While the hurricane-damaged cities and businesses will be rebuilt, respiratory therapists will play an important and time-consuming role in helping to get the victims of Katrina healthy and well again.

By Tony Ramos

In an article published September 13 in the Wall Street Journal about displaced residents of New Orleans getting back to work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one employee of a New Orleans-based company who has been putting in 14-hour days was quoted as saying, “I’m so grateful to have my job but I’m running on adrenaline, exhausted and not sleeping well.” While the long hours and exhaustion will eventually subside, many of the individuals affected by Katrina will continue to suffer sleep disorders for many months and, in some cases, years to come.

Dealing with something as catastrophic as being uprooted from your home, place of employment, community, and, for some, state of residence is bound to leave thousands suffering from insomnia and numerous other sleep-related disorders. With many respiratory care practitioners (RCPs) already involved in the field of sleep medicine, the rebuilding of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama also is going to include rebuilding the lives, health, and sleep architecture of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people from the South.

And it is not just the adult population that is currently experiencing sleep disorders, but the pediatric, teenage, and young adult population as well. It is a proven fact that children who suffer from ADD or ADHD benefit from having a consistent and routine lifestyle. Introducing too many changes and disruptions during the course of the day, week, or month can have a negative impact on children with ADD or ADHD. It has also been widely reported that many of these children also have sleep disorders and that these sleep disorders exacerbate their hyperactivity condition, making it harder for them to focus and concentrate. Taking a child away for any period of time from their home, community, family, friends, school, and extracurricular activities is only going to create or increase sleep disorders.

As the field of sleep medicine continues to expand, the role of RCPs will continue to develop and grow in this area of health care. RCPs who are currently involved in sleep medicine will see their careers blossom, and for those who are looking to get into sleep medicine, the chances are good that you will find a role for yourself in sleep medicine.

While the hurricane-damaged cities, houses, buildings, levees, highways, and businesses will be rebuilt, healthcare practitioners are going to play an important and time-consuming role in helping to get the victims of Katrina healthy and well again. The amount of good that health care workers, such as those individuals who work at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, have already done in the immediate aftermath of Katrina is immeasurable. Healthcare practitioners are urgently needed now to begin the rebuilding process in the lives of those Katrina came in contact with, and diagnosing and treating people with sleep-related disorders is going to be at the top of the list.


Tony Ramos is the former publisher of RT. For more information, contact [email protected].