The trauma team at the Montreal General Hospital (MGH) has risen to a new challenge by answering the call of the Canadian Armed Forces. For the first time, they’re training soldiers in respiratory therapy. 

“This is a precious collaboration,” describes Captain Carole Bernier, who first sought the MUHC’s help for training in respiratory therapy. “Respiratory therapists are extraordinary professionals, always apt to teach and so skilled in what they do. It’s an honour for us to be learning about respiratory therapy from RTs at the Montreal General Hospital.”  

Military nurses have committed to 120 hours of hands-on training at the MGH ICU, working 8-to-12-hour shifts including weekends. Their stage takes them from shadowing RTs to treating patients in real time. They’re learning everything about intubation and extubation as well as spotting the warning signs for respiratory deterioration.  

“Why was the ICU at the Montreal General Hospital chosen? There’s one reason and one reason only: the trauma mission,” asserts Davy Lambiris, manager of respiratory therapists at the MGH ICU. “The closest thing to a war injury, a high explosive injury or a bullet wound, is trauma. It’s a privilege to help the Canadian Armed Forces.” 

Camille and Christine
Military nurse Camille Ferdais (left) and respiratory therapist at the MGH ICU Christine Boutin (right)

“We’re developing our reflexes when it comes to stabilizing patients who are struggling to breathe,” shares Captain Bernier. “This is an extremely necessary skill for us to have, especially when we’re deployed to places where there is a lack of RTs.”

Meet the military nurses and the RTs who are training them  

“I knew a little bit about respiratory therapy, but to really delve into it feels completely different!” exclaims military nurse Éloïse Lavoie, who’s been in respiratory therapy training since the beginning of January. “I already held respiratory therapists in high regard and this training just confirms how valuable they are.” Éloïse loves her career as a nurse in the army and she says that her time spent alongside RTs has been incredible. “They are all people who care about teaching. I had questions and they sent me such helpful resources. You have a great team of respiratory therapists at the MGH ICU!” 

“I feel so fortunate to be able to share my knowledge with nurses in the Canadian Armed Forces,” says Catherine Renaud, RT. “Éloïse and the other military nurses are all super qualified and I hope that our time spent together adds another string to their bow.” 

Éloïse and Catherine
Military nurse Éloïse Lavoie (left) with respiratory therapist Catherine Renaud (right). Éloïse reports that respiratory therapists make her feel motivated!
in training
We’re training military nurses over and above what they’re going to be expected to do overseas.

Respiratory therapist Christine Boutin says that training military nurses has been a very positive experience: “The nurse I’m training, Camille Ferdais, is a highly qualified nurse, very human and professional. What an exciting challenge it is to understand the work she has to do in the military!” 

“Every shift, I learn something new and my skillset increases,” says Camille. “I feel very supported by the team and the hospital, where everyone is very friendly. This is a great place for us to learn.” 

Impacts on the MUHC  

Because of how successful this training with RTs has been, the MGH ICU hopes to offer this same opportunity to its own nurses, particularly those who will be hired in the future.   

“Usually when it comes to training, a nurse is always paired with another nurse who has more experience,” explains Nadine Al-Hawari, nurse manager of the MGH ICU. “But the reality is, once you’re in the ICU, nurses work alongside respiratory therapists. This has opened our eyes to what’s possible. Why not offer this same training to our own staff?”  

“A day with an RT!” exclaims Davy. “Yes, this is definitely something we want to incorporate. Pairing nurses and RTs for training is so unique because they have two completely different roles, but it makes so much sense.”   

The MUHC would like to take the opportunity to thank Captain Bernier, Éloïse, and Camille for their service in the Canadian Armed Forces. We also thank you for entrusting your respiratory therapy training to our team at the MGH ICU.

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