When Anisha Rathod chose to specialize in respiratory care, she knew there would be some difficult and hectic days.
“That’s where the action is,” she says. “You’re always needed in critical care situations.” She had no idea, though, that she would one day be working on the front lines of a global pandemic—one that brought New York City, and much of the world, to a standstill.
“When I think about it now, it’s like a blurry memory,” recalls Ms. Rathod, who serves as a respiratory care supervisor at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital in Flushing, Queens. When Covid-19 first hit the city, Rathod’s hospital—like nearly every other hospital in New York—experienced an overwhelming spike in patients.
“We normally have 80 emergency calls each month,” she says. “From March into May, that number jumped to 550 a month. We were running around nonstop. It was like a bad dream.”
Rathod and her fellow respiratory care providers were desperately needed to operate mechanical ventilators, which are an essential part of treatment for patients with serious cases of Covid-19. Operating a ventilator, Rathod explains, takes two years of training and is an incredibly intricate and detail-oriented task. Specialists must manage how many breaths are needed per minute, how much air volume is required, what percentage of oxygen to use, and more.
“And no two ventilators can be programmed alike,” she says. “Every patient is different.”
Normally, Rathod and her colleagues manage about 10 ventilators each. But that number skyrocketed during the pandemic to anywhere between 20 and 30, requiring her to work shifts of 12 hours or more, five days a week. Her weekends were spent working from home trying to secure additional equipment and staffing for her hospital.
Rathod notes that NewYork–Presbyterian is well prepared and ready for potential future spikes in virus patients. Doctors and nurses have been conservative with PPE in case there is another surge, and certain administrative processes have been streamlined to make the overall workflow more efficient.
She deeply appreciated all of the attention—and nightly applause—bestowed on healthcare workers during the height of the pandemic. But Rathod is most grateful to have learned so much about herself during this tumultuous period.
“It probably sounds corny, but my career choices make sense now after experiencing this pandemic,” she says. “No one anticipated we’d ever face something like this in our lifetime. But I know now that, during an emergency like this, there’s no other position I’d rather be in.”
—GREGORY M. LEPORATI