Respiratory therapist was once a probation officer

Amber Almendinger went to school for law enforcement with her eyes set on a career as a probation officer. She soon changed her mind and now works at IU Health University Hospital with cystic fibrosis patients.

She made a career change and Amber Almendinger hasn’t looked back since. She grew up in Burlington, Iowa and enrolled in Western Illinois University with her mind set on a career as a probation officer.

That was 20 years ago and she had just had her first child. She took a year off and decided to go back to school for respiratory therapy. In the middle of schooling she had her second child. She also has a son, 15.

“Thinking back about juggling pregnancy and school and I wonder how I did it. You just do what you have to do and I’m glad I did,” said Almendinger. “I love my patients.” In 2007 her family moved to Indiana where she began working at IU Health as a registered respiratory therapist. She divides her time between working in adult cystic fibrosis, the neuro-muscular clinic, and the pulmonary function lab. She’s in the process of receiving certification as a pulmonary function technician.

“I love the diversity of the patient population,” said Almendinger. “I feel like I would get bored doing the same thing over and over and it’s nice to see patients who are actually well and not always sick.”

As she recently entered a patient’s room Almendinger talked about ways to improve the soil for gardening – adding coffee grounds and eggshells. She said she loves the personal contact she has and the one-on-one time spent with patients.

“There’s always that one cystic fibrosis patient who can’t seem to get their treatments and things in a row. You talk to them and help them learn to do what they need to do and see the improvement over time,” said Almendinger. “I know that their life is a struggle with a chronic disease and helping them learn to work with that through education makes everything worth it.”

The respiratory care team is accepting nominations for the new “PHIL Award.” The only nationally recognized hospital-based award honors outstanding respiratory therapists. The award was created in 2006 in honor of Philip C. Lamka, who passed away from Interstitial Lung Disease. Nominations may be made at

— By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health.
Reach Banes via email