(CNN)The rapid spread of coronavirus has sent states scrambling to buy ventilators to prepare for a coming apex of cases. But ventilators do not operate on their own. And while the ventilator shortage remains a serious issue, much less attention has been paid to the health care workers needed to operate those machines: respiratory therapists.”It’s not just this machine they talk about on TV that we don’t have enough of. It’s very complex,” said Julie Eason, the respiratory therapy department director at University Hospital in Brooklyn, part of the SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.”If you don’t set it up right, that patient outcome is different. You need skilled people who have lots of experience doing this to have good outcomes with these patients,” she said.Enter the respiratory therapist, who is specially trained to treat people with breathing problems. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, their role as master of the mechanical ventilator has brought them a new level of recognition for what has long been an unfamiliar job.”When I tell people I’m a respiratory therapist, they look at me with a blank stare,” said Lisa Shultis, a respiratory therapist and director for Long Island University’s respiratory care program. “Until this time. Now

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