As if working full time as a lead respiratory therapist in the Pulmonary Diagnostic Lab at El Camino Hospital, studying for her bachelor’s degree and managing a full household were not enough, Rupal Patel, RCP, RRT, RPFT, decided to take on one more challenge. She recently became one of the first therapists in the United States to graduate with an Interventional Pulmonology Assistant Certificate from Foothill College, which provides advanced training in diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.
Rupal has been a member of the Interventional Pulmonology team at El Camino Hospital for nine years and saw the staff grow from two respiratory therapists to 10 during that time. In her current role, she assists doctors with diagnostic and therapeutic interventions for patients who have breathing difficulties due to lung conditions, and is responsible for training new hires. Her dedication to furthering the level of care provided at El Camino Hospital is clearly demonstrated by her commitment to learning the latest techniques and protocols in her profession and sharing it with her team.
Rupal recently completed her bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership through an online program while simultaneously studying for the interventional pulmonology assistant certification. Accomplishing both educational goals was a bit of a balancing act and there were many long days for Rupal during that time. She lives in Fremont and it can sometimes take an hour to get to work. A typical day involved getting up at 5:00 a.m. to be at work by 6:30 a.m. She would work for eight hours, then go home and help with dinner before settling down to study by about 10:00 p.m. She often studied until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning to finish her papers and participate in discussion groups online. “I worked five days a week while getting two degrees at the same time. During the first six months of the eight-month certificate program, I was also completing my bachelor’s degree. I had four online classes going at once and completing the assignments on time and correctly was sometimes challenging,” says Rupal.
Rupal is married with three daughters and her in-laws live with her. She adds, “I couldn’t have done this without the support of my family, especially my husband and mother-in-law. They took care of the house while I was studying every day and my girls helped by proofing my papers.”
Rupal says she received her hands-on training from the best practitioners in the field and credits James Canfield, manager of respiratory diagnostic services and Dr. Ganesh Krishna, medical director of the Interventional Pulmonology Program at El Camino Hospital, for encouraging her to obtain the Interventional Pulmonology Assistant Certificate. They were responsible for developing the program and collaborating with Foothill College to make it widely available to respiratory care practitioners across the country.
“Completing the certification was important. It helped me understand the history behind the procedures and small details I missed through my hands-on learning. I feel that if I am training other therapists, then I need to learn everything I can to be able to train them the best way possible,” Rupal explains. “The program was a great review of what I already knew. Now I better understand the physiological changes the body goes through when a patient undergoes certain procedures. I know what to expect during each procedure and how to prepare for potential complications.”
The coursework not only helped Rupal become a better respiratory therapist but helped her develop as a trainer. Her dedication to providing patients at El Camino Hospital with the best care possible by highly trained therapists shows in her interactions with patients. “I love what I do. Many of my patients are elderly and dealing with COPD. It is gratifying to be able to help them achieve a better quality of life with proper treatment and therapy,” Rupal says.