Wellstar Health System has awarded a $320,000 grant to Georgia State University’s department of respiratory therapy through the Wellstar Foundation to expand the pipeline of respiratory therapy professionals.

“Respiratory therapists are a vital part of the care team and are in critical demand—a trend exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and felt throughout the healthcare industry,” says Julie Teer, president of the Wellstar Foundation, in a release. “The Wellstar Foundation is proud to increase the workforce pipeline by collaborating with and funding Georgia State to hire an additional faculty member to lead a new clinical cohort of RT students at Wellstar Kennestone Regional Medical Center.”

The faculty shortage is a major barrier to increasing program enrollment, and adding this position will result in a 20% increase in the program’s enrollment capacity, according to a release from the university.

“Highly educated respiratory therapists will always be needed, but due to the pandemic and the burnout of healthcare practitioners, the job market is wide open for new graduates,” says Dr Doug Gardenhire, chair of the department of respiratory therapy, in a release.

Over 150,000 respiratory therapists work in the United States, and 92,000 are likely to retire by 2030. In addition to faculty shortage, demand for professionals that outpaces the capacity of degree programs also contributes to the national shortage of respiratory therapists. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of respiratory therapist positions will grow by at least 19% through 2029 due to an aging population and increased cases of respiratory illness.

“There are more than 17,000 advertisements for needed respiratory therapy positions around the country, and the need is no different in metro Atlanta,” says Gardenhire in the release. “This partnership with Wellstar allows us to educate and graduate more baccalaureate and master’s degree-prepared respiratory therapists.”

Georgia State’s respiratory therapist program is one of only two US programs to receive the American Association for Respiratory Care Apex Award for three consecutive years, according to the university. The award recognizes respiratory care in clinical care facilities and educational programs that highlight best practices with evidence-based medicine. 

“This grant helps strengthen our relationship with Wellstar and will bring more of our students into the Wellstar system for clinical practice and potentially for employment after graduation,” says Huanbiao Mo, PhD, dean of the Lewis College, in a release. “Congratulations to RT faculty and leadership for forging this successful clinical partnership.”

Photo credit: Georgia State University