Breathing is something many of us take for granted, but this seemingly effortless act can be challenging and even painful for some. Luckily, respiratory care professionals treat people of all ages and from all walks of life who have difficulty breathing — from an elderly patient with pneumonia, to a child with asthma, or to a patient with chest trauma.
Helping people take these vital, life-giving breaths is what Bob Noble, Director of Respiratory Care Services at Iredell Health System, has done for the majority of his life. And, after 31 years at Iredell Memorial Hospital, Noble is retiring.
As young adult, Noble struggled with deciding what he wanted to do for the rest of his professional life. Eager to see which profession fit best with his personality traits and interests, Noble decided to take an aptitude test.
“The aptitude test results revealed that I was good with people and investigative sciences. It listed several professions, and respiratory care was one of them. I remember it said ‘lots of room for advancement’ and ‘up-and-coming profession,’” said Noble.
Noble admits that at the time, he had no idea what a respiratory therapist was or what the profession entailed — he had never even been inside a hospital before. Intrigued, the next day he visited a hospital in the mountains of North Carolina, where he was currently residing, and was able to shadow a respiratory therapist for the day.
“The respiratory therapist there showed me his worst patient, and when he was treating the patient, I passed out. If that was going to be my profession, I was worried. So, I went back the next day to see if it had the same effect, and I was fine.”
Noble decided to pursue respiratory therapy in college. He moved to Charlotte and later graduated from Central Piedmont in 1980.
After graduation, he started his career at North Carolina Baptist Hospital (now Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Hospital), working in respiratory care as a supervisor for six years. He later became a lead therapist at Carolinas Medical Center (now Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center). While he was in this position, Noble obtained his Bachelor of Science in Economics.
In 1991, Noble was hired as the Director of Respiratory Care for Iredell Health System — a role he would be dedicated to until his retirement.
When Noble first arrived in Statesville, he did not know the area and had to use a map to find the hospital. He also noted that his first year as director was challenging in figuring out the best way to carry out his new job.
Though initially unfamiliar to him, he quickly began to love Statesville, where he met his now wife, Freda, of 25 years.
As the Director of Respiratory Care, Noble manages the department’s day-to-day operations, including overseeing the quality of care, treatment, and educational services for patients with respiratory disorders. He also manages staffing and ensures the department has all the supplies necessary to run smoothly and effectively.
The specialty of respiratory care has seen several technological advancements and tremendous growth since Noble began his career. Some notable changes include the addition of BiPAP, a ventilator that assists with both inhaling and exhaling, and the creation of Vapotherm therapy, which delivers a high flow of heated and humidified oxygen to a patient with respiratory illness.
Most recently, Noble guided his team through the extra stressors and additional roles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. With many patients on ventilators throughout the worst of the pandemic, Iredell Memorial depended and relied on Noble and his respiratory therapy team.
“At the height of COVID, practically every person that came into the hospital had a respiratory problem. We were stretched very thin, and the patients were very sick. Patients could breathe, but they just couldn’t get oxygen into their blood, so we had to concentrate on making sure they had adequate oxygen. We developed strong relationships with the nursing departments and adopted new ways of doing things,” said Noble.
Reflecting on his time at Iredell, Noble is most proud of being a director for over three decades and continuing to bring high-quality care to patients.
“We’re a fairly small department, but we have great technology and staff and deliver top-notch respiratory care,” he said. “I’ll most miss the people I have worked with — my staff and all the other department managers.”
When short-staffed, Noble is known for helping his team by working on patient floors with them, sometimes on weekends and after-hours.
“Bob has truly been the epitome of a servant leader. I don’t think I know any other director who so quickly jumps into action to help his team and our patients. He has been such a strong advocate for our patients and our community over the past 30 years and will be missed,” said John Green, President and CEO of Iredell Health System.
In his retirement, Noble hopes to spend more time with his family and grandchildren. He also wants to travel and would like to renovate and sell a few houses.
“Bob has been a great asset to the Iredell Health System over the past 30 years. He has always been one to jump in and help his staff in any way possible. We will miss Bob and all he has done for our department, but we do wish him the best in his retirement!” said Jeannie Deal, Assistant Director of Respiratory Care.
“I have a lot of mixed feelings and emotions about retiring because I do love this hospital and spent a good part of my life here. I am sad to be leaving it, but on the other hand, I look at it like I’m starting a new chapter,” said Noble.
Pictured: Bob Noble (center) was recently honored at a luncheon to celebrate his retirement. He is seen here with Larry Pizzorni (left), Assistant Vice President of Ancillary Services, and John Green (right), President & CEO of Iredell Health System.