and responding to an emergency, such as a heart attack. Swinderman consults regularly with pulmonologists, helping them decide what changes to make with the patients' care.
Most recently, RTs like Swinderman have faced a new challenge -- the coronavirus, which is especially hard on the respiratory system.
"COVID changed nothing about what we do every day, but it's changed everything about how we do it," he said.