Northern Essex Community College’s respiratory care program just became the first in the state to possess a bronchoscope that will help students prepare for their role in setting up and assisting doctors performing bronchoscopies.
A bronchoscopy is the visual examination of the breathing passages. The procedure allows doctors, using a bronchoscope, to pass into the windpipe and view and collect mucus or tissue from the lungs. Respiratory therapists are trained to prepare the equipment and assist the doctors.
The 10-year-old fiber-optic equipment was donated by Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge. Originally $30,000 it is valued at $15,000.
“This is a perfect example of why it’s so important to develop relationships with staff at our clinical sites,” says Jennifer Jackson-Stevens, coordinator of the NECC respiratory care program. “We are grateful for the generous gift.”
Jackson-Stevens says having the bronchoscope gives the students the chance to handle the equipment, learn how to prepare it for use, practice assisting the doctor, and clean the equipment after the procedure.
In the course of an eight-hour hospital shift it’s not unusual, said Jackson-Stevens, for a respiratory therapist to assist in one to three bronchoscopies. So experience handling the equipment is essential and invaluable.
“It gives our students the hands-on experience in a safe, learning environment using patient simulators,” Jackson-Stevens said. “When the students go to clinical sites, they are watching…observing. Handling the bronchoscope gives them additional confidence with hands-on training.”
While the bronchoscope may be 10-years-old, she said, “It’s not an antiquated piece of equipment. This bronchoscope is similar to what most hospitals use.”
Students who have experience handling the bronchoscope are naturally more marketable, Jackson-Stevens said.
Other relationships with NECC’s clinical affiliates have resulted in donations of a plethysmograph or “body box” donated by Holy Family Hospital at Merrimack Valley in Haverhill, an arterial blood gas analyzer from Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, and neonatal airway equipment from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“We’ve made strong relationships within the respiratory care community,” she said.
Jackson-Stevens says Northern Essex has knit together a strong respiratory care advisory committee comprised of respiratory care professionals, first and second year NECC students, and recent NECC grads. Because of all their input, she said tweaks are routinely made to the program to make it is relevant as possible.
Northern Essex offers an Associate of Science degree in Respiratory Care. Respiratory therapists work closely with physicians and nurses to diagnose lung and breathing disorders, and evaluate and treat patients to help them recover lung function. The program prepares you to work at the therapist level.