HomeHealthcare HeroHealthcare Hero Highlight: Brookings Health System Respiratory Therapists

Healthcare Hero Highlight: Brookings Health System Respiratory Therapists

​Respiratory Therapists are integral members of any healthcare team. Like many healthcare professionals on the frontlines of this pandemic, respiratory therapists are tired. Their shifts are long and challenging and some days are emotionally draining. That is why SDAHO has picked the Respiratory Therapy team from Brookings Health System as this week’s Healthcare Heroes. Congratulations to Lisa Rice, Janie Isham, Meghan Handegard, Meredith Meyer, and Derick Johnson.

“Brookings Health System’s mission is to provide high-quality, compassionate, personalized health care. The respiratory therapists have demonstrated compassion in the high-quality care they have given to their COVID-19 patients.”  Lynne Thompson R.N., Case Management Director, Brookings Health System

Janie Isham is the veteran RT, serving the Brookings Health system for the past 26 years. Janie is a native of Florida but moved to South Dakota in 1995 and decided to call the Rushmore state home. “One of my strongest memories was how everyone seemed to know everyone, the patients and healthcare providers. A small close-knit community where your patients are your neighbors was and continues to be exciting for me.” – Janie Isham, Respiratory Therapist, Brookings Health System

One of the newest members of the RT Team is Meghan Handegard. She is a 2019 graduate of Dakota State University with an associates degree in Respiratory Care. Meghan will graduate in May of 2021 with her bachelor’s degree.  She has called South Dakota home since 2011 and chose to start her healthcare career here. “I started my professional career in South Dakota, and it has exceeded my expectations, as the majority of the health system values correlate to those of my own.” – Meghan Handegard, Respiratory Therapist, Brookings Health System

The second newest member of the team is Lisa Rice who has been with the program for the past four years. Western South Dakota is where Lisa grew up but has called the eastern side of the state home for most of her adult life. “I feel grateful to be a part of such a wonderful and compassionate team at Brookings Health System; we are truly all in this together.” – Lisa Rice, Respiratory Therapist Brookings Health System

Derick Johnson has traveled the world with the South Dakota National Guard, which is when he realized he wanted a career in the medical field. “While I was in the South Dakota National Guard I had the opportunity to take a combat lifesaver course and I was hooked at that point.” In 2006, Derick became a Combat Medic then transitioned to active duty, then the opportunity came along for Derick to become part of the respiratory therapy program in Brookings which is not far from his hometown of Watertown. Derick says it was one of the best decisions he ever made.

With 11 years under her belt as a respiratory therapist with the Brookings Health System, Meredith Meyers says it is a privilege to work in her home state. “I appreciate the teamwork, available resources and expertise care that South Dakota provides. I was inspired to get into healthcare by fellow family members and friends.”  – Meredith Meyer, Respiratory Therapist, Brookings Health System

During the pandemic this fall, members of the Respiratory Therapy team experienced an increase in their workload as the hospitals inpatient care unit quickly filled, as patients experienced severe respiratory symptoms. “The respiratory therapists provided pulmonary care for these people, working a crucial role as part of the healthcare team alongside the physicians and nursing staff.” Lynne Thompson R.N., Case Management Director, Brookings Health System

COVID-19 presented challenges for all five Respiratory Therapists, pushing them to work long hours under unknown circumstances. “I was working more and more hours and it was a lot more intense, emotionally and physically. I am happy to know that I played a part in helping with a pandemic most of us will never forget.” – Meredith

Derick serves as the Respiratory Care Supervisor; he says every member of their staff stepped up to the challenge during COVID-19. “COVID changed a lot of things. While our department continued with its normal duties, it had to become ever changing with new concepts and equipment, sometimes on a daily basis.” – Derick

Meghan says the emotional and physical challenges that came with the pandemic brought everyone together and displayed the true meaning of teamwork and resilience.  According to Janie, the facility worked hard in the beginning to acquire all the equipment that was needed for the influx of COVID patients. The pandemic placed an unbelievable amount of stress on healthcare workers, but from the beginning Janie was looking out for her community and patients. “When COVID began, I immediately set to work sewing masks.  For two weeks I sewed and made over 250 masks. I considered traveling to where the need was the greatest but decided my place is here at home taking care of those in my community.” – Janie.

COVID left many in the healthcare industry feeling helpless but according to Lisa there were some bright spots. “The best days were when a long term COVID patient finally got the – all clear – to go home to their family and friends. I think those bright spots are what got us all through during those tough times.” – Lisa

As the world continues to fight the spread of the virus and lift-up healthcare professionals, the Respiratory Therapists at Brookings Health System are all thankful for the recognition but do not consider themselves heroes. “I will never consider myself a hero, I just feel fortunate to be able to work in this career field and I truly enjoy every day I work.” – Derick

“We have always been heroes; folks are just taking notice. Ask any of us though, and we will tell you we are just doing our job.” – Janie

I am so proud of all healthcare workers. I really do think they are all heroes.” – Meredith

Congratulations to Meredith Meyer, Derick Johnson, Lisa Rice, Janie Isham and Meghan Handegard with the Respiratory Therapist Team at Brookings Health System for being a SDAHO healthcare hero. Thank you for all you do.

The Healthcare Hero campaign is designed to recognize and celebrate healthcare professionals across South Dakota. If you know someone that is a healthcare hero and would like to nominate them, visit us online and nominate them today. https://sdaho.org/heroes/


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30may11:00 am12:00 pmEmployee Accountability: How to Address Problem Behaviors and AttitudesSDAHO Webinar

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