Breathing Life into a New Career at Lurie Children's with Gerri Barnes

Stories in: Allied Health

Not long ago, Gerri Barnes, Respiratory Therapist at Lurie Children's, was at the bedside with a mother who had just received some bad news. She was the only one in the room with her. With compassion and ease, Gerri consoled the mother, assuring her that–even with a ventilator–she could still talk to her child. Gerri then left to grab some children’s books. When she returned, she gave the books to the patient’s mother and told her to read to her child because she would love to hear her voice.

In that moment, Gerri solaced a hurt parent, while also helping the patient feel more at ease. If she were in any other field, she wouldn’t be able to do what makes her happy: helping someone.

Before she was caring for parents and patients, she was the parent of a sick child.

"My son had a lot of health issues growing up," Gerri intones, "every time they would get blood from him, it was either from the groin or the neck; it was just horrible to watch. Eventually, I took him to a specialist in the city and he ended up having surgery at Lurie Children’s. When they were drawing blood, they told me not to worry because they were going to get it from his arm."

And they did.

"I just knew talking to everyone and walking around and seeing what they did," she explains, "I knew it was the right choice for me."

Since she started in 2010, Gerri has been vocal about people joining the team, even as a second career–because being a respiratory therapist isn't her first career.

"I tell everybody that Lurie Children's offers job shadowing," she boasts, "so if you're in school and getting your prerequisites and know you're getting into something down the road, come and check out the different professions at Lurie Children's. You can be with them for just a couple of hours to see what they do, because you won’t get it before experiencing it. I had no idea what respiratory therapists did, even going through school, but being at Lurie Children's I've seen all we offer–it's a lot. We don't just give you nebulizers, we handle the airway and run the ventilators."

"Some days," she elaborates, "when I go to work and I'm at the bedside, I know why I'm there with that patient that day. In hindsight, I never imagined I'd be working here. Looking back at it now and seeing everything come together, it has turned out to be the perfect plan. This is where I was meant to work."

There's also another part of the job that keeps her coming back–her teammates and managers.

"Oh my lord, I can honestly say that they are wonderful," Gerri exclaims with intense joy in her voice. "I have really awesome coworkers. It takes more than one person to take care of a patient, especially in coding situations, you need someone helping you, getting you stuff, or checking on your other patients. When you work with a good group of coworkers, no matter how bad the day is, it’s a good day."

"The managers are very gung-ho," she adds. "They want people to know what respiratory is and they want us to keep growing–because we need to grow, otherwise you're going to be stagnant. All of the managers hear you out and are very direct."

If you’re flexible and can easily adapt to change, apply today and join our fast-growing team at Lurie Children’s!