Respiratory therapist grads celebrate 30 years since graduation
Students from the very first respiratory therapy class at Cabot Institute of Applied Arts and Technology (now CNA) gathered this past June to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their program’s graduation.
The reunion was held at The Doctor’s House Inn and Spa in scenic Green’s Harbour, with nine of the original 13 graduates in attendance. Attendees were treated to wonderful views, fine dining, relaxation, and great company.
It was a special occasion for all, but for Mary Parrott, Associate Dean of Health Sciences at CNA’s Prince Philip Drive campus, it was a particularly momentous event that brought her career full circle.
“It was an incredible experience to meet with my respiratory therapy classmates from 30 years ago,” explains Parrott. “It was so nice to see everybody again and it was an opportunity for us to reflect on just how far we have come in our careers.”
Parrott began her career as a graduate of this very first class of respiratory therapists in the province in 1992.
After graduating, she worked as a therapist in a variety of settings, including Burin Hospital and the Janeway Children’s Hospital. During her time in Burin, Parrott was the sole charge respiratory therapist on staff, meaning she was the only one in the building, and responsible for all patients’ breathing-related needs. Parrott then spent the next eight years developing her career at the Janeway in St. John’s.
After nearly 10 years working in the field, she decided she wanted to take her love and knowledge of respiratory therapy and use it to help others develop that same passion. In 1998, Parrott became a clinical instructor of CNA’s Respiratory Therapy program. She spent seven years educating the next generation of respiratory therapists in the province.
“I loved working at the Janeway as an RT, and really enjoyed when students rotated through,” said Parrott. “They are curious and I loved sharing things about the job, and to learn from them. When the clinical instructor job opened, I knew that it would be a great next step for me. Being a clinical instructor allowed me to work as an RT and to teach, bringing two things I loved together.”
Many people would be content with that level of achievement in their careers, but not Parrott. In 2005, she moved to Doha, Qatar to launch the very first Respiratory Therapy program in the country at College of the North Atlantic – Qatar.
“The first class in Qatar only had one person,” laughs Parrott. “The next year we had two. But when I left, there were more than 40 graduates.”
The program in Qatar eventually attained accreditation and the graduates were able to write the Canadian National Respiratory Therapy Exam. Parrott says that some Qatari graduates were even able to come to Canada for employment.
When Parrott returned to Newfoundland and Labrador in 2019 as Associate Dean of Health Sciences, she was faced with the difficult loss of the Respiratory Therapy program’s accreditation status. Rather than dwelling on the matter, she immediately set to work on rebuilding the program.
“We discussed that loss and there was a sense of disbelief and shock,” says Parrott. “I was devastated that this program, which gave me my career path, had come to a screeching halt, and felt this surely would be a great setback for the profession, and the school.”
Parrott says that upon returning from CNA–Qatar, she was determined to set the program back on solid ground. She says she collaborated with her colleagues at CNA, and in the field, to achieve a solid accreditation.
In April 2022, CNA received stellar feedback and a full accreditation term for a new program. Parrott says it was thanks to the many people involved who shared her goals.
From full-time student, to working in hospitals around the province, teaching the program at the post-secondary level, developing the trade in another country, and finally overseeing the program as Associate Dean, Mary Parrott has made a significant contribution to the field of respiratory therapy in this province.
And what better way to mark that successful career than to celebrate with the colleagues and friends that were there at the beginning?
“After the reunion weekend, we were checking in on our chat group, and I asked what it was about our class that made it special,” says Parrott. “One of the responses was, ‘Despite 30 years passing, we all still have the same grit, determination, and passion from when we started.’ And I think that made all the difference.”