High demand for respiratory therapists as delta variant rages

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — Respiratory therapists from across the country are being recruited to COVID-19 hotspots where the delta variant is raging.

They are lured there with the promise of more money, according respiratory therapists in the Denver area. As hospitalizations increase elsewhere, there is more of a need for medical professionals to leave Colorado.

Healthcare workers have been here before: urged to answer the call. Now they’re needed in places like Missouri and parts of the U.S. South. Respiratory therapist and Denver native Roman Valles is familiar with the demand and challenges associated with relocating to a hotspot.

“It was a nightmare,” Valles said, referring to a previous wave. “Just seeing people die left and right.”

Valles, a Pima Medical Institute Denver graduate, was in New York and Texas last year to save lives. But answering the call almost cost him his own life.

“[I got] super sick … started coughing up blood,” he said. “My heart did stop, and they did three rounds of CPR.”

Valles was intubated. It’s the very thing he does for other people. Nearly a year later, he is still not 100% recovered. He is back to working full time at St. Anthony’s Hospital. Despite his ordeal, he says he’s still being urged to go back into battle outside Colorado.

“My recruiter that I had in the past actually reaches out to me,” he said.

Returning to a hotspot is something Valles said he needs to think long and hard about. Meanwhile, his Colorado colleagues and friends have already returned to hotspots.

“I know tons of people,” he said.

From what he’s been told, respiratory therapist experiences are as bad or worse than what he remembers from last year. The recruitment efforts have not let up, he said. Facebook pages have been created offering big paychecks for medical workers willing to temporarily relocate.

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