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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

A natural healing touch leads to Respiratory Therapy career

May 7, 2015
Respiratory Therapy graduate Holly VanBrocklin
Respiratory Therapy graduate Holly says her grandmother, Julie, steered her into a career as a Registered Respiratory Therapist.

Holly Van Brocklin spent most of her adult life making others feel better through her training as a Certified Massage Therapist. She has long-term clients who depend on her to work her magic on their wrecked bodies.

“Massage is relaxing for me, kind of like my little meditation time-out,” says Holly. “It’s rejuvenation for my clients and for me.”

But when Holly was 33 years old, she made a decision that she hoped would give her and her daughter, Thea, then five years old, a more solid financial foundation. Holly began to pursue her interest in a career as a Respiratory Therapist.

She researched the Respiratory Therapy field and programs offered. A massage client told her about SJVC’s Respiratory Therapy program and Holly went to a Rancho Cordova campus Open House. She liked what she found and began taking prerequisite classes to qualify for the Respiratory Therapy program there, all the while maintaining her business, Body Bliss Massage Therapy.

She talked with Thea about the amount of time it would take to complete the program, and then with her family about the additional support she would need to meet Thea’s needs. Everyone was on board to make her education a success.

Holly started her Respiratory Therapy program determined to do well. “The program was a little more challenging than I thought it would be, but at the same time it was fun,” says Holly. “We had a really close class, and we were there to support each other throughout the program.”

An added benefit was the study-buddy Holly found in Thea. “Teaching her about the respiratory system helped me learn,” says Holly. “I even got to go to her school with Matt (classmate) to do a day-long presentation to different classes. My daughter was supportive, encouraging and excited.”

Holly’s mom, Wendy, jumped right in, too. “She picked up Thea from school to take her to dance or cheerleading, and during my clinical rotations, she did dinner and dishes and helped around the house. It was really nice.”

Holly found that the core elements of massage therapy and respiratory therapy were not so different. “Both require you to be compassionate, to care about people and to really listen to people in order to figure out the best way to treat their symptoms, whether muscle pain or difficulty breathing,” says Holly.

“Holly has shown that she is loyal, dependable and will go out of her way to ensure that she is doing her best when it comes to her colleagues and her patients,” says Margarita Rankin, Career Services Advisor. “Her drive, tenacity and charismatic personality are infectious, and she touches the lives of everyone that has the pleasure of making her acquaintance.”

She and her classmates had 18 months of BBQ study groups and fun experiences, like the state-wide Sputum Bowl competition, in which her team placed second. “It all went by really fast, and I had just a really good experience,” she says.

Holly earned an Alpha Beta Kappa Honor Society award that was presented to her at graduation last October in view of about 20 members of her family and friends.

Holly credits her grandmother, Julie, for steering her into a career as a Registered Respiratory Therapist. Julie passed away just six months before Holly began her Respiratory Therapy program, from complications of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). “My grandmother wanted me to be a better therapist and to educate patients about the diseases we treat as Respiratory Therapists.”

If Julie got Holly onto her career path, it was Thea who kept her there. “I’m setting a good example for my daughter that no matter how hard school and education might get, keep plugging along,” says Holly. “It helps me relate to her when she has hard days at school. I walked in those shoes pretty recently.”

Holly balances her time between an on-call Respiratory Therapy position for a hospital and her massage therapy business. “I get to go all over the hospital and treat different types of pulmonary disorders,” says Holly. “Every day is different, and I love it.”

She is always at the ready for the next evolution of her interests and expertise.

“I’d like to become a clinical instructor so that I could help other students learn the field of Respiratory Therapy,” she says, “and continue to improve the lives of my patients and their care.”

Holly will, undoubtedly, find the most effective way to spread the healing touch of her profession.