Stephanie Korynta, a registered respiratory therapist at RiverView Health, has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic since its start. Also a certified pulmonary function technologist, she worked to help patients literally breathe easier. Now, Korynta has taken her abilities to an even higher level, as she recently became a registered pulmonary function technologist (RPFT).

COVID-19 and other illnesses have left many people with lasting lung issues. Pulmonary function technologists, like Korynta, work to find the cause of shortness of breath, whether through illness, exposure to chemicals, or other issues. Korynta’s work includes testing individuals for types of lung disease, such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. This testing is known as pulmonary function testing.

According to Korynta, many patients who have had COVID can have ongoing symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, and hypoxia (low oxygen levels in the body’s tissues) well after the infection has resolved.

“COVID has made my schedule busier,’’ she shared. “Some patients affected by COVID have residual effects in relation to their breathing. Doing the pulmonary function test helps the provider know where the patient’s lung function is at and what course of action to take in their treatment.’’

Post-COVID Program

RiverView’s Pulmonary Rehab offers a post-COVID program for patients who have had COVID or are suspected of having had it but were not tested. In the program, patients receive an individualized, supervised exercise plan and education on breathing techniques and medications, Korynta reported. The program helps to build the patient’s endurance, decreases shortness of breath with activity, and aids the patient in returning to regular activities.

A test that measures the level of inflammation in the lungs is also available to determine the need for an inhaled steroid and to measure its effectiveness along with the information obtained from a pulmonary function test.

“Patients with lung issues after COVID need to be proactive in their treatment. Working on breathing exercises to help with inflation of the lungs and muscle strengthening can be helpful. Taking the medications prescribed by your provider and stay up to date on your COVID vaccinations and flu shot is also important as your lungs may have lasting damage from COVID that would make it hard to heal from another respiratory illness.’’

Personal Goals Benefit Patients

Pulmonary function testing is offered at many hospitals and clinics; however, not all of the staff performing the testing are certified or registered, as Korynta now is.

“Earning the credential of RPFT was a personal goal of mine,’’ Korynta shared. “The test is hard and only has a 33% passing rate. In preparing for the national exam, I learned even more about pulmonary function tests and fine-tuned my knowledge of instructing patients, each measurement, the equipment, and troubleshooting the equipment. While taking the exam was a personal goal, I feel it also has helped me to give better care to our patients.’’ 

Korynta has been with RiverView Health for 12 years. She became a respiratory therapist in 2005 and earned the pulmonary function technologist certification in 2007. She is also an asthma educator, and tobacco treatment specialist teaches neonatal resuscitation and is now a registered pulmonary function technologist.

If you experience shortness of breath or the lasting effects of COVID, talk to your primary care provider about pulmonary function testing or other options available at RiverView, or call 281.9200 for more information. 

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