Graduate Spotlight: Ernest Agkuam ’10

Ernest_webthumbnail_circleMeet Ernest! A 2010 graduate from the Salisbury University Respiratory Therapy program. Ernest is a Respiratory Therapist at Holy Cross Hospital and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. Learn about his experiences at USG and see what he is up to now.

Starting from when you began your program at USG, what steps did you take to get to where you are today in your career?

Deciding to enroll in the Respiratory Therapy program at Salisbury University at USG was one of the most important educational decisions that I made in my life. As a resident of Montgomery County and as a father with family obligations, the conveniently located campus allowed me to excel in my education and achieve my career goals. By building a strong academic foundation, I was able to succeed in pursing my dream of becoming a respiratory therapist.

What do you do at your current job?

I am a Respiratory Care Practitioner at Holy Cross Hospital and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. As a respiratory therapist I am responsible for assessing, planning, implementing and evaluating patient care to a specified group of patients, mainly, patients needing airway protection. I collaborate with physicians, medical professional, and other staff to ensure quality care is given. And, I am part of the critical care team who is responsible for stabilizing patients in emergencies. As a respiratory therapist, I also play an important role in educating and enlightening patients in regards to controlling certain chronic pulmonary diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Asthma.

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A day in the life as a respiratory therapist starts with arriving at the hospital on time and getting reports from the previous shift. My duties really depend on the area I am assigned to. For example, a day in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) starts with checking and assessing the patients on continuous life support ventilators. A critical portion of my day in the ICU consists of rounding with the Intensivist to discuss the prognosis and treatment for the patients. After the rounds, ventilated patients who meet our weaning criteria are placed on spontaneous breathing trials (called a CPAP trial) to determine their pulmonary strength and evaluated on whether or not they can be removed from the life support ventilators. Respiratory therapists have a very important role in the healthcare setting — we are responsible for maintaining a person’s airway when an emergency occurs. Not being able to breathe is a very frightening experience, and can even lead to death in some cases. It is the greatest feeling when you are able to help someone breathe on their own and save lives.

How did your time at USG prepare you for your career?

USG allowed me to obtain the leadership and critical thinking skills that I now use on a daily basis. I was really impressed that my classes could be conducted via Interactive TV. It allowed my professors to teach classes from the main campus in Salisbury, and we could communicate with them as if they were standing right in front of us. I was also fortunate to receive several scholarships at USG. The financial assistance allowed me to focus on my studies and still have time for my family.

What was your most memorable experience at USG?

I treasure my memories of USG. I loved the beautiful landscape around campus. The faculty and staff were very supportive and always available to assist me. The campus offers so many amenities including a recreational center with showers, a photo-copy center, a cafeteria, several computer classrooms, an amazing library with quiet study rooms, and an abundance of parking spaces.

In 140 characters or less, what message would you give to future graduates?

Cherish your time at USG. It is quite a privilege to have nine high-quality Maryland universities on one campus – enjoy it and best of luck!

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