Former SMCC students step up to help treat COVID patients at Maine Medical Center

February 8, 2021

SOUTH PORTLAND (WGME) — Work isn’t getting any easier for healthcare workers, even for some of the newest ones on the job.

When the pandemic began, SMCC students who were studying respiratory therapy were getting on-the-job training at Maine Medical Center.

Now they’re working there full-time.

One former student described the transition as “shocking,” as going from college straight to Maine Med’s COVID units was a position she never thought she’d be in.

In April, Erin Ganga was finishing up her degree as a respiratory therapist at SMCC.

“I think what’s really cool is transitioning from school to the clinical world and being able to practice that,” Ganga said.

Now, 10 months later, she’s passed her board exam, finished four months of hospital orientation and is working full-time at Maine Med in the COVID ICUs.

“Yeah, so it’s changed a lot, we went from just being students training and trying to help out so the veterans could take care of patients, and now we’re actually in the midst of it and we’re taking care of COVID patients,” Ganga said.

As a respiratory therapist, she’s in charge of the ventilators.

“It’s what breathes for the patient and we deal with just that specifically,” Ganga said.

She says each shift is stressful.

“It’s a lot of pressure and it’s a lot of work,” Ganga said.

She’s assigned to a unit and takes care of up to 10 patients on ventilators, visiting them every four hours.“It’s hectic sometimes, and then on top of that, you know, other people are coming in who are sick too, and they’re like looking for ICU beds, so it’s a constant like, ebb and flow,” Ganga said.

While SMCC trained her for the job, there are some things no amount of school could prepare her for.

“Some patients, they don’t make it, and with restrictions, it’s hard when their family members aren’t able to come in or it’s restricted, sometimes you’re the last people that these people see,” Ganga said.

Maine Medical Center says SMCC has done an incredible job providing the hospital with a pipeline of highly-educated respiratory therapists.