A guru in the field of respiratory therapy, Rick Weaver of Woodland Park has been named Diagnostic Specialty Practitioner of the Year for 2011 by the American Association of Respiratory Care.
In addition to currently being on the staff at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, Weaver previously represented the area as president of the southern chapter of the Colorado Society for Respiratory Care in 2006-07.
“I’m very passionate and enthusiastic about my career,” he said.
A medical field with a broad reach, respiratory therapy is effective for diagnosing and treating people with breathing problems or those who are in need of critical care. “For instance, if a baby is born early their lungs can’t function on their own,” he said. “So we manage ventilators, do supportive therapy until the babies are mature enough to breathe on their own.”
For people who complain of shortness of breath, a respiratory therapist can help determine the cause after physician-ordered tests on the lungs and the heart. “After those tests, we would do a cardio-pulmonary test to determine if the heart or the lungs are limiting the exercise or whether the patient is out-of-shape,” Weaver said.
If the results show the patient is out of shape, the test could be used to determine a fitness program designed by an exercise specialist. “We can put you on a training program to see how much you’ve improved,” he said.
In trauma incidents, Memorial’s respiratory therapists often accompany the emergency services via helicopter or ambulance. “They are likely to travel to Alamosa or La Junta to reach babies or others who need a more intensive level of care,” Weaver said. “We do all of that. The thing I like about it is that it’s a very diverse field, so we’re not just working in one place every day.”
Weaver’s clients include those with asthma, bronchitis or pneumonia. “For anybody who has lung disease, we help deliver medications and do therapies, so they can get better,” he said. “There is a section of respiratory therapy that deals with pulmonary diagnostics, which I am involved with.”
As the costs of health care in America accelerate, respiratory therapists with the American Association have offered a piece of a solution. “In Congress, we’re pushing for the Medicare Part B Initiative that would allow respiratory therapists with a bachelor’s degree to go into the home and help the physician manage their patient’s care in a home-setting,” Weaver said. “Rather than having to come into the office to make sure they are getting the appropriate medications and do periodic assessment of their disease, the home setting would save money.”
In a field where one day is unlike the next, Weaver views his career as one that works alongside other medical specialties that address every aspect of health care.
“My career is challenging because it is also an art trying figure out what is going on with this person, what’s the best way to make them better,” he said.