The Board of Governors of Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education approved today a new, three-year Bachelor of Science degree in respiratory care, offered through Clarion University.
The new bachelor's degree was developed in response to ongoing advancement in health care and the respiratory therapist's expanding scope of professional practice. The bachelor's degree will replace the existing associate degree in respiratory care.
"The scope of the respiratory therapist is evolving and broadening," said Stephanie Adams, respiratory care program director. "The practice of respiratory care is becoming increasingly complex, and practice standards for new graduates require heightened proficiency in the use of new and changing technology, evidence-based medicine, critical thinking, communication and leadership."
Respiratory therapists provide care for patients with heart and lung problems and treat individuals who have asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and sleep apnea, as well as those who have experienced a heart attack or stroke. New subspecialty areas have emerged in pulmonary and sleep diagnostics, neonatal/pediatric or adult intensive care, rehabilitation and home care.
"Our new Bachelor of Science degree in respiratory care will attract students who are motivated to complete an undergraduate degree in an accelerated format, thereby gaining early entrance to their professional lives," said Dr. Jeffery Allen, dean of the College of Health and Human Services.
The 120-credit program is offered in a three-year format that entails eight consecutive academic terms, including two summers. Classes will be held at Venango campus, although several credits of upper division course work are offered online in the third year.
The program also functions as an online degree completion program for licensed respiratory therapists who have earned an associate degree from a Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care-accredited respiratory care education program and who have a minimum of one year of critical experience as a certified or registered respiratory therapist. The online completion option provides the flexibility to achieve academic and career goals while still meeting work and family obligations.
The bachelor's program will be accredited by CoARC, with which the associate program has maintained accreditation since 2006. CoARC accreditation verifies that educational programs consistently meet standards of high quality.
Tara Reisinger, a student in the associate degree program, said she and her classmates are excited about the launch of the bachelor's program, as it allows them to continue their respiratory therapy education at Clarion.
"A bachelor's degree will not only make the students at our university more prepared for a job in respiratory therapy, but it will also make them more employable in other areas such as management positions," Reisinger said.
Each student will complete more than 1,000 hours of supervised clinical practicum that consists of high-impact respiratory care practice.
"Clarion's College of Health and Human Services has numerous contractual agreements with local and regional health care facilities that provide exceptional clinical practicum sites for our respiratory care students," said Dr. Ray Feroz, chair of the department of human services, rehabilitation, health and sport sciences, which houses the program. "This clinical partnership model is another way that Clarion University stays closely connected to local and regional communities and in which Clarion students render competent and compassionate health care services to our neighbors."
Graduates of the bachelor's degree in respiratory care program will enter a favorable job market that offers family-sustaining wages. In Pennsylvania and nationally, demand for respiratory therapists is projected to increase by approximately 12 percent through 2024, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary of respiratory therapists in Pennsylvania in 2016 was $58,300.
"Graduates of Clarion University's respiratory care program have success securing employment in the field," said Greg Sambor, director of clinical education, respiratory care. "Clarion graduates are often recruited for employment by the hospitals that serve as clinical sites for our program. This suggests that Clarion respiratory care students are recognized by hospital administrators as well prepared practitioners and sought-after prospective employees. The addition of a bachelor's degree to our graduates' professional portfolios will result in even greater short- and long-term career opportunities."
Classes for the bachelor's degree program will begin in fall 2018. Individuals interested in the respiratory care field can schedule a career shadowing appointment through Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sambor at email@example.com. For more information, contact Theresa Nestor at 814-393-1211.