Q&A with Marianne Dayhoff, BS, CRT, LRCP, Respiratory Therapy Educator at The Children’s Home of Pittsburgh & Lemieux Family Center
Marianne Dayhoff is a respiratory therapy educator specializing in pediatric respiratory care in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She earned her BS in respiratory therapy from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1976, and is licensed by the state of Pennsylvania and the National Board of Respiratory Care. Marianne made the transition from homecare to her current facility a year ago, and considers seeing “little babies finally getting to go home” as one of the most rewarding parts of her job.
Q: Who or what motivated you to become a respiratory therapist?
A: I actually began with a major in medical technology but, being more of a people person, I thought doing something involved with direct patient care would be a better choice.
Q: Do you work for a large or small facility? What is the major focus of the Children’s Home?
A: The Children’s Home & Lemieux Family Center is a nonprofit located in the Friendship neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It promotes the health and well-being of infants and children through services that establish and strengthen the family.
The programs include Adoption, Child’s Way®, and the Pediatric Specialty Hospital. The Children’s Home’s founding program, Adoption, offers domestic, infant adoption support and services to birthparents, adopted persons, and adoptive families. Child’s Way® is a daycare for medically fragile children, newborn to 8 years old, staffed by pediatric registered nurses and childcare associates. The Pediatric Specialty Hospital is a licensed acute care hospital for patients, newborn to 21 years old, who are transitioning from the hospital to home. Our hospital focuses on teaching families about the needs their child may have upon a discharge home. The Children’s Home also offers grand rounds opportunities to medical professionals on a number of pediatric topics.
Q: What’s it like working at The Children’s Home?
A: It’s really great. It has so much to offer our patients and their families, and it makes the transition from hospital to home easy for everyone. We have every discipline available for them here including the support of a social worker, developmental specialist, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and nurses that are very good at making all of those things gel together in a way that is less stressful for the child and family.
Q: When and how did you start?
A: Our hospital director Kim Reblock hired me one year ago. She and I had worked at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC some years ago. My job with a homecare company for the past 12 years led me to have many dealings with this facility, so I was very familiar with the good work being done here. When Kim was hired, I was the manager of my homecare location and we had occasion to run into each other from time to time. One day she said, “Hey—I need a respiratory therapist.” I told her to put an ad in the paper, something that still makes me laugh considering how things played out. It kind of went from there and happily I was offered the position. Some days I wonder if Kim wishes she had put an ad in the paper, if you get my drift.
Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities as a respiratory therapist?
A: It has been a great opportunity for me being the first full-time RT at the facility. My function is primarily to educate the nursing staff in the use of the various respiratory equipment we work with here, but continues to evolve as the patient population changes. On any given day, I may be providing orientation to new nursing staff, researching and writing policies, gathering information for Q&A, setting up for new ventilator patient admissions, ordering respiratory supplies to keep us sufficiently stocked, meeting with sales reps, providing tours for potential admissions, coordinating patient discharges with the durable medical companies, e-mailing physicians regarding the care of their patients, helping the nurses if needed, and educating myself on the new respiratory equipment as it becomes available to our facility.
Q: What types of patients/diagnoses do you encounter most frequently?
A: I deal mostly with cardiac patients, BPD, prematurity, and cystic fibrosis. Obviously, the most involved respiratory cases.
Q: Can you share a funny story about your experiences?
A: When I was working for a homecare company, a woman once called in to order more nasal cannulas for her husband and asked for “You know, that cannabis.” Pretty funny, I thought.
Q: Are there other areas of interest for you as a respiratory therapist, either clinically or educationally, that you plan to pursue?
A: I would like to be credentialed as a Neonatal/Pediatric Specialist in the very near future.
Q: What are the greatest challenges you face?
A: The lack of upward mobility positions available in the field itself.
Q: What do you like most about your position? What do you dislike most about your position?
A: The thing I like most about this particular job is the freedom I have to create a respiratory program, which includes doing research regarding best practices and then revising as the program emerges and evolves. I enjoy change so it’s fun for me. That’s not to say that the staff who have to implement these changes feel as ecstatic as I do for obvious reasons, but on the whole they have made it easy for me to do what I was hired to do.
Dislike? Nothing comes to mind, really. The Children’s Home does all they can to make the atmosphere pleasant, rewarding, interesting, and challenging, and the benefits are awesome. You don’t find that in many places these days.
Q: Do you feel that the role of respiratory therapists has changed over recent years? If so, how?
A: I have been in the field for over 30 years and I can’t say that the role has changed much, at least in the Pittsburgh area. As with any job you have to prove you know your stuff before others will accept you as a “specialist,” which we are. It becomes frustrating to me at times that the field is not given its props as much as say, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other specialized fields. I like working with the pulmonologists from Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh who round at the Pediatric Specialty Hospital for obvious reasons. They don’t mind answering even the most elementary of questions and are always willing to spend time clarifying their reasoning. They also are willing to entertain a respiratory therapist’s suggestion and keep an open mind.
Q: What do you feel is of the greatest concern to respiratory therapists today?
A: Healthcare in general is suffering, but what I fear the most is the trend we are experiencing right now toward the elderly being sent home on ventilators with their 80-year-old spouse left to care for them and all that that encompasses. It is not good for anyone, and pretty scary. Homecare has taken a lot of hits lately and it’s the patient who suffers.
Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned over the course of your career?
A: Anything worth doing is worth doing well. I grew up hearing that from my parents, but I really believe it to be true now.
Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of entering your pediatrics?
A: Study hard, work hard, and play hard. That’s general advice I suppose, but it works, at least for me.
Q: How has working in pediatrics allowed you to grow professionally?
A: I can’t say how it has affected me professionally, but the personal growth has been tremendous due to the work itself and what it has allowed me to see and experience as far as the human condition. It’s hard to do much complaining when surrounded with so many kinds of suffering and seeing the challenges that so many are forced to endure.
Q: If you could sum up your job in one word, what would it be and why?
A:“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” because the job means to me whatever I want it to mean, just like that word.
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