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Respiratory therapy alumna among first to receive ECMO certification

Aug. 11, 2021

July 26, 2021
Respiratory therapists continue to be an integral part of the health care teams working to save the lives of those afflicted with COVID-19. Now, respiratory therapists can be officially certified as ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) specialists, and Mizzou Health Professions alumna and respiratory therapist Andrea Johnson was part of the first group to take the exam to become officially certified. 
ECMO is a process in which blood is pumped outside of the body to a heart-lung machine that removes carbon dioxide and sends oxygen-filled blood back to tissues in the body. This method allows blood to bypass the heart and lungs, allowing the organs to rest and heal. In addition to treating a variety of other infections, ECMO is used to treat COVID-19 patients in critical care.
Johnson says her background in respiratory therapy prepared her well to learn more about ECMO: “So much about ECMO makes sense to me because it has to do with oxygenation, ventilation, and hemodynamics, which RTs are well versed in.”
Johnson has been asked to be the respiratory therapy lead on the ECMO team at University Hospital in Columbia, as well as work on education and review patient cases.
This certification is still incredibly new. Johnson was among the first few hundred individuals to take the exam and did so without an established set of studying guidelines.
“I want to do everything I can to educate myself to work safely, efficiently and confidently so I can help oncoming ECMO team members do the same so we can have the best patient outcomes,” Johnson said.
Congratulations on the certification, Andrea, and thank you to you and your team for all you’re doing for your patients and the community!