Why Respiratory Therapists are Right for Asthma Disease Management

AARC Asthma MonthIn honor of Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, we’re sharing the story of one respiratory therapist’s work in asthma disease management.

May is Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month, and if you’ve ever thought you’d like to take your asthma skills beyond treatment at the bedside and into asthma disease management, this is the perfect time to get the ball rolling. Not sure if asthma disease management is right for you? The following interview with Rhonda Vosmus, BS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, provides a great overview of the role —

AARC AsthmaAARC member Rhonda Vosmus, BS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, provides an overview of the asthma disease management role.

Where do you work and how are you involved in asthma education?

I am working as the asthma/COPD resource specialist at InterMed, P.A. which is a primary care practice in Portland, ME. Founded in 1993, InterMed is the largest physician-owned primary care practice in Maine, with 82 physicians and nearly 600 non-physician employees providing care for over 75,000 patients.

I provide direct and indirect patient care. I see patients for one-on-one asthma education sessions. However, much of my time is spent educating providers and care teams based around the NHLBI asthma guidelines and enhancing workflows to provide quality asthma care. We utilize data to drive quality care, all the while recognizing there are opportunities to enhance the quality of care we are providing. We have developed Key Performance Indicators associated with asthma care that are derived around the NHLBI asthma guidelines. We own 13 spirometers throughout the company and utilize this objective measure to support and drive best practice.

Why do you believe respiratory therapists are the right clinicians to deliver asthma education?

I truly believe the entire care team needs to on board with basic asthma information so our patients are hearing the same thing from the RT, nurse, MA, school nurse, daycare provider, doctor, and subspecialists. Respiratory therapists are key to lung health education because we have the intense education and passion around respiratory care.

How does earning the AE-C credential help to validate the therapist’s expertise in the area?

Being certified in a specialty like asthma education enhances the confidence in the credentialed person, as well as those you are working with, patients, families, and other health care team members.

What are the biggest challenges in delivering asthma education to patients and families?

There are many challenges in providing asthma education. I find the key to making the educational session the most valuable is to do motivational interviewing. It is all too easy to conduct a visit with a patient/family and talk about what we want them to know, but the true value is in finding what the patient wants to know and address that first and foremost. I start my visits by asking who sent them, identifying how much time we have together, and then asking, “How can I be helpful to you today? What do you want to talk about?” I tell our patients, “When you leave here today, I want you to say, ‘I’m so glad I went to that visit, it was worth my time.’” I call this a win-win.

I also start all my provider team meetings and educational sessions with, “How can I be most helpful to you today?” Many times I get a blank stare, as most health care professionals expect educational sessions to be “sit and listen.” However, it is much more engaging to talk about what the “‘audience” wants to hear.

What are the biggest rewards?

The greatest reward to providing asthma education is finding that win-win. When we hear a patient say, “This visit was so helpful, I learned so much” or when they say, “I had no idea about x, y, or z.” I think about knowledge as power. Education empowers our patients to take better control of their health outcomes. I also glow when I see a patient in follow up and see normal spirometry when they are adhering and they report QOL is exceptional.

What advice do you have for other RTs who would like to get more involved in asthma education programs?

First and foremost, having interest and passion in asthma education is key. Taking a prep course for the exam is essential. The test is very specific and you are asked to be all things at different times: the RT, the RN, the daycare provider, social worker, pharmacist, or provider. Once you have enhanced asthma knowledge-education, and ideally credentials to support your expertise, sharing your passion in all venues will make it evident that you want to be involved. Starting up a program requires many key components, including passion and knowledge, and not least of which is support from administration, other health care providers, and partnerships with third party payers.

The AARC is offering its members a 25% discount on its Asthma Educator Certification Preparation Course all month long. Just use the code ASTHMA25 to capture the savings and prepare to sit for the Asthma Educator-Certified exam.

Heading to the New Era

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