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Breathe Deep: Alumna Details The Beauty Of Respiratory Care
Alumna Details The Beauty Of Respiratory Care
Plano resident Anna Bennett is the manager of respiratory therapy at The Medical Center of Plano. She discovered the career after taking a biology class at Collin College.

Plano resident Anna Bennett is the manager of respiratory therapy at The Medical Center of Plano. She discovered the career after taking a biology class at Collin College.

“I had no idea what I was getting into.”

Those are not infamous last words. Instead, they are famous first words for Anna Bennett, the manager of respiratory therapy at The Medical Center of Plano.

Bennett had spent the previous 20 years as a stay-at-home mom, providing care for her four children, including her son, Benjamin, who was born prematurely and has battled cerebral palsy.

She had enrolled at Collin College and started working at a pre-school with an eye on a career in education. Serendipity struck in Jean Helgeson's biology class.

“Professor Helgeson had a child with very bad asthma, and she said ‘I don't know why all of you are killing each other to get into the nursing program instead of the respiratory care program because my child had a hard time this weekend and had to go to the hospital,’” Bennett said. “I asked, ‘What’s respiratory care?’”

She switched gears to healthcare, caught up with her science prerequisites at Collin College, worked as a lab assistant at the biology lab and was accepted a semester early into the respiratory care program.

Fifteen years later, Bennett is in charge of respiratory therapy at one of the premier hospitals in north Texas – assisting in life-and-death situations and helping children with asthma treatments.

Waiting to Inhale

Bennett started her career in respiratory therapy at Parkland Hospital. The Plano resident took a position with The Medical Center at Plano due to its reputation and proximity to her home.

“After 15 years, I've watched a lot of development,” Bennett said. “There's been a huge change in this facility. Everything about this hospital has grown. It’s a teaching facility, and we're doing research now.”

Bennett received her bachelor's degree in healthcare administration from Columbia Southern University, where she is also currently working on her master’s degree in organizational leadership.

As it turns out, her lot in life has as much to do with managing others, organizing and dealing with the day-to-day happenings. During her tenure, Bennett has dealt with gas and water shutdowns, and rolling blackouts.

“(The problems) make you a better leader so you are not a commander; you are not making your people do something,” she said. “You are helping them and bringing them in to make decisions for you. That’s letting go.”

Waiting to Exhale

Bennett is still very connected to Collin College. She has served on the respiratory care program advisory board. She also supervises respiratory care students at The Medical Center of Plano doing their clinical studies and has hired a number of Collin College graduates.

“I've hired individuals from various schools, not only from Collin County or north Texas, but from all over the state and country, and Collin College produces quality, top-notch, head-over-heels great respiratory therapists. You can’t beat them,” Bennett said. “They are not just trying to get by or meet the standards. They are exceeding the standards. If you look at their pass rates, they are off the charts compared to other colleges and universities and (the respiratory therapy test) is very difficult.”

For someone lying on a gurney or hospital bed “exceeding expectations” are what you want to hear regarding your doctor, nurse, respiratory therapist or surgical technician. Although Bennett’s initial interest in respiratory therapy came from an in-class comment about a child getting breathing treatments, respiratory therapists work in high-pressure, life-and-death circumstances.

The scenes in TV and movies where the medical personnel are trotting along with a bleeding, unconscious patient on the gurney and giving treatments in real life are not just doctors. Respiratory therapists work to keep air circulating through the body.

“I didn't know we were going to be life savers,” Bennett said when asked what most surprised her about the career. “I knew we were going to give breathing treatments. I knew I'd go to deliveries of premature babies. I didn't know I'd be facing death almost every day, multiple times a day.”

Visit www.collin.edu/rcp for more information about Collin College’s respiratory care program.

Reprinted with permission by Plano Profile