OGDENSBURG — Jasmine M. Brien, hoping to make a difference in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, embarked on a new career path as a traveling respiratory therapist in late September.
A native of Ogdensburg, Ms. Brien has worked as a respiratory therapist for nearly four years — a career she’s found both fulfilling and rewarding, but felt she could continue to help others in greater need elsewhere.
“I didn’t want to just go to work for a paycheck,” Ms. Brien said. “I wanted to do something where if I passed away tomorrow, I know I would’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.”
After receiving an associate’s degree in respiratory care from Mohawk Valley Community College, Ms. Brien became a full-time respiratory therapist at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, where she was employed for more than three years.
Despite Ms. Brien’s love for her hometown’s hospital and staff, she felt she could use her expertise and experience to help other states and hospitals facing higher rates of COVID infections and were in desperate need of respiratory therapists.
“I wanted to utilize my scope of practice more,” Ms. Brien said. “I wanted to experience a bigger hospital, learn more, see more, do more and make a little more of a difference in life, especially with COVID going on.”
Seeing the impact COVID had on not only her own community, but communities around the country, Ms. Brien made the decision to become a traveling respiratory therapist.
Currently, she’s working at the Virginia Commonwealth University Hospital, predominately in the intensive care unit with COVID-19 patients, managing and running ventilators, giving recommendations to physicians about treatment and other intensive care.
She also emphasized how the hospital, which has an ICU on each of its 11 floors, as well as double the ICU beds compared to Claxton-Hepburn, sees a higher number of COVID patients. She also talked about how the pandemic has affected staffing.
“Lately with people being out with COVID, we’ve been going many days with just one therapist to cover an ICU,” Ms. Brien said. “The number of COVID patients here is also much greater. At Claxton, we had an average of one, maybe two ventilators running at one time in the whole hospital, but here on average we have 10 to 16 vents running at one time just in one ICU. They definitely need more of us right now because it’s a lot more tentative care than at home.”
Ms. Brien will be at VCU until the end of May. She’s also working to obtain a license to practice medicine in North Carolina, where she hopes to work next. Ms. Brien plans to continue traveling for a couple of years.
“I really love how much of a difference we get to make in people’s lives whether it’s just day to day maintenance or an emergency,” she said.