NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – A local community college is doing its part to help fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Tidewater Community College’s respiratory therapy program loaned Sentara Healthcare the ventilators it uses for students.

“It was a small thing to do, but it feels good to be able to help them in some way,” said Denise Bieszczad, the program director.

Bieszcad has been at TCC for nearly 40 years and says she’s taught many of the respiratory therapists in the region. That’s how they were able to set up the loan of around a dozen ventilators.

“I feel like I’m helping my former students in their jobs and they’re under so much stress,” she said.

Bieszcad says many she has spoken with are dealing only with patients who have tested positive for coronavirus. She hopes the equipment will help.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised how well it’s gone. Everyone just jumped on to make this happen,” she said.

Until Tuesday, Bieszcad said her students were still doing clinicals at hospitals until Gov. Ralph Northam announced the “stay-at-home” order. The 14 students only had about 10 days left to complete their clinicals, according to Bieszcad, and all of them have already accepted jobs in the region.

She hopes that besides equipment, they can provide much-needed manpower. Training is needed for ventilators and they’re often making life-altering decisions.

“There are only a little over 100,000 respiratory therapists that are credentialed practitioners in the country, so they’re going to need these people to help,” she said.

Bieszcad says it will be tough because national exams for healthcare are currently paused, but they’re hoping to do something.

“Even if we graduate them, we need to brainstorm a way to get them to the hospital as either an aid position or support staff position so they can be of value,” she said.

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