By Matt Brown
Published on February 13, 2008
As the Baby Boomers slowly make their way towards their golden years, they will find themselves needing assistance with health and medical concerns. Due to the large population, whcih will require such health care, jobs in the health and medical fields are growing largely as a whole. The U.S. Bureau of Labor reports that employments of respiratory therapists are expected to increase dramatically over the next decade. To prepare for this coming surge, Pensacola Junior College has partnered with Gulf Coast Community College in Panama City, Florida to offer a two-year respiratory therapy program located at the PJC Warrington campus.
Respiratory therapy students are trained to specialize in the evaluation, treatment, and care of patients with breathing disorders, as well as helping to assist and maintain the lives of patients whom are seriously ill with breathing problems. After certification, graduates often find employment in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, rehabilitation facilities, sleep disorder clinics, pulmonary function labs, and home-health agencies.
“The students have to prepare themselves for this program” says Assistant Coordinator and Instructor Michael Byron. “The training for respiratory therapy is very intense, but there is a very high demand in the field. Possible students should definitely look into respiratory therapy and our program.”
“For instance, if they want to check out respiratory therapy, we can show them all the things we can do here. We have an outstanding clinical simulation lab here on the campus. We can do anything, anything that happens in the hospital. So the students can get experience treating the patient, without hurting anybody. So by the time they get to the clinic they are skilled.”
The current program, which started in January of 2008, continues for two years with new classes being offered again in January of 2009. Currently, the respiratory therapy program is approved by the educational authorities to only allow 16 students and five alternates a place in the course. Since the program is a distance learning course though Gulf Coast Community College, students only meet once a week with half the class meeting on Tuesdays, and half the class meeting on Thursdays.
When asked what type of students the respiratory therapy program would be looking for, Byron had the following description to give:
“RT student has to be well versed in chemistry, math, physical science, and physics, but we’ll take students after completing high school also; if they can pass the CPT for admission to this program, then we will take them. Age, also, isn’t a problem; we’ll take someone who’s 18 or someone who is 50.”
Since there is a growing need for such health training like respiratory therapy, earning certification can lead to many opportunities, the greatest among them financial. Locally, in the Panhandle, a trained respiratory therapist can earn between $38,000 to $40,000 per year, plus full benefits. In some locations, like California, respiratory therapists can earn as much as $60,000 per year.
“It’s an intense training,” Byron says, “but it’s a career that will reward you. You can go anywhere and it will take you about three minutes to get a job in any town in this country!”