NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

From graduate to essential worker: Respiratory therapist profile 

Northern Essex Community College alumna Meghan Finn, 32, is now a respiratory therapist at Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital in Salem, N.H.

Finn graduated from Timberlane High School in 2006 and set her sights on becoming a cosmetologist.

“I graduated from Timberlane High School, class of 2006, and moved on to a cosmetology school,” she said.

She attended Continental Academie of Hair Design in Hudson, N.H. in the fall of 2007 through the spring of 2008. Finn learned how to cut and style hair. However, after a year, she did not like the profession, and changed jobs.

Finn first found her way to NRH in Salem, when her friend talked about a job opening as a secretary.

“I heard about a secretary job from a friend at Northeast Rehab in Salem in 2009 and they were close to where I lived,” she said.

Finn spent the next few years as a secretary at NRH before deciding to become a respiratory therapist in 2013.

“I saw for myself what people endured from various illness and realized I wanted to help them treat them and to recover,” she said. “I wanted to become a respiratory therapist to help people who are feeling sick and have breathing problems.”

Studying and training in the field was not easy.

“I needed to take a year of prerequisites, which is an introduction to this career. Classes were hard and intense. There was a lot of biology, science and chemistry involved,” she continued, “I spent much of my time in the science lab and the writing center. There was so much writing involved I visited the writing center very often.”

Respiratory therapy can be a stressful career but can also be very fulfilling to a person that enjoys and takes pride in helping others.

“Being a respiratory therapist is bittersweet for me because on one hand there will always be people with breathing problems like asthma, but I will be able to help those people,” Finn said.

There are many options for a respiratory therapist.

“The career path to this job requires an associate degree in respiratory therapy or you could also move on to a bachelor’s degree. A respiratory therapist could choose to specialize in clinical care, pulmonary function testing or an asthma educator.” she said.

A global pandemic is something Finn never imagined would happen, nevertheless she learned how to adapt to it in March 2020.

“It was stressful and scary. At that time, we knew very little about the virus. As time went on, we needed to adapt to new rules, new protective equipment and protocols, so it really kept us on our toes.” she explained.

Finn gave advice for current and future students, “Take advantage of all available resources like the math and writing center. The writing center was very helpful for me, by proofreading my papers and the people there are very nice.”