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Emergency Department

A day in the life of a Respiratory Therapist

A day in the life of… Taylor. Taylor has an important, life-saving job, but their profession is one that most people would not be able to describe. They are a registered respiratory therapist (RRT). Here is a snapshot of how Taylor spends their day.

Their shift starts in the hospital report room at 7:30 AM – coffee in hand, they are prepared for the 12-hour shift ahead of them. With their ever-present stethoscope around their neck and a pen in their pocket, Taylor learns from their co-worker, who is finishing the night shift, about the patient requirements for the day – six ventilated patients in ICU need assessments; two patients with tracheostomy tubes need care; three patients on the ward are on heated high flow oxygen devices; a breathing test has been ordered for a patient; and arterial blood gas needs to be drawn before a patient is sent home on oxygen.

At 7:45 AM, just as the report is finished, a “Code Blue” is called in the emergency department. Taylor rushes to the ED. They proceed to intubate and ventilate the patient to keep her airway open. They help the team administer life-saving respirations during the resuscitation. After 40 minutes of constant efforts to resuscitate the patient, the team is unsuccessful. Her grieving family arrives and as Taylor holds back tears they say “thank you for trying to save her”.

It’s now 8:35 AM. Taylor heads off to begin assessments of their patients and attend interdisciplinary rounds with the team in ICU. As they are about to enter the ICU, their pager goes off. They are needed in the NICU for a premature infant. The baby is born at just 32 weeks but is moaning and grunting and showing signs of increased work of breathing. Taylor starts the baby on nasal CPAP to open up his tiny lungs. Although the baby is small, he is in good health and his lungs begin working well. Mom, Dad and Grandparents cry with joy at this tiny miracle.

Throughout the rest of Taylor’s shift, they educate a patient with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) about his inhaled medications and discusses smoking cessation options. They take an arterial blood gas and set up a woman for oxygen at home to improve her shortness of breath with activities of daily living. Taylor assesses and manages patients in the intensive care unit on mechanical ventilators. Taylor discusses a plan for the tracheostomy patients with the physician to downsize or decannulate as part of the weaning process. They educate patients and other health care professionals about oxygen delivery devices.

You may wonder what type of health care professional gets to work in a variety of settings like Taylor. Taylor is a registered respiratory therapist. Not every respiratory therapist has a shift like Taylor’s. Among others, some work in the operating room as anesthesia assistants, others perform pulmonary function testing, research, work in home care or educate students. Respiratory therapists are important members of teams that provide care in hospitals, in clinics, in the community and in patients’ homes. The cycle of life and death is one of the profound and amazing things that a respiratory therapist gets to impact in the course of a day’s work. Whether it is in acute care, health prevention and promotion or diagnostic testing, the message is the same – respiratory therapists are dedicated to better breathing.

How does someone become a Respiratory Therapist?

Respiratory therapists graduate from three- or four-year programs (or equivalent) that include theory, lab and clinical components. In most jurisdictions, passing a credentialling exam and/or a license to practice is required following graduation.  Learn more about the Respiratory Therapy (BRT) program offered at the University of Manitoba.

Data from the federal government and the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists indicate a strong need for RTs in the next few years!  RTs can move from one province and work in another, but a provincial license to practice is required in most provinces.

For more information, contact the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists:

October 22-28, 2023 is Respiratory Therapist Week

See some of the Respiratory Therapists from around Prairie Mountain Health.

Hi, my name is Tina Szewczyk and my colleague is Erin Forsyth. We are the Registered Respiratory Therapists at the Dauphin Regional Health Centre. I have been an RRT for 27 years, and worked with PMH at the DRHC in acute care for 18 years. I was born and raised in McCreary. Erin Forsyth is standing with the ventilator. Erin has been an RRT since 2002. Previously working in the OR at Seven Oaks in Winnipeg, she relocated with her children and spouse, who also works at DRHC. She began here at DRHC in the Respiratory Clinic in Nov 2020, and has recently begun a permanent position at the DRHC in acute care. We are thrilled to have her join our Team at DRHC. Working to support the Respiratory Health of our friends, family and the north PMH  communities at large brings great satisfaction to us both.

Happy RT Week from the Respiratory Therapists at Brandon Rregional Health Centre!

Pictured L-R: Teresa Chapin, Kelley Fingas, Jennifer Sambrook, Alyssa Elliott and Kortney Blosha
Missing from Photo: Stephanie Nicholls, Teagan Kinsley, Rachel Veitch, Makenzie Riess, Lana Minuk, and Leah Sumner

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National Breastfeeding Week 2023

In Canada we celebrate National Breastfeeding Week from October 1-8.**  National Breastfeeding Week is a time to celebrate the role breastfeeding plays in providing children with the healthiest start in life.

Breast milk has just the right amount of fat, vitamins, protein, carbohydrates and minerals for optimal growth of the infant.  Breast milk also contains antibodies and other immune factors to help protect against infections and disease.  Breastfeeding benefits mothers short- and long-term health and will strengthen the special relationship between mother and baby.

This year’s theme is “Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a difference for working parents”.   This theme shines a light on how parents should not have to choose between breastfeeding their children and their work.  Making breastfeeding at work, work makes societies work!  Here in Canada families are blessed with paid maternity leave.  This is not the case in many countries. 

Breastfeeding support is possible regardless of workplace, sector or contract type.  Effective maternity policies improve children’s and women’s health and protect breastfeeding.  Despite this, currently more than half a billion working women lack access to vital maternity policies; many more find themselves unsupported when they return to work.  All women everywhere no matter their work should have at least 18 weeks, preferably more than 6 months, paid maternity leave; paid time off for breastfeeding or expressing milk upon returning to work; and flexible return to work options. (World Health Organization)

Ways to make a difference for working parents:

  1. Encourage parents to learn about national maternity leave benefits.
  2. Advocate in your workplace for flexible back to work schedules for breastfeeding parents.
  3. Advocate in your workplace to provide a place to breastfeed or express breastmilk while at work.
  4. Lobby local governments to improve maternity benefits/access to breastfeeding support.
  5. Encourage and support families on maternity leave.

Brandon Manitoba has many resources to help families during their breastfeeding journey.  These include the following:

  1. La Leche League Canada This is an international organization that is dedicated to helping mothers reach their breastfeeding goals.
  2. Local Public Health Nurse.  Find your local area nurse at Public Health – Prairie Mountain Health
  3. Western  Medical Clinic Family Physicians can assist with breastfeeding concerns.
  4. The Wellness Clinic Family Physician can assist with breastfeeding concerns.
  5.  The Baby Bump for prenatal classes.
  6. Lactation Consultant at Brandon Regional Health Centre – 204-578-4268.

Find additional resources at

**Canada celebrates World Breastfeeding Week in October.

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What You Can Do Heading into Respiratory Virus Season

Respiratory viruses are common, and they tend to spread more easily during cooler weather when Manitobans spend more time indoors with others. Viruses including Influenza (Flu) and Covid are contagious, and can have similar and overlapping symptoms.

People who have a respiratory virus often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some may have vomiting and diarrhea (though more common in children)

Respiratory viruses can infect the nose, throat and lungs and cause mild to severe, and sometimes fatal illness. Most viruses are spread when people cough, sneeze or talk, and droplets land in the mouth or nose of nearby people. A person may also become infected by touching an object that has a virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. Young children, seniors, and people with certain health conditions are at a higher risk of respiratory illness complications.

The BEST ways to reduce your risk and potential complications:

  • Get vaccinated, stay home when sick, wash hands frequently, cover your cough/sneeze, and wear a mask in high-risk situations

This respiratory virus season, updated Covid and Flu vaccine doses are recommended for all Manitobans 6 months of age and older. It is especially important for individuals who are considered high risk, those over the age of 65, and children under 5 years of age.

Manitoba Health continues to offer Pneumococcal 23 and High-Dose (HD) Flu vaccines to people 65 years of age and older. Most adults over 65, without underlying health conditions, only require one lifetime dose of pneumococcal vaccine. The High Dose Flu vaccine contains more antigen that older adults need to build a strong immune response resulting in better protection against the Flu virus.

You can get your Flu, Covid and Pneumococcal vaccines at a local community clinic, pharmacy, or your Primary Care Provider. All vaccines can be given safely at the same visit. It is recommended to receive your Covid vaccine 6 months since your last dose. Talk to your health care provider to determine the best time for you to be vaccinated.

Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) Flu and Covid Vaccine Clinics will be starting October 23rd.  For clinic dates and locations continue to check the PMH website and our Social Media pages (FacebookInstagramTwitter). 

Once again, this year you will be able to book your vaccine appointment online or call toll free 1-844-626-8222.

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Mental Illness Awareness Week is October 1-7th 2023

Each Year the first week of October is Canada’s National Campaign to enhance the awareness of mental Illness. The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health set out the theme this year as Awareness, Access and Parity for Mental Health and Substance use Care in Canada. It is important to take time this week to educate yourself on mental illness. With greater understanding we strive to reduce stigma related to mental illness and substance use, along with breaking down barriers to seeking support around these issues. We want to encourage individuals with lived experiences or for those who have been affected to share their stories to break down barriers so people don’t feel alone in their struggles and to identify gaps in the need for services.

A mental illness is characterized by a clinically significant disturbance in an individual’s cognition, emotional regulation or behavior. It is usually associated with distress or impairment in important areas of functioning. It should be stated that because you have a mental illness does not mean you have poor mental health, and vice versa, you may not have a mental illness but you can still have poor mental health. It is important for each one of us to look after our mental health as we would care for our physical health.

At any one time many factors such as stress, family, community, or environmental factors can combine to protect or undermines one’s mental health. The World Who Organization states that although many people are resilient to life’s adversities, there are circumstances that could put individuals at higher risk such as poverty, violence, disability and inequality. Protective factors and risk factors can include individual psychological and biological factors such as emotional skills and coping and as well as genetics.  Many of the risk and protective factors are influence through changes in brain structure or function.


  • Each year 1 out of 5 Canadians experience a mental Health illness each year. – Mental Health Commission of Canada
  • More than 1 in 2 of struggling Canadians are not getting the mental health help they need. – Mental Health Research Canada
  • Untreated mental illness costs the Canadian economy around $50 billion every year. – Canadian Mental Health Association
  • Over 20% of Canadians in any given year will experience mental health concerns, only a third of those people will seek help or treatment. – Statistics Canada
  • In Canada, an average of 20 deaths per day are because of opioid overdose. – Statistics Canada

Please take time to educate yourself on mental health/illness. It is important we are all working together to raise awareness, fight stigma and provide support to those in need.

Should you or a loved one need support please do not hesitate to reach out for help. You can contact the Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line at 1-877-435-7170, a crisis line available 24 hours per day. A trained crisis worker will listen to you and direct you to the resources you need. Locally you can contact Westman Crisis Services at 204-725-4411 or 1-888-379-7699 in Brandon Area, or 1-866-332-3030 for PMH-North- In an emergency call 911 or contact a local hospital or health office.

COMING SOON:   On Nov. 30 2023 the 988-suicide crisis line will be available to all Canadians in English and French, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It will offer trauma-informed and culturally appropriate services by trained crisis responders by phone or text.

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International Overdose Awareness Day

August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day. On this day, we take the time to remember those we have lost due to overdose/toxic drug poisoning and commit to ending the stigma around substance use. You can help end overdose. Free naloxone training and kits are available at select PMH sites and from the PMH Community Connections van. Prairie Mountain Health also offers RAAM clinics for those looking to get help with high-risk substance use. For more information about International Overdose Awareness Day, visit #EndOverdose #OverdoseAware #IOAD2022

Prairie Mountain Health Staff will be at events in the following communities on Wednesday, August 31 in support of International Overdose Awareness Day.

  • Brandon | Princess Park | 12pm to 3pm – Details
  • Erickson | Southquill Foodbank | 11am to 3pm – Details
  • Gambler First Nations | Ball Diamond | 11am to 3pm – Details
  • Swan River | Manitoba Harm Reduction Network Building | 12 pm to 3 pm – Details
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Back to School Lunches – Keep it SIMPLE

Safe – Make sure to wash hands and prep area before making lunches.  Keep cold food cold – use an insulated lunch kit with an ice pack. Keep hot foods hot – an insulated food container can keep soups, stews, curries etc. hot and avoid line-ups for a microwave. For more food safety information go to Food Safety (

Ingredients – Include a variety of vegetables and fruit, whole grains and protein foods. This will provide the energy and nutrients children and youth need throughout the day to learn. Simple rule of thumb is to try to pack fruit and/or vegetables with each meal and snack. There are lots of options that can reflect taste, culture, and budget. See Canada’s Food Guide for great tips and recipes.

Major source of nutrients for the day – Many children and youth spend a large portion of their day at school; packing enough and a variety of food is key. They need essential vitamins and minerals to grow and develop.  Their appetites will differ sometimes daily depending on their rate of growth, activity etc. Some days they will eat a lot and sometimes a little. Trust them to eat as much or as little as they need.

Plan and Prep – Help children love their lunch by including them in the process. Make putting a lunch together simple by having a variety of prepped and ready to pack vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein foods. Go through the grocery flier with children/youth and let them pick out a few items they would like in their lunch. This makes them feel like part of the process and can increase their food skills, get them to try new foods, and decrease the amount of food that comes home uneaten.

Let children and youth eat their lunch in whatever order they want to – Help them accept that there are different ways of eating and there is no right or wrong way.  Asking children to eat one food before another reinforces that there are 2 categories of foods; good/healthy and bad/unhealthy. Labelling food this way can lead to feelings of guilt and confusion. This can interfere with their relationship with food. Foods cannot be neatly categorized. What is healthy and normal for one person might be different for another.

Enjoy! – Lunches should be enjoyable, try to pack a well-liked food such as an energy ball, mini chocolate bar, favourite dip, or a muffin. See Zack enjoy making his lunch here Healthy school lunch – YouTube

References: Healthy eating at school – Canada’s Food Guide

Food and Body Talk: The power of language to shape children’s mental health. Online course.

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