MCALLEN — The effects of COVID-19 on the lungs has put respiratory therapists on the front lines in the battle against the pandemic.

We spoke with the Respiratory Program Chair of South Texas College, Gabriel Peña, about the impact the virus will have on the future of the industry.

“We deal with lung and heart issues in the hospitals, and so we deal with a lot of patients that are contagious. I think it’s just the scale of patients that we have, and now there is more awareness for our profession,”  says Peña

Peña says some areas of the U.S. are being impacted by a shortage of therapists, with some hiring students to help.

By 2030, there was an expected shortage but he thinks that demand will now grow because of the virus.

Peña says his students are eager to help

“I really want to make that change and that difference I really want to help these patients get back to their lifestyles and back to their families.”  says Matthew Reline, Respiratory Therapy Student, STC

“It is pretty scary, but I’m also very excited I’m willing to jump in there take action and help these patients.”  says Mariel Gonzalez, Respiratory Therapy Student, STC

Peña says rather than facing fear his students are ready and prepared to take their place on the front lines.