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A Special Goodbye to the Respiratory Care Class of 2020

May, 2020
  • QCC’s Professor of Respiratory Care Karen Kaletski Dufault (in red) with some former Respiratory Care students.
    QCC’s Professor of Respiratory Care Karen Kaletski Dufault (in red) with some former Respiratory Care students.

Quinsigamond Community College Respiratory Care students have been all over the news in recent months, as many current and former students have been on the front lines taking care of those critically ill with COVID-19. QCC’s Professor of Respiratory Care and Coordinator of the Respiratory Care Program, Karen Kaletski Dufault, has been with her students every step of the way and is their staunchest advocate and supporter. In fact, during this latest health crisis, she petitioned and received approval from the program’s accrediting agency to allow QCC respiratory care students to simultaneously work on their student licenses and earn credits. This brought much needed medical resources to an extremely stressed healthcare system.

The Class of 2020 is particularly special to Ms. Kaletski Dufault, not only due to all the challenges they have overcome this past year, but also because it is the last class she will be teaching. She is retiring from QCC after teaching for 28 years. Please read a heartfelt letter she wrote to the Respiratory Care Class of 2020.

You are the Respiratory Care Class of 2020! The year of COVID-19! What a year to graduate! Think of the stories you can tell your friends and families when this pandemic is over! Remember… the things you have experienced, and the individuals you have met along the way have helped mold you into extraordinary Respiratory Therapists! The Class of 2020 will go into the record books as the most unique class in the history of QCC!

Every year I start this letter by letting your friends and family members know what you have learned and accomplished in this program. It is important that they understand the absolute rigor and challenge of the Respiratory Care Program. I often tell people that we are teaching students how to save lives in only TWO short years! You can imagine that this is NO easy task.

You could not have achieved your success without the love and support of your family, friends and loved ones. They deserve recognition for their encouragement and the sacrifice made on your behalf! Give them a hug and tell them how grateful you are for their help! It truly DOES take a village!

The Class of 2020 has worked diligently to become exceptional Respiratory Therapists! Besides the challenging academic aspect of the program, you have had wonderful success as volunteers in the community—making a difference in the lives of those individuals you touched.

Here’s a glimpse of what you have accomplished! Academically, things began rather methodically….the Class of 2020 was introduced to the anatomy of the upper and lower airways, gas laws and the mechanics of breathing, infection control procedures, oxygen and aerosol therapy and pharmacology.

This was quickly followed by the art of performing and interpreting arterial blood gases, bronchopulmonary hygiene, noninvasive monitoring, airway management, bronchoscopy, endotracheal intubation, and medical gas therapy such as nitric oxide, heliox, carbogen, and hyperbaric.

This rapidly evolved into mechanical ventilation, including noninvasive, conventional, and high frequency, laboratory and CXR interpretation, hemodynamics, state-of-the-art treatment modalities, pulmonary function procedures, and complicated respiratory diseases. You also mastered the intricacies and special circumstances involved with the treatment of premature infants and pediatric patients. 

You have completed clinical rotations on medical, surgical, neonatal, pediatric, and intensive care units and you learned about sleep disordered breathing in a Sleep Center. You have gained insight in changing tracheostomies at a long-term rehabilitation facility.

You have learned what it is like to work for a home care company and most of you have participated in high risk deliveries as part of a Level III nursery NICU team, administering life-saving surfactant and providing ventilatory assistance to premature infants.

In addition to the entire rigorous curriculum… during the last two semesters, you earned sophisticated certifications in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and Neonatal Resuscitation.

Are you impressed yet??? Have you forgotten how hard you have worked? It is my job to remind you! Oh…wait…there is more!

This class has:

Attended the Massachusetts Society for Respiratory Care Meeting.
Volunteered to serve as Student Ambassadors for the Worcester Pulmonary Symposium sponsored by the American Lung Association.
Performed outstanding community service projects that involved:

  • Acting as student assistants in the freshman lab—mentoring freshmen therapists and assuring that skills were taught and mastered
  • Working collaboratively with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to fundraise
  • Organizing a Respiratory Care Department that was in desperate need of assistance
  • Planning a humanitarian medical mission in a third-world country
  • Learning how to perform vital pulmonary function testing
  • And… you fund-raised… to support a wonderful pinning ceremony, which unfortunately has been side-lined by this crazy virus!

Graduates …Do I have counsel for you as you leave the hallowed halls of QCC? Of course I do! Have you ever known me NOT to have an opinion or give advice?  (-:

I once read a passage that struck a chord with me. It stated:

“Never doubt your greatness! Greatness is the responsibility to use all your talents and gifts daily. People with greatness develop the ability to constantly deal with others and with circumstances positively and productively. They do not believe things are unchangeable. Whatever it is they are doing, they are doing it one smile at a time…one kind word at a time… and one good deed at a time. People with greatness do not listen to people who voice their opinion without supplying knowledge to back it up. People with greatness plant flowers each year, always expecting every flower will have fully bloomed by the season’s end. Everyone can achieve greatness, especially those who have learned the valuable lesson that living every day… is not an option… but a necessity.”

In Respiratory Care, you may never get the appreciation or recognition you deserve. But know that inner peace, integrity, loyalty, and honesty are more important than praise. These qualities will help you achieve “greatness!” Teddy Roosevelt once said: “far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” I have no doubt that the Respiratory Care, Class of 2020 will work hard to make this world a better place. This is imbedded in your DNA! 

Dr. Seuss, probably the best-loved and certainly the best-selling children’s author of all time, once said….. “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Hopefully, your QCC experience has helped create wonderful memories for you… memories that will last a lifetime!

Before I close, I wanted to let you know that I will be retiring at the end of MAY. I have worked as a Respiratory Therapist for almost 39 years. Twenty-eight of those years have been devoted to teaching Respiratory Care professionals at QCC. I have worn just about every hat during my tenure here, performing a variety of tasks for the college. I began as an adjunct. My job was to teach Respiratory Care students in the Neonatal Intensive Care setting. After that, I became the Director of Clinical Education, and for the last ten years, I worked as the Program Director. During my long career at this institution, I have trained over 200 Respiratory Therapists! I remember every name, every challenge and ultimately, every success! I am so proud of my students and the caring, professionals they have become. It makes me smile knowing that I have been a part of their transformation and training! This has been a wonderful journey, one that I will always remember and treasure. Thank you for being part of those memories.

Best wishes for a wonderful, fulfilling future in the admirable profession of Respiratory Care. I will be watching for you to change the world and make a difference in the lives of patients in your care.

Be safe, stay well and enjoy your new career!