United States Air Force Veteran Serves Shepherd Center as a Respiratory Educator
Casey Cabral, BSRT, RRT, RCP, respiratory educator at Shepherd Center, served in the Air Force for seven years and has worked at Shepherd since 2011.
What branch of the military did you serve in?
I served in the U.S. Air Force. I was a cardiopulmonary laboratory technician and served as a respiratory therapist on the Critical Care Air Transport Team.
How long did you serve?
I served for seven years from 2004 to 2011. I joined the military while I was in college because I couldn’t decide what my true calling was yet. I knew this would be a really interesting way to learn a new skill, get some life experience, see different parts of the world and meet people with different backgrounds and cultures from me. It was also a great way to give back and serve our country. I’m so glad I did it.
What did you learn while serving in the military?
Being in the Air Force taught me about patriotism, discipline, self-direction, independence and how to believe in myself and my abilities. But most of all, it taught me how to sacrifice for others. The top priority for me was making sure my patient was safe and that I was where I needed to be.
How did your career at Shepherd Center begin?
When I separated from the Air Force, I wanted to continue to give back to those in need and use the skills that I had learned while serving. While I was reading about Shepherd, I saw all of the hospital's involvement with our active-duty military and veterans, and I knew that this was the place for me. Also, as a therapist with a background in trauma, including many spinal cord injuries and acquired brain injuries, I was very eager to learn and be a part of the rehab portion of their care.
I started working at Shepherd Center in September 2011 and fell in love with my job from day one. Nine years in, and I still learn something new every day!
How do you and your colleagues help our patients and their families from day to day?
In my current role as a respiratory educator, I teach families and patients how to care for tracheostomy tubes and ventilators after they discharge to the home setting. As respiratory therapists, we all play a vital role in the care of those patients that require our services. We make sure the patient is breathing well and knows what steps to take to help the patient if they are not. We support the patients as they wean off the ventilator if they are able, and we do a lot of diagnostics and monitoring. We also work closely with the physicians and medical teams to ensure that all of the patient’s respiratory needs are met.
What do you love about your job?
I love working with patients and their family members. We are truly invested in each individual patient. I also love the interdisciplinary team approach that we take and how well we work together to ensure that we are doing what is best for the patient.
Do you think your military experience has helped you with your role at Shepherd Center?
Absolutely! During deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a critical care air transport respiratory therapist, I had to act quickly under pressure and think outside of the box. This taught me to continually reassess my patient and alter treatment accordingly. It taught me how to be an integral part of the team, but also how to be self-assured. Finally, my time served taught me how to be humble and grateful, which definitely carries over to my role at Shepherd Center.
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 neuromuscular 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 935 inpatients, 541 day program patients and more than 7,300 outpatients each year.