Name: Lance Cook, BS RRT

Tell me about yourself?

About your job: Respiratory Therapist

How long have you been employed at WHS? 16 years, 8 months, 23 days…but who’s counting?

Was it always in the same department? No, I worked in Staff Education as an Education Specialist: the first non-nurse Education Specialist from 2008-2010. In 2010, due to hospital downsizing, I returned to the Respiratory Department.

What extra duties have you taken on during COVID 19 ( if any)? I was asked, like all of my co-workers in the Respiratory Department, as well as throughout the entire hospital, to step up and face the unknown, to adapt on the fly and to think outside the box (which I am very proud to say my coworkers in the Respiratory Department did exceedingly well). One thing I was specifically asked to do was to help educate/reeducate nurses that were transitioning back to the Critical Care Department from other departments on the basics of ventilator management. Many of the nurses had Critical Care experience, but maybe years ago and some did not, so my role was to help them recognize emergency situations and basic troubleshooting until a Respiratory Therapist could arrive at the bedside.

Education: I graduated in 1999 from Wheeling Jesuit University with a BS in Respiratory Therapy

Hobbies outside of work: I have been a volunteer firefighter for over 27 years and an EMT for 25 years. So, for most of my life that has kept me pretty busy. I also like to play cards with my friends, but that’s been put on hold for a while…Thanks covid-19!! And, about 4 years ago I was bit by the travel bug; since then I’ve gone on several cruises from the Bahamas, to the Caribbean, to Alaska!

Family, pets, etc? I have a wonderful immediate and extended family. No kids of my own, but I have an amazing niece and nephew, Lizzie and Drew, that I love dearly as well as some other amazing kids of friends that I would claim as mine any day of the week!

Why did you decide to do the work you do now?

I’ve always had a passion for helping people. Whether it’s just listening to a friend when they are having a hard time, to delivering a baby at a home when the mother realized it was too late to make it to the hospital, to helping a person suffering from a heart attack. My first job was at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh where I spent about 5 years working in the critical care department. And let me tell you, that experience was a game changer in my personal and career development. It’s both sad and amazing what the smallest humans can and do endure. While many days it was emotionally hard, I would never change one experience as it helped to mold me into the person I am today.

I also developed a passion for educating. If you ever are in a situation where you can educate someone on something, anything, and you see that person get to the “ah hah” moment where they understand something that they didn’t before it makes it all worth it. I was fortunate enough to be able to work as an adjunct professor at Wheeling Jesuit for almost 7 years after my graduation. I taught new students both traditional and non-traditional Respiratory Therapy and there was nothing like seeing all those expressions go from one of confusion and overwhelm to the “ah-ha” I get it now!

If you were given a free plane ticket to visit anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

This might sound crazy, but I would go to the Lapland in Northern Finland during the winter. Ok, let me explain. While on my Alaskan Cruise I was fortunate enough to have experienced seeing the Northern lights! By account of the crew members on the ship, seeing the Northern lights in that location of Alaska at that time of year was pretty much unheard of. Not only did I get to see them one night, but 4 nights in a row! Anyway, while the pictures I got were spectacular, I want to go Finland one day to see the real show where they dance over your head all night and experience it all again!

What do you want to tell people, or want them to know, about the COVID-19 pandemic and/or about WHS?

That I work with an amazingly talented and compassionate group of people that, without hesitation, were ready to risk it all to save their fellow man. Every member of the WHS team played a vital role in the Covid-19 pandemic, but I would like to speak to my profession. Any time there is any type of medical emergency in the hospital you will always find a Respiratory therapist. We draw blood from arteries, we give breathing medicine when patients can’t breathe, we do EKG’s, and we are responsible for airway and ventilator management. We assist with bronchoscopies, perform pulmonary function tests, and educate patients in Pulmonary Rehab among many, many other things. We even completely staff WHS Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Department which includes treatment as well as completing all insurance authorizations. In a matter of minutes a WHS Respiratory Therapist could literally be performing CPR on a newborn and then a person that is 100 years old. My coworkers and I have to understand how to manage the ventilator of a person with COVID-19 in one room and someone in the next room that just had open heart surgery (they are VERY different). Yes, sometimes we lurk in the shadows or are in and out of a room and not even noticed, but we are there and will always be there when needed!

During this pandemic we have all had to make on the fly adjustments. Like everyone else in the world we got our information sometimes literally by the minute and changes had to be made all the time. WHS would work to develop a plan only to find out an hour later that those recommendations were no longer valid and a new plan had to be developed. Every staff member in the WHS system adapted. Some to new plans, some to new roles, but through every step of the way WHS did everything to fulfill their mission…To provide great patient care!