Dawn Thompson

Respiratory Therapist
Texas Health Allen

What did you want to be as a kid and how did you ultimately choose your career/job?

During high school I studied child development and art, but when I went to college (Texas A&M University), I decided to study psychology to become a counselor. I really only knew that I wanted to help people. After graduation I worked various jobs that were not the type I expected to be doing after earning a degree. My grades were not great back then, and I was terrified of going for a master's degree in order to do what I thought I wanted.

I had been working as an occupational therapy assistant in a rehabilitation hospital – my first real exposure to the medical world – and discovered respiratory therapy. I found I had a natural affinity for the type of work and the clientele. My parents were smokers. Naturally, I intended to take care of them in their old age and thought, "I need these skills!" Collin College had just started their program in respiratory care, and I felt very comfortable because I had taken a lot of courses there already. I applied and was accepted that fall, and I excelled in my studies, which for me meant I was doing what I was created to do. I have been a practitioner for more than 20 years. In addition to working at Texas Health Allen, I work for Collin College as an Instructor.

What is a typical workday like?

In a nutshell, my role as a respiratory therapist involves maintaining the patient's airway. I assist the physician with intubation, apply mechanical ventilation and monitor everything about the patient.

I have realized that in whatever role I am working, I am ultimately teaching, and I believe most respiratory therapists would agree. We help patients understand the purpose for the therapy they are receiving, potential side effects and proper use. I also facilitate our Collin County Better Breathers Club, which is designed to support people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It meets on the third Thursday of every month for a lunch-and-learn, and visitors are welcome.

What is the biggest challenge of your work?

The emotional aspect of caring for hurting and sick people is often the most difficult part of my job. I care deeply about the people, and I feel so sad for them sometimes. I try to really get to know them and any family that is present. I consider it a privilege to be a part of the team of clinicians caring for others in need.

What do you like most about your job?

One thing I love about working at Texas Health Allen is that my day will include a wide variety of opportunities. Because we are a small hospital, only two therapists normally staff each 12-hour shift. I may be responsible for caring for patients who visit our Emergency Department or Intensive Care Unit (ICU), handling airway management or code events, or even attending infant deliveries and caring for babies in respiratory distress in our Neonatal ICU.

I am blessed to work with fantastic clinicians who respect and appreciate each other's contributions.

What do you do when you're not at work? 

I have a house full of guys: my husband, Gary, two teenagers, and our beagle. I spend as much time with my family as I am able, and we love watching movies, trying out new restaurants and playing board games, and we are very active in our church. Walking my dog is my favorite exercise, though I also enjoy yoga and cycling. You might catch me out on my motorcycle, too, and I give rides (it has a sidecar). I am also an artist, using a variety of media. I'm also working on an invention I hope to see in production soon. 



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