Respiratory therapy

Respiratory therapy is described as the assessment and treatment of patients with acute and chronic lung and cardiovascular disorders and diseases. Respiratory therapists have demanding responsibilities related to patient care and are a vital component of the health care team. They must have knowledge of the pathophysiology of the cardiopulmonary system and understand the necessary procedures required to diagnose and treat patients from newborns to the elderly.

Respiratory therapy may include treating diseases, infections, or viruses of the cardiopulmonary system such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and pneumonia. In certain settings, respiratory therapists may also provide life-saving care to patients.

The respiratory therapy program at St. Clair County Community College uses an integration of classroom and practicum experiences in hospitals, outpatient testing facilities and physician offices. Students graduating from the program will obtain an Associate in Applied Arts and Science degree, and become eligible to take the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) credentialing examinations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers in respiratory therapy are projected to grow 23 percent through 2026, much faster than the average for other occupations.

Where do respiratory therapists work?

Respiratory therapists may be found in acute-care hospital settings, including the emergency room, the intensive care unit, the newborn or pediatric intensive care unit, or the pulmonary diagnostics laboratory. They work with patients of all ages, from premature infants with underdeveloped lungs, to senior citizens with advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Outside of the hospital setting, respiratory therapists may work in pulmonary rehabilitation clinics performing pulmonary rehabilitation. They may also counsel patients on topics such as smoking cessation and disease prevention, and they may work in home care settings, teaching patients and their families to use assistive breathing devices. They may also work out of physician offices, long-term acute and skilled nursing facilities.

Job responsibilities

Respiratory therapy is always practiced under medical direction. As such, respiratory therapists are always part of a medical team. In addition to treatment, respiratory therapists are required to diagnose lung disease and breathing disorders, and then recommend the most appropriate treatment methods. As such, their work often includes examining patients, performing chest exams, and analyzing and evaluating diagnostic testing results.

Along with having an extensive knowledge of the cardiopulmonary system, respiratory therapists must be experts in the equipment used to administer respiratory care treatments. This would involve managing patients on ventilators and artificial airway devices, and assessing blood-oxygen levels.

Respiratory therapy involves using critical thinking skills, assessment skills, and advanced knowledge in evidence-based clinical practice guidelines, all of which enable them to develop and implement effective care, treatment, and disease management plans.

Entering the profession

An associate degree is the minimum requirement for entering the respiratory therapy profession. Respiratory therapists can continue with their education to obtain advanced degrees. To work as a respiratory therapist, you must hold a state licensure. To date, every state in the U.S., as well as Washington, D.C., requires state licensure to practice respiratory therapy, with the exception of Alaska.

To become licensed as a respiratory therapist, candidates must complete a respiratory therapy education program at the associate or bachelor’s level that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). All states also require candidates to earn either an entry-level Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential or advanced-level Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential through the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) to qualify for licensure.

Similar to other allied health professionals, licensed respiratory therapists must apply for licensure and maintain their license according to their state’s respiratory care board requirements. This usually involves the completion of specific continuing education requirements.

Professional organizations

Overview

This associate degree program prepares students to become respiratory therapists by combining didactic and practicum experiences to create quality respiratory therapists. This program has a 24-month, competency-based curriculum that includes practical experiences in acute and non-acute patient care settings. Upon completion of the program, the students will receive an Associate Degree in Applied Arts and Science in Respiratory Therapy and be eligible to take the Therapist Multiple Choice (TMC) credentialing exam and the Clinical Scenario Exam (CSE) upon successful passing of the TMC exam.

  • The program begins in the fall semester and requires a full-time commitment, including course and clinical days.
  • Days and times for practicum experiences will vary.
  • Travel to clinical sites is required.
  • Transportation to and from the practicum is the sole responsibility of the student.
  • The program does not have a waitlist, and new applicants must apply every year.

For more information about the respiratory therapy program at SC4, contact Program Director Christine Robinson at 810-989-5628 or cprobinson@sc4.edu.

Information sessions

DateTimeLocation
Monday, Sept. 9, 20196 to 7 p.m.Health Sciences Building, Room 105
Monday, Oct. 14, 20196 to 7 p.m.Health Sciences Building, Room 105
Monday, Nov. 18, 20196 to 7 p.m.Health Sciences Building, Room 105

Outcomes and objectives

Students who complete this program will be able to:

  • Demonstrate competence in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains of respiratory therapy as performed by registered respiratory therapists (RRTs).
  • Practice entry-level skills to function as an essential part of the health care team within a variety of health care settings.
  • Utilize the knowledge needed to demonstrate the competencies of registered respiratory therapists such as patient assessment skills and the use of equipment required to manage cardiopulmonary disorders, including CPR, life-support systems, therapeutic procedures, medication administration, and diagnostic tests.
  • Practice effective verbal and written communication skills in relaying information to patients and other health care providers.

Outcome data

Program outcome data, which includes attrition, job placement, Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) success, Registered Respiratory Therapist ( RRT) success, overall graduate satisfaction, overall employer satisfaction and on-time graduate rate for St. Clair County Community College is provided by CoARC and based on a three-year average.

Pre-admission requirements

  • All prerequisites and general education requirements must have been completed with a “C” or better if student wishes to be considered in the applicant pool. Prerequisites of BIO 271, MTH 110, ENG 101 and HE 102 need to be completed prior to applying to the program.
  • Students must attend a respiratory information session. A student’s signature is required on sign in sheet at the session.

Fulfillment of these criteria does not guarantee admission to the respiratory therapy program.

Applicants planning to pursue a career in respiratory therapy who have a criminal record of felony or misdemeanor convictions should contact the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC). Conviction or charges may preclude eligibility to take the NBRC examinations once the program is completed. Visit nbrc.org or call 888-341-4811 for clarification and pre-application information. 

A clear background check is a requirement of the respiratory therapy program as practicum facilities are required to follow Michigan Public Acts 27, 28 and 29 of 2006. Students must review the Mandatory Exclusions for Specified Time Period and sign a Clinical Disclosure Statement prior to their criminal background check. In addition, any student who becomes subject to criminal prosecution that occurs during the program must report it immediately to the program director. Without a clear criminal background check, a student will not be allowed to participate in practicum activities and thus, will be unable to complete the program.

Applying for admission

Prospective students seeking admission to the respiratory therapy program must:

  • Submit to the SC4 Office of Enrollment Services a completed application for admission to SC4.
  • Submit to the SC4 Office of Enrollment Services a secondary application: Allied Health program application, indicating respiratory therapy – associate degree as the intended program of study.
  • Complete a specific respiratory therapy application by June 30 of the application year.

Acceptance criteria and procedure

Qualified applications will be reviewed in July (summer semester). Notification of applicant finalists, acceptances and rejections will be mailed by July 30. Acceptance into the program is competitive. Ranking criteria includes but is not limited to grade point average, grades received in the required prerequisite courses, and attendance of an informational meeting.

Upon admission into the program, students are required to attend a respiratory therapy program orientation, which will be scheduled prior to the start of the fall semester. Accepted students will be notified of the date, time(s) and location of the orientation.