Jackson State Community College’s new Respiratory Care program earned provisional accreditation status and has admitted a full class of students for its first semester this spring.
The Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care voted to confer the status on the program in November. Students who enroll in the program can now pursue a career in respiratory care upon graduation.
“The provisional accreditation allows us to admit a group of students, and when they complete the program, they are eligible to sit for their national credentialing exam,” said Respiratory Care Program Director Cathy Garner.
The program was created to fill a growing demand for respiratory therapists in West Tennessee and provide a new alternative for students pursuing a career in health care. Graduates will receive an Associate of Applied Science degree in Respiratory Care.
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, Garner said. 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 therapists, and there is no program outside of Shelby County,” Garner said. “After graduation, our students will be able to work in their field as they prepare for the national credentialing exam.”
Graduates will need to have a temporary license to be employed, and they must pass the national exam within one year to receive a full license to practice respiratory care, she said.
Respiratory therapists focus on patients with breathing difficulties, from newborns with underdeveloped lungs to elderly patients with a chronic disease like emphysema. Respiratory therapists can pursue many specialties, 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.
Twelve students enrolled in the first class. Jackson State plans to grow the number in subsequent cohorts to 16, which is the maximum allowed per calendar year under the terms of accreditation.
The provisional accreditation is temporary. Jackson State must submit reports for three years after the first cohort’s graduation date has been established before it can achieve full accreditation. The reports specify student outcomes, such as enrollment and the graduation rate.