Jackson State Community College is launching a Respiratory Care program to fill a growing demand for respiratory therapists in West Tennessee and provide a new alternative for students pursuing a career in health care.
The five-semester program is undergoing the accreditation process and will begin classes next spring. The college is accepting applications, and the deadline for the first cohort to enroll is Oct. 1. Graduates will receive an associate degree in applied science.
Jackson’s growing health care presence, along with the number of respiratory therapists approaching retirement, has created a need for more students to pursue the profession, said Respiratory Care Program Director Cathy Garner. The growing elderly population with long-term respiratory care needs is also driving demand.
“Here in West Tennessee, we are seeing a great demand for respiratory care therapists, and there is no program outside of Shelby County,” Garner said. “After graduation, our students will take a national exam, and then they will get a job.”
Students must also be licensed before they are employed.
Nationally, employment for respiratory therapists is expected to grow by 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Respiratory therapists focus on patients with breathing difficulties, from newborns with underdeveloped lungs to elderly patients with a chronic disease like emphysema. There are many specialties respiratory therapists can pursue, such as critical care, home care, case management, pulmonary rehabilitation, pulmonary diagnostics, sleep medicine, and surface and air transport. The work environment is often fast and fluid, Garner said.
“We work under the direction of a physician, and we provide an assessment of a patient to determine the kind of therapy a patient needs,” Garner said. “We focus on the cardiopulmonary system – any patient having any difficulties related to the lungs.”
Respiratory therapists work with mechanical ventilators and artificial airways, respond to code-blue resuscitative efforts and can be found treating patients from the front door of the hospital to the back, Garner said. Students who want to pursue a medical career but want an alternative to nursing should consider the program.
“If they are someone who is interested in bedside patient care but doesn’t want to be a nurse, this is the field they should really investigate.”
Jackson State Community College provides accessible learning opportunities that enhance the lives of individuals, strengthen the workforce and empower the diverse communities of West Tennessee. The institution offers traditional and contemporary associate degrees, certificates, continuing education and enrichment, and college-readiness programs. For more information, visit jscc.edu.