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Eye On

Respiratory Health Educators Interest Group (RHEIG)

Submitted by Jane Lindsay.

Everyone who works in health care knows that ‘life is change’ and everyone who has watched The Lung Association evolve knows that we are not immune.

The Lung Association – Ontario (TLA), the Ontario Respiratory Care Society (ORCS), and the Respiratory Health Educators Interest Group (RHEIG) have all undergone significant change in the past year or two.  With the re-branding of the Lung Association, and the launch of the revised website, these changes have become more noticeable.

With regards to the RHEIG, the changes are quite significant, in a positive fashion.  To see the continuous evolvement, it may be insightful to see where we have been.  The following brief summary was supplied by Sheila Gordon-Dillane, who was instrumental in developing and leading RHEIG throughout its history:

The RHEIG originated as the Ontario Asthma Educators Association (OAEA) in the mid-1990s when the idea of certifying asthma educators began and the national Asthma Education Conferences started (Canadian Network for Asthma Care or CNAC held bi-annual conferences and developed the national certification system and exam). The Michener Institute of Education at University Health Network (UHN), formerly known as the Michener Institute of Applied Sciences, developed an asthma educator post-graduate course to prepare health professionals to write the national exam to become a Certified Asthma Educator.

The OAEA ran as a volunteer group for about five years. They charged $35 for a membership, created a newsletter and added a half day seminar after Better Breathing. The founding members included Ann Bartlett, Nancy Garvey, Paula Burns, Andrea White Markham, Karen Zalan and several others, many of whom have retired. Glaxo sponsored the newsletter for many years and AZ sponsored the seminar. By 2001, the original volunteers were burning out and they approached Cindy Shcherban and Sheila Gordon-Dillane about becoming an interest group of the ORCS so they could have administrative support. This made sense because there was a lot of overlapping membership. ORCS decided to add on an optional $15 to the ORCS annual membership fee and their Executive Team was elected annually and planned the content of the newsletter and a lecture and workshops on Thursday afternoon (rather than Saturday afternoon) at Better Breathing.

After two or three years as the Ontario Asthma Educators Interest Group of ORCS, there began to be interest in certification of COPD Educators. Since many people did both, it did not make sense to have two interest groups so the name was changed to Respiratory Health Educators Interest Group. This opened it up to COPD Educators, many of whom were physiotherapists and The Michener Institute developed a course for COPD Educators as well and eventually the certification was changed to Certified Respiratory Educator (CRE). The COPD Alliance conferences began in the late 1990s with broad support nationally from respirologists and pharmaceutical companies as well as the nurses, PTs and RRTs.

Since the times described in Sheila’s summary, the RHEIG executive team has continued to be responsible for the development of an educator-oriented session at the annual Better Breathing Conference. In addition, the newsletter “Connections” was published three times per year, and contained a Feature Article relevant to educators, an ‘Eye On’ article featuring the work of a specific person or group particularly relevant to respiratory educators, and a ‘Toolbox’ article, which focused on hands-on or practical information. RHEIG members paid an extra fee in addition to their ORCS membership, in order to receive the newsletter.

Most RHEIG members have obtained training and/or certification as Respiratory, Asthma or COPD Educators.  Of course, many (if not all) members of the ORCS are ‘educators’ whether they have gone through a formal certification process or not.  While certification was in the early stages, it was extremely helpful to have a group that recognized this unique and growing sub-set of health professionals.  However, with the current evolution of The Lung Association, and the increasingly widespread training and certification of respiratory educators, the time has come to recognize that all ORCS members are educators, so we are changing the membership structure to eliminate the extra fee associated with RHEIG membership.  In addition, the content from the RHEIG newsletter, Connections, has been incorporated in the new combined ORCS-RHEIG newsletter “Update on Respiratory Health, Research and Education.”  This fully electronic publication still contains the three main article types that are particularly reflective of an educator’s practice. Now all ORCS members receive the full publication. The RHEIG executive will continue to function as a sub-committee of the ORCS, planning the content for the publication and for a half day of the Better Breathing conference.  This sub-committee always welcomes new members, so if you are interested in helping the ORCS continue to develop educators’ expertise, please contact Sherry Zarins or one of the members of the Executive Committee.

The Respiratory Health Education Interest Group (RHEIG) is a multi-disciplinary group of ORCS members who promote and advance the field of respiratory education, with a specific interest in applying theory in a practical way.

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