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Perspectives in Respiratory Therapy: Alumnus Bridale Robinson is a leader to those on the frontlines

May 6, 2020

Respiratory therapist wearing protective equipment in an ICU unit
Bridale Robinson is a respiratory therapist at Northwest Medicine in Chicago.

Respiratory Therapists (RTs) are licensed medical professionals who specialize in providing healthcare for your lungs. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the general public is becoming much more aware of the profession and how critical RTs are to treating patients with respiratory issues.

What’s less understood about RTs is the fact that they also conduct much-needed lung research, work with varying populations in different settings, and can choose to advance their careers to work in hospital leadership.

In other words, a degree in respiratory therapy can serve as a springboard to many fulfilling career paths.

Bridale Robinson, MHA, RCP, RRT-ACCS, LSSGB, chose the leadership route. After graduating from the School of Health Professions with his bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy in 2015, Robinson went back for his master’s degree in health administration, also from Mizzou.

Now, he serves as the respiratory therapy clinical care coordinator at Northwest Medicine in Chicago. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has been treating patients while providing support for the respiratory therapists he supervises.

Read his interview below to find out what it’s been like to lead other RTs during the COVID-19 crisis, why he chose Mizzou for both of his degrees and how he’s personally responding to the crisis.

Read our other Perspectives in Respiratory Therapy stories.

What does being a clinical care coordinator entail? Are you treating patients directly, or are you mostly supervising other RTs, or some of both?

Being a Clinical Coordinator usually warrants more administrative skills, such as scheduling, service recovery, recruitment, staffing engagement, hospital committee involvement, staff interviews and orientation. I function as an interdisciplinary liaison and resource, but I directly support the Respiratory Therapists in my department and strive to lead them effectively. If needed, I get to participate in patients’ care as well. My goals are to assist my manager with daily operations to ensure everything runs smoothly. I wear many hats!

What is it like being in a leadership role during a crisis like this?

Being in leadership will always present its challenges. However, what’s unique about this point in time is the shift in the concerns of staff. We continue to receive constantly evolving information in regards to many facets of care. My days often consist heavily of directing, teaching, informing and resourcing for others within the hospital. Therefore, it can be very stressful at times when you find that you do not have the answer to every question and concern. Maintaining positivity at times like this truly helps.

What is it like trying to support the providers who report to you during a crisis like this?

It’s very dynamic and also presents its own challenges. I’m frequently utilizing emotional intelligence to navigate the thoughts, concerns and issues raised by members of the staff. At this time the need for direction and understanding has increased, but rightfully so. Everyone is an asset to our team and I want nothing more than for them to feel heard, supported, and appreciated. As frontline clinicians they deserve nothing less.

How did the Mizzou RT program help prepare you both for your career in RT, and for the COVID-19 crisis, specifically?

Mizzou’s RT program was truly a springboard to success for me. The instructors possess such a passion for what we do, and they are phenomenal educators. The fundamental coursework and plethora of clinical experience provided me a foundation from which I could build my career. In regards to the current crisis, without my previous education I would have a hard time navigating day-to-day impediments. The program was much more than text books, power points and exams. I was coached for leadership, critical thinking, ethics and interdisciplinary teamwork.

What made you decide to study respiratory therapy?

The first time I was introduced to the field of respiratory care was during enrollment of the “Intro to Health Professions” course. I became especially interested after the program director at that time, Shawna Strickland, gave a very enthralling lecture about Respiratory Therapists and the field of respiratory care. I was sold after shadowing RTs in my RT-1000 pre-requisite course.

Why did you choose Mizzou?

I’m originally from the Chicagoland area, and Missouri was definitely not initially on my radar. Several high-school alums attended Mizzou and gave me great feedback; therefore I felt strongly about visiting the campus. After the mini road trip, the tours and the meet-and-greets, I chose Mizzou and it felt like Mizzou chose me. Despite the cold February weather, the campus felt alive, warm and welcoming.

Tell us the thought process behind going back for your Master’s in Health Administration.

Mizzou times two! That’s what me and my friends who’ve completed both bachelor and master degree programs at Mizzou say. My undergrad experience was amazing, and truly prepared me to begin my career as a Respiratory Therapist. I always knew I wanted to pursue healthcare leadership and it only felt right to come back home (to Mizzou) for my masters. Outside of the accolades as well as accreditation, the Executive Health Administration program gave me the perfect hybrid of residential and online learning that allowed me to continue my career path in Chicago. I looked forward to the almost monthly weekend classes, where I could be there in person to see professors, lectures, network and complete projects with classmates. It was such a beneficial experience.

What has been the most challenging aspect of the COVID-19 crisis?

Personally, it’s finding new outlets. I’m very social and a large part of self-care for me is visiting the gym as well as being with friends and family. Two big outlets of mine are not currently accessible, meaning I’ve had to find new methods such as friend “zoom” meet-ups, meditation and home workouts. It’s helping!

Amid the chaos, are there any bright spots for you?

I’m enjoying seeing the best in others. Daily I see RTs and other health care providers outpouring of humanity and compassionate care for patients. It makes me feel great to be a part of such an awesome and hard-working team.