Faculty Feature: Meet Brooke Owen | Stark State College | North Canton, Ohio
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Faculty Feature: Meet Brooke Owen

Brooke Owen

Department chair is an advocate for patients, the respiratory care field and our students

Brooke Owen, MSN, RN, RCP, RRT-NPS, always knew she wanted to be a caregiver in the health care field. Now, as the program director for respiratory care at Stark State College and the department chair for respiratory, laboratory and surgical technology, she’s helping students discover their own passion for the field. Here, she gives us insight into her role, her career and what makes Stark State’s respiratory therapy program stand out.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your role.

A: My job as the department chair is comprehensive. In short, I work with the program directors and faculty of the medical laboratory program and surgical programs to ensure we maintain our high program standards, meet program outcomes, and recruit and retain highly skilled faculty to help us educate and train our students. I do the same for the respiratory care program, but I have added responsibilities. I advise and mentor all the incoming students to the program, as well as teach multiple courses.

Q: What do you enjoy the most?

I really enjoy teaching within the respiratory care program. My favorite course to teach is a cardiopulmonary anatomy and physiology course. It allows me to help students put the puzzle pieces together from the previous three semesters of respiratory care content. Watching students connect the “why” to the anatomy and physiology and seeing their “aha” moments is really rewarding.

Q: What initially drew you to the field of respiratory care?

A: I always knew that I wanted to be some kind of caregiver. I had friends and family who were doctors, nurses and other health care providers. However, I wanted to specialize, and I didn’t want to spend eight years in college. That’s when I found respiratory care. It allowed me to specialize in the care of patients with lung and heart problems. I knew this field would provide me a skill set that would allow me to be a vital part of the health care team. It also provided the opportunity to care for and be an advocate for patients who may or may not be able to advocate for themselves. There’s a special place in my heart to care for patients that find themselves in intensive care and gravely ill. I feel a huge sense of duty to understand their condition and contribute in a positive manner to their plan of care. I always root for the underdog and try to do what I can to help these very sick patients get out of the hospital and home to their family and friends.

Q: From your perspective, explain the benefits of earning a two-year degree in respiratory care.

A: Hands down, it’s entry into the profession two years faster than a four-year prepared graduate. Our graduates are able to work in the field and start earning a livable wage much faster. Many area hospital employers also offer tuition reimbursement programs. That allows the graduate to continue on in a bachelor’s degree completion program at their own pace, while having it paid for by their employer. It’s a win-win!

Q: What are the strengths of Stark State’s respiratory care program?

A: One of our many strengths lies in our faculty. Our didactic and clinical faculty have many years of bedside patient care experience. This helps our students connect respiratory care theory to bedside practice. Our knowledgeable faculty are skilled at teaching program content in different ways to help our students build and hone their skills. Another strength: the high standards that we set for ourselves and our students. This allows us to produce graduates that are as well, if not, better prepared as an entry-level respiratory therapist than some of our four-year area program competitors.

Q: What’s one thing that students are always surprised to learn about our respiratory care program?

A: That we have high-fidelity simulators. These machines give students a chance to learn about high-stakes situations in a lower-stress environment. The simulators have manikins that our faculty can program to breathe in different patterns, cough, augment their breath sounds, and so on. They also can be connected to a ventilator (which is a machine that breathes for the patient) and the faculty can run through different challenging situations with the students in our lab prior to going to the hospital and working with real patients.

Q: Describe your approach when it comes to helping students succeed.

A: I like to remind our students of all the support available here at Stark State. Many times, they don’t need academic assistance. They might have a real-life (financial, mental-health, family) situation that comes up. These are often emergent situations. Our faculty do a great job of referring students to campus resources as needed and going above and beyond to help to comprehensively support our students. For their academic needs, our faculty will meet with students based on their availability for remediation and work with them to identify their learning style. This helps the student understand how they learn best and helps them moving forward with note taking, test-taking skills and more.

Q: Stark State’s respiratory care program recently received the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Northern Ohio Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) for its work helping to run and fundraise for CFF events. Describe the relationship your program has with the CFF.

A: Our program has supported the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CFF) for more than 10 years. We chose to collaborate with the CFF because cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes problems with breathing and digestion. Children are born with this disorder and the life expectancy is reduced. As a respiratory therapist, we care for patients that have cystic fibrosis and have a high-level understanding of the disease. Therefore, we are passionate about finding a cure. We work with the CFF to fundraise and hold events to share knowledge and resources about cystic fibrosis. The money raised goes to cystic fibrosis research to help find a cure for this respiratory disease.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who was interested in learning more about the respiratory care field?

A: I’d tell them to take a look at our program website and morerts.com. I like to remind interested students that the majority of respiratory therapists work in the hospital and that hospitals do function 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This is not a 9-5 job. People get sick and need our help at all hours of the day (and night). You may work every other weekend and generally every other holiday, depending on hospital staffing. They may even work on the night shift. But I like to say that I learned the most when I worked the night shift!

I’d also tell them that it is an excellent career choice and they can specialize in pediatric patients or adults if they prefer. There are many opportunities to partner with one of our area hospitals to have all or part of your tuition paid. Most hospitals are also offering sign-on bonuses for new graduates.

Q: What’s a hobby or two you enjoy?

A: Being the mother of two teenage girls, I joke that my hobby is a taxi cab driver! However, when I do get a chance to do something I enjoy, I like to play tennis.

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