C3 Fellow Alice Le ’22 finds her calling in respiratory care on the job

Respiratory Care undergraduate student Alice Le'22 on a bench outside in her green scrubs

After working as a nursing assistant in a transitional care facility for almost two years, St. Catherine University undergraduate student Alice Le ’22 was looking to make a professional change. Le knew that she wanted to work in a hospital since she was young. As Le said in a recent article published by Central Corridor Anchor Partnership, “I grew up down the street from Regions [Hospital] in the heart of Saint Paul, and many of my family members also work at Regions. I’ve been around healthcare professionals for most of my life.” She appreciated the fast-paced nature of working in a hospital and wanted the opportunity to help patients in that setting.

C3 Fellows program opened doors

Le applied to a nursing assistant position at Regions Hospital in January 2020. Right after she applied, she received an email from her St. Kate’s academic advisor. The advisor thought that she may be a good fit for the Central Corridor College (C3) Fellows program through the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership—a group of colleges, universities, hospitals, healthcare, and other partner organizations located near the Green Line in the Twin Cities. The C3 Fellows program is an initiative of the Central Corridor Anchor Partnership that, as their webpage states, “is part of the larger effort to ensure that those who live in Corridor neighborhoods share in the economic benefits of employment opportunities at institutions located in the community.” Le applied, and upon her acceptance to the program, the C3 Fellows Program Director Shawn Vang reached out to Le. Vang learned that Le had already applied to a position at Regions Hospital, so he reached out to the hospital’s HR department to make sure the connection was made.

Learning about respiratory care on the job

Le got the job in March 2020 with the help of the C3 Fellows program, and after a brief delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she started in May as a nursing assistant at Regions Hospital.

Her position was in the float pool, so Le would be assigned to different hospital units to “fill gaps”, as she put it in the article. Le found herself often assigned to the intensive care unit (ICU) and medical-surgical unit (med-surg) because of the influx of COVID-19 patients. Due to the respiratory problems the virus causes, Le saw respiratory therapists working around the clock to provide life-saving procedures on patients. High-paced environments can be stressful for some, but not for Le. “I like being a healthcare worker in an area that puts me in a helping position with COVID patients.”

She observed procedures like intubations and learned more about what respiratory therapists do, including prescribing medication, administering and monitoring mechanical ventilators, and consulting with doctors to provide the best treatment for respiratory patients. “My experience at Regions opened my eyes…There was so much I didn’t know,” Le shares in the article. Vang from C3 Fellows continues to help Le build connections, and “checks in regularly to see how I am doing,” Le says in the article.

Le’s educational experience at St. Kate’s

Last summer, Le was accepted into the respiratory care program at St. Kate’s. While Le observes the day-to-day responsibilities of a respiratory therapist working at Regions Hospital, she also studies the intricacies of respiratory care at St. Kate’s. “I love the program,” Le says. “I have personal connections with the professors and the smaller size of the classes allows me to connect with my classmates.” Le enjoys the St. Kate’s community, and feels comfortable in an academic setting focused on women. “It seems less daunting, so I feel comfortable putting myself out there more,” Le says.

As a part of her coursework, Le recently started her own clinical rotations in respiratory care at Hennepin County Medical Center, in addition to her nursing assistant job at Regions. In her clinical experience, Le has the opportunity to work with respiratory therapists and participate in the care that she has observed while working as a nursing assistant. When she graduates in 2022, she plans to take her board exam to get her registered respiratory therapist certification, and apply for a respiratory therapist position in a hospital in the Twin Cities.

Learn more about St. Kate’s respiratory care program