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Any Experience with Asthma Educators? Suggestions about what you would like to see from us?

Hey all,

My name is Chris. I am a respiratory therapist and certified asthma educator. I am trying to find creative ways to help promote asthma education outside of the hospital setting. I would love to hear from parents or patients about what you would like to see from us. Do you have any frustrations with how asthma education is presented in your area? I currently help with an local weekend asthma camp that ran by the children's hospital I work for, but I want to do so much more!

Any ideas are greatly appreciated, and might lead to a program that will help benefit the promotion of better asthma education for those who need it most!

Has anyone ever had any experience with a certified asthma educator? If so, I would love to hear how they helped. This is not a survey or anything like that, I am just looking for some stories to share to promote more healthcare providers in my area take the steps to become certified in asthma education. 

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  • K8sMom2002

    Hi, Chris! I applaud the work that you are doing to educate families! Asthma education is so important, not just for families managing asthma, but for other people as well. That helps people understand what asthma is like and how it can affect people.

    Have you reached out to school nurses? I know that our DD's hemophilia advocacy group has offered to do in-service "lunch and learns" for her teachers and staff. That might be a great way to help bring asthma education beyond the hospital walls.

  • Shea

    Hi Chris! I think it is great what you are doing with promoting asthma awareness. I remember once a dentist came to our elementary school and talked to our class about the proper wat to brush teeth, then gave everyone red stuff that kinda stuck on your teeth and you had to brush it all off. I think school talks are great, especially when interspersed with little activities. 

    Two things I feel are sorely lacking amongst the general public are 1- dander allergies and their relation to asthma 2- scents and their relations to asthma. There seems to be a trend toward taking your pet everywhere with you, pets visiting hospitals, pets in school rooms but there are also new studies our there that show pet dander (even just small amounts carried in on pet owners ibto preschhol classrooms) causes those with allergic asthma more exasperations, more medication use, and worse prognosis. These children cannot stand up for their needs, it is SO hard to say to a person with a cute animal: "I am not trying to be rude, but I am highly allergic to dander and it affects my breathing and can cause an asthma attack"– and people look at me like I am crazy when I say these things, they seem to want to test it and push the pet closer. Same with scents… Maybe just something about applying perfumes and scents and some general Clean Air Etiquette: do not apply in bathrooms, workspaces, not ventilated shared indoir spaces– we need to keep the indoir air quality as goid as posdible and be mindful of those with asthma. Also to teacher: no plug-ins in classrooms, green cleaning products, and beung aware of asthma symtoms in students and how they can be supportive. 

  • Christopher Casteel

    The problem that we run into with schools is getting in touch with the right person. Another RT has had better luck than I have with it, but I am sad to say it is much tougher that it should be. It is an idea that we would like to pursue. Honestly, we were thinking more targeting kids with known asthma, but working with teachers and staff is a great suggestion. I don't think we have approached it that way yet. Great idea!. 

    I totally understand how frustrating people can be regarding clean air etiquette. I definitely wish for more anti-smoking laws everyday. I feel like the worst offenders are people that don't have loved ones with asthma, so it is really hard to be able to reach out to them when they really have no incentive to get involved with anything asthma. The targeting of the general public is such a tough topic when I feel like we have a hard time keeping up with parents, patients and other caregivers. I wish I had an answer for that. I share your frustration. 

    I know teachers can't control every aspect of their environment, but you are right, in that they can control some. That is a great point that tacks on to Cynthia's that we could address with targeting education for teachers.

    Thank you both for your input! 

  • Shea

    I found this site to be helpful:

    It talks about the need

    (On average, in a classroom of 30 children, about 3 are likely to have asthma. )

    And the steps to get schools to be asthma-friendly (here are some excerpts

    Asthma-friendly schools are those that make the effort to create safe and supportive learning environments for students with asthma. They have policies and procedures that allow students to successfully manage their asthma. Research and case studies that looked at ways to best manage asthma in schools found that successful school-based asthma programs—

    • Establish strong links with asthma care clinicians to ensure appropriate and ongoing medical care
    • Target students who are the most affected by asthma at school to identify and intervene with those in greatest need
    • Get administrative buy-in and build a team of enthusiastic people, including a full-time school nurse, to support the program
    • Use a coordinated, multi-component and collaborative approach that includes school nursing services, asthma education for students and professional development for school staff
    • Provide appropriate school health services for students with asthma, ensuring that students take their medicines and learn to use them when appropriate
    • Provide asthma education for students with asthma and awareness programs for students, school staff, parents, and families
    • Provide a safe and healthy school environment to reduce asthma triggers
    • Offer safe and enjoyable physical education and activities for students with asthma
    • Support evaluation of school-based programs and use adequate and appropriate outcome measures

     

    I personally think schools are the best way to reach and educate community, including the parents and students themselves, who might feel isolated in dealing with the complexities of the disease, especially with triggers like perfumes and dander (which are much less known than cigarette smoke but just as triggering). I grew up trying to hide in the shadows of allergies (dander, food, and environmental) and asthma and it is very isolating experience… My elementary school we found out later had a severe black mold problem–a lot of people who attended in my years got sick. I struggled myself with knoeing how to deal with allergies and had many ER visits with close calls throughout my life. I ended up diagnosed with severe eosinophillic disease in my late 20s now and I have a 6 year old with allergies and eczema (but no asthma yet thankfully). I have been doing public virtual school lessons from home with him because I want the environment he is spending a great deal of his life in to have good indoor air quality, and less onslaught of triggers. There is just not enough education and support out there yet. We attend educational co-ops that emphasize food allergy awareness and attend events at a green community building as well… So it is starting to be talked about and I think every little bit helps. 

     

  • K8sMom2002

    Chris, I totally get that schools are a hard nut to crack. First you have to get approved, and then you have to beg for time to share a program — and in today's "so many hours of seat time" curriculum, that can be hard.

    How about reaching out to local organizations that are kid-based? For instance, partnering with

    • Big Brother/Big Sister type of organizations?
    • Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops?
    • Church youth groups?
    • After school organizations?
    • Asking to do a presentation for the area PTAs?

    Have you checked out AAFA's extremely interesting ? It talks about risk factors for asthma and "asthma belts." To read that info, you'll need to download the pdf version of the report, but it was super interesting to me.

    It may give you some ideas of ways to reach out. I believe someone as passionate as you are about asthma education will be a valuable resource to organizations who may not have the skills to help their members with asthma. And once you have reached out to those groups, you'll have people who can say, "Yes, Chris (or your organization) is excellent with asthma education and really made a difference!"

  • Shea

    No problem Chris, let us know how it goes! I am just happy people like you exist to help others I like K8SMOMs ideas too about other organizations that might be good first steps. I also was in TV Production class in high school and we made videos for our morning news show and things like that– so if you are talking to a high school and they have a program such as that, it could be a foot in the door as well. Good luck, I hope you find the perfect thing!

  • LK

    Hi Chris,  I have to admit that I have never heard of an asthma educator.  It is definitely a needed and useful occupation.  Wish I had heard of someone like you several years ago!  Probably would've helped me figure out my asthma much sooner.  

    I will add one group to Cynthia's list – 4-H clubs.  

    Thank you for all you are doing!

  • Christopher Casteel

    There are definitely great asthma educators out there with or without the certification. The process of becoming certified as an asthma educator is completely voluntary and involves a board exam and continuing education. It is offered to MD's, RN's RT's, pharmacists, and anyone that has over 1000 hours of asthma education. 

    There are a lot of Children's hospitals that are starting to push for it, and I am trying to lead the charge in my area. I happy to say that I see a growing number of asthma educator job postings!  For now, my focus is on emergency room nurses and my fellow respiratory therapists. I am hoping one day my enthusiasm for asthma education will have a further reach.  

    I wish more people would participate in forums such as this. I think getting to connect with others who have asthma or care for someone with asthma is an amazing thing. I am always looking for ideas to help people and I think I will definitely mention this site for people looking to connect. I haven't been on here for very long but I am so impressed by the great suggestions and willingness to contribute. 

     

  • K8sMom2002

    Chris, do you have a link to the national board certification? I'd love to see that and maybe see if I'm eligible to take the exam. That would be so exciting to become a certified Asthma educator!

    We appreciate YOU! It's folks like you who are in the trenches who know the importance of awareness and education. You're leading the charge, and we are so grateful! I hope you inspire folks in your community to follow suit!

  • Christopher Casteel

    Cynthia,

    If you are eligible to take the exam and would like to, I am more than willing to share study resources. I have so much study material. I don't even know what to do with it all.  

  • K8sMom2002

    You know, Chris, I may be! I will have to make sure that the hours that I've spent on asthma education would be eligible! Thank you so much!

  • Tiffany F.

    It would be nice to see someone like you reach out to more coaches, daycares and schools with asthma 101 classes and encourage them to make it a MANDATORY training for all staff, as you know a lot kids are not diagnosed before a major episode (as was my daughters case)  If she were at daycare I dont know how bad things would have been — I sent asthma coaches training info from PA Asthma Partnership to a local Soccer shots coach and she'd never seen or heard of it but she made all of her coaches do it before Spring season.   Also imperative that daycares have their staff know what to look for in these littles!  

  • K8sMom2002

    Tiffany, what a great idea! Not sure if you knew it, but AAFA has a terrific set of resources for educating just that group of people. You can find handouts on the AAFA store . Just choose the "educational handouts – free PDFs." You can download it once, and then print however many copies you need.