Aaron Ladd wears many hats. When he’s not teaching new respiratory therapists at Thompson Rivers University, he can be found training tobacco cessation educators, developing education protocols, and advocating for more respiratory therapists in community health. We recently spoke with Aaron to learn why respiratory therapists are so important in healthcare, and what we can all do to manage our lung health.
You teach respiratory therapist (RT) students at Thompson Rivers University. What areas do you focus on?
I focus on chronic disease management and client-centered care. Specifically, we spend a lot of time looking at asthma and COPD. RTs are traditionally viewed as part of the tertiary care team, often working in the ICU and ER. However, for the past eight years I’ve been encouraging the profession to move to a chronic disease management role, working in community settings and focusing on preventative health as much as reactionary health. The impact RTs can have on people’s health is far greater if they’re also based in the community.
Are there certain populations in the community that you feel are being underserved?
We’re trying to focus more on people with mental illness and addictions. These people tend to be marginalized, and although we know that as much as 80% are tobacco users, only 10% are offered treatment for their tobacco addiction.
And tobacco addiction has a huge impact on our healthcare system. Can you speak to that?
On average, a tobacco user costs the healthcare system $8,700 more than a non-tobacco user. And yet, a tobacco cessation intervention costs maybe $400. Further, the number to treat to save a life with a tobacco cessation intervention is between 6-10, which is a far better ratio than other interventions we often use.
Why do you think there’s a lack of tobacco cessation interventions when the numbers seem to heavily support it?
Tobacco cessation is not a straight-forward thing, Tobacco addiction is a chronic relapsing disease, so it can be frustrating if you measure success by only looking at the numbers of people who are able to stay quit. However, it’s important to look at the impact these interventions can have, and the lives and quality of lives you’re helping.
At Thompson Rivers University, we’re the first RT program in Canada to embed tobacco cessation directly into our education. Moving forwards, RTs will be experts in the field of tobacco cessation. Their expertise and holistic way of working with a client will help them be natural fits for tobacco cessation programming and interventions.
Why are RTs unique in their role in respiratory health?
RTs are unique in that they can do assessments, diagnostics, and therapeutic interventions for their client. We often, in the community, spend up to an hour with a client per visit, so we have time to explore all factors of their life that may be contributing to their respiratory disease. Also, the vast majority of our community based RTs are Certified Respiratory Educators. This means that part of their role is to provide education and information surrounding lung health and disease, and they have a wealth of resources they can share with their clients.
While waiting to access an RT, what’s the best thing a person can do to manage their health?
The number one thing anyone can do to improve their quality of life is to walk! I often tell my clients to exercise, exercise, exercise. Research has shown that a combination of cardio and resistance training will improve quality of life substantially.
Aaron Ladd has been a Respiratory Therapist for 16 years, currently working at Thompson Rivers University in the faculty of Science in Respiratory Therapy with a focus on community health education. Through his professional career, he has dedicated much of his time and energy in the field of education both for patients and other healthcare providers. Aaron trained at Mayo Clinic as a Tobacco Treatment Specialist, as well as completing a Masters of Education in behavioral education from Memorial University. Aaron is also a certified asthma and COPD educator. He was highly active as a subject matter expert and writer in the development and implementation of the Certified Tobacco Educator credential, and is the Director of Tobacco Programs for the Canadian Network for Respiratory Care (CNRC). Aaron is also a Master Trainer for the Certified Tobacco Educator courses, traveling across Canada delivering the new curriculum.
He sits on the certification management committee and the exam development committee for the Canadian Network for Respiratory care, actively participating in CRE curriculum development and the creation and assessment of psychometric and evaluations for credentialing. He is a passionate supporter of Motivational Interviewing, and has been actively practicing and teaching it for over 10 years. Aaron spent a great deal of time providing one on one client patient education with over 8000 clinical patient hours in education over the past 12 years.