Respiratory Therapist Explains Critical Role Her Team Plays at Shepherd Center
Kristal Cameron, RCP, CRT, respiratory therapist, has worked at Shepherd Center for 16 years.
How long have you worked in respiratory therapy?
I’ve been in this field for more than 20 years.
How long have you worked at Shepherd Center?
I’ve been with Shepherd Center for 16 years. I actually found out about Shepherd when I was working in another hospital and helped transport a patient here. The rest is history!
Can you describe what respiratory therapists do?
We care for patients who have trouble breathing either from an acute onset (sudden and unexpected) injury or illness or from a chronic (long-lasting) condition. At Shepherd, we are usually one of the first people a patient sees. Their breathing has to be under control before any other rehabilitation can occur.
Our patients may not have a functioning diaphragm due to sustaining a spinal cord injury (SCI), brain injury or having a dual diagnosis of SCI and brain injury. The diaphragm is the major muscle of breathing, so it is critical to manage it. We do this in a variety of ways, including delivering aerosol treatments that help with acute or chronic onsets, monitoring and managing ventilators, performing pulmonary function tests and helping patients clear their airways if they are unable to do it themselves. We make sure the physicians know the status of a patient so we can make sure they are kept as comfortable as possible.
How do you and your colleagues help our patients and their families day-to-day?
The type of therapy we do with each patient varies based on the injury. In general, we assess and work with patients and their families every day, multiple times a day, whenever we are needed for therapy, medication delivery and/or education. We keep patients and families informed to make sure they understand what’s happening and why the therapies we are performing are necessary. We also train them on any ventilator and respiratory therapy practices they will need to know when they return home.
What do you love most about your job?
When I came to Shepherd, I fell in love with the story of how the hospital was started and the family atmosphere. I love the colleagues I get to work with each day.
Because we spend so much time with patients and their families, they become like family to us. Our patients have been down a difficult road, and it’s a lot to go through. Our role is to be understanding and supportive. It is so rewarding when I have a challenging patient and am able to improve their quality of life.
- Associate of Science in Respiratory Therapy
- Certified Respiratory Therapist
- Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certification
Basic Life Support (BLS) instructor
- Kristal loves muscle cars and even owns one. She loves to show her off.
- Kristal is an animal-lover. Her dog, Bella, is an American Bulldog.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.