Helping Patients Breathe Easy: Respiratory therapists play an important role in healthcare

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Although the general public is more familiar with doctors and nurses, anyone who has a serious hospital visit or surgery has probably had contact with a respiratory therapist at some point.

These respiratory experts are important members of the healthcare team and are involved in saving and improving the quality of people’s lives on a daily basis.

Tiffany Sherman Davila, 28, a 2013 graduate of Victoria College’s Respiratory Care Program, felt her classes at VC prepared her well for a therapist job at an Austin hospital.

I truly love my profession and have a great passion for what I do.

“I truly love my profession and have a great passion for what I do,” she said. “Victoria College’s Respiratory Care Program gave me the knowledge, the confidence, and the ability to experience success in a field that is truly rewarding.”

“Each member of the staff taught me something that I carry with me each day, not only in my job, but my personal life as well,” Davila added. “I feel that the program gave me the preparation I needed to walk straight out of the classroom and into the workforce.”

The VC program is “hard but well-worth it in the end, even if you don’t think so while you are going through it,” she said. “The faculty are always there; they are the biggest support group.”

Clinical Coordinator Ceci Oldmixon said Respiratory Care students are shown some of the standard technology and taught on advanced technology “because we have varying degrees of technology out there that the students will encounter. We make sure they are adequately prepared for what they are going to walk into, both old and new.”
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What does a respiratory therapist do?

Respiratory therapists are experts in life support equipment and work closely with doctors and other healthcare staff to treat lung and heart diseases like respiratory failure, asthma, and more.

While at VC, students work in area hospitals and medical facilities in their clinical studies and find the experience gives them an advantage when seeking a job.

“We tell them that their clinicals are a job interview, so they have a job interview for two years,” Oldmixon said. “Every therapist, every doctor they work with watches to see how they’re learning, progressing, and engaging.”

Respiratory therapists can work in a wide variety of settings, from hospitals, trauma centers, and sleep labs to rehabilitation clinics.

They provide temporary relief to patients with chronic problems, are part of the critical and intensive care teams, and can give emergency care as a part of surface and air transport teams or as part of rapid-response teams in the hospital.

Respiratory therapists provide treatment for all age groups, from infants to the elderly, and are involved in everything from rehabilitation to smoking cessation, disease prevention, case management, and the diagnosis of breathing disorders.

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Practical experience from the beginning

If you’re interested in a career in respiratory therapy, VC’s Respiratory Care Program provides the training and practical experience with regional hospitals and clinics that you’ll need to get a solid start.

The program at VC is a two-year program that starts classes each fall, and students are in clinicals each semester. The Respiratory Care Program offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree. Successful completion of this program will enable graduates to take a series of national board exams to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).

In class, students get in-depth, hands-on training using ventilators, obtaining blood gases, interacting with patients, and more. When students get into the hospital, they discover that what they’re learning in class is directly applicable in the real world.

Because of ongoing training, students begin their clinical education working in a hospital twice a week. During that time, students see patients and experience what it’s like to provide patient care using the procedures they’ll be learning during the rest of the program.

The clinical coordinator works directly with healthcare providers in the Crossroads region to ensure that students get a wide range of clinical experience in hospitals of varying sizes, in home healthcare, and in other areas.

A personally rewarding career

Recent VC Respiratory Care Program graduates typically earn an entry level salary of about $40,000, with good potential for growth. They could make as much as $63,000 in the Crossroads region.

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Other VC degrees, certificates, and training programs leading to health careers:

  • Electronic Health Records
  • Insurance Coding
  • Long-Term Care Activity Director
  • Medical Assisting
  • Medication Aide
  • Nurse Aide
  • Nursing – Professional
  • Nursing – Vocational
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Phlebotomy
  • Physical Therapist Assistant
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