Helping students choose from the top respiratory schools in the United States

Top of the Charts: Respiratory Schools Helping students choose from the top respiratory schools in the United States Paul Mathews, PhD, RRT, FCCM When choosing a respiratory care education program, there are many factors to consider. There is no body, official or otherwise, that rates the comparative quality of respiratory care education programs. Neither the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) nor the CoARC (Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care) rates the schools or releases information on comparative statistics. This means that data on pass rates, accreditation scores, and graduation/persistence data is program specific and not readily verified.

It is also important to note that respiratory care programs may be known by several different names or titles within their parent institution, ranging from Department of Respiratory Care Education to Cardiopulmonary Sciences, which may make it difficult to locate programs in some areas or institutions.

Initially, a student will have to decide whether he or she wishes to attend a 2-year or 4-year school, and whether or not he or she is willing to relocate geographically. These two decisions alone will narrow the field of potential schools. Once these decisions are made, a prospective student can assess individual programs in terms of resources, personnel, climate/culture, and achievements. Other important considerations will include costs, and social and aesthetic factors.

Resources mean the obvious, such as library facilities, a well-equipped laboratory, clean and well-maintained classrooms. But resources also refer to the not-so-obvious, such as student computer access and the ability to search medical databases on the Web, the ability to do computer-assisted instructional and evaluation activities, write papers, and prepare graphics for class presentations. Another factor to consider is whether there is a place for students to study, or just wind down or socialize.

Perhaps the most critical resource is the presence of strong sites for clinical rotations. Prospective students should inquire about the clinics and their location, their strengths and weaknesses, and their patient mix and clinical specialties. (After speaking to school officials, it is a good idea to call a few of the clinical affiliates and ask them the same questions.) Clinical affiliate quality is one of the most crucial and important resources a program can have.

Faculty is perhaps the most important program resource. It is critical to know as much about them as possible. Facts such as where and how long they have been teaching, clinical background, and faculty rank are important considerations.

Prospective students should assess the number of full-time and part-time faculty and their responsibilities. What are their academic credentials? (They should be at least one level higher than the student is studying for.) What are the professional-clinical credentials held by the faculty? Do they hold the higher professional credentials (in the case of respiratory care, RRT)? Do they hold specialty credentials, such as CPFT, RPFT, Perinatal/Pediatric?

Have faculty members published articles, research papers, chapters, and books? Are they active in professional societies? Do they hold offices or serve on committees? Have they received any teaching, research, or service awards? Are they well thought of in the professional community on local, regional, state, national, or international levels (depending on the program level and site)? Are clinical faculty up-to-date on procedures and techniques and do they actually supervise and teach students?

The climate, or culture, refers to how people feel about the school. Are they comfortable there? Is the atmosphere tense or relaxed? Do you feel at ease when you visit? The same issues are important to judge in clinical sites. Again, current students and employees are a good source and judges of these very subjective pieces of information. The amount of time the faculty is willing to devote to you and your questions is also indicative of the importance of students and counseling to the program and institution.

Program personnel should be able to discuss student/graduate achievement. Pass rates for the CRTT and RRT examinations should be discussed. Questions about how these results compare to national averages should be raised and answered. Variations from the mean, especially negatives ones, should be addressed.

Status of accreditation should be requested and information on how the results compare to national averages should be provided. Variations from the mean–especially negative ones–should be addressed. Questions should be asked to discover how weaknesses were addressed. Student progress in the program should be examined–eg, how many start, how many finish (with their class or eventually). Also, one should ask what services are available for students who are not doing well.

Financial Issues
An important question for many prospective students is how much a program is going to cost. This needs to be assessed in terms of tuition, lodging, books, and supplies. The last two items can be much higher than one might expect, so it is important to be sure to ask about them. Also ask what the payback is for going to the program–ie, what do new graduates make in average annual salary? What is the employment rate of new graduates (at graduation, 3 months, 6 months?). Also, what resources are available to help finance your education, such as scholarships, loans, grants, student work, and the like.

Using some of these criteria, the following is a brief sampling of respiratory schools nationwide and a synopsis of what they have to offer prospective students. For an exhaustive list of 2- and 4-year schools listed by state, visit the Web site: [email protected].

  • Orange Coast Community College, School of Allied Health Professions, 2701 Fairview Rd, Costa Mesa, CA 92628-5005; (714) 432-5541;
    Orange Coast offers a fully accredited 2-year program beginning each fall semester. Courses include lectures, practice of procedures and techniques in the simulated laboratory on campus, approximately 1,000 hours of clinical practice within area hospitals, and lectures/discussions with physician specialists. Upon successful completion of the program and passage of the NBRC’s CRTT examination, the graduate is eligible for the National Registry examination (RRT).
    Program name: Respiratory Care.
    Program coordinator: Dan Adelmann.
    Approximate cost: $2,600 for California residents; approximately $9,600 for out-of-state students.
    Faculty size: 2 full-time, 3 part-time instructors.
    Spaces available: 30 full-time, 5 part-time each year.
    Entry-level area salaries for graduates: $30,000-$39,500 plus shift differentials.
    Special features: Students in clinical rotation spend a lot of time in nontraditional care settings, including acute care hospitals with adult and neonatal intensive care units and skilled-nursing facilities. Students also deliver home-based care. Program also incorporates computer-assisted learning.
  • University of Kansas Medical Center, School of Allied Health, Dept of Respiratory Care, 3901 Rainbow Blvd, Kansas City, KS 66160-7606; (913) 588-4630
    The University of Kansas Medical Center, School of Allied Health offers a bachelor of science (BS) degree in respiratory care. KU offers a BS with the option to specialize in pulmonary rehabilitation, perinatology, adult critical care, management, education, sleep disorders, cardiopulmonary diagnostics, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Approximately 125 credit hours are necessary to earn a BS in respiratory care.
    Program name: Department of Respiratory Care Education.
    Program director: Barbara A. Ludwig, MA, RRT; Director of clinical education: Judith A. Mathewson, MS, RRT; Associate professor, admissions coordinator: Paul J. Mathews, PhD, EdS, RRT, FCCM; Assistant professor: Bethane L. Gregg; Instructor: Michael Czervinske, BS, RRT
    Approximate cost: residents, $2,041.50/year; nonresidents: $8,460/year (based on 15 credit hours per semester).
    Spaces available: 36
    Faculty size: 5 full-time; 3 part-time.
    Entry-level salaries for graduates: $28,000 to $33,000.
    Special features: The Department of Respiratory Care Education is the oldest–and the first–baccalaureate program in the country. Seniors study beyond RRT level by completing a 32-hour clinical specialty practicum that includes adult critical care, pediatric critical care, neonatal, pulmonary diagnostic, pulmonary rehab, sleep disorders, hyperbaric, management and education.
  • State University of New York (SUNY) Health Science Center at Syracuse, Dept of Cardiorespiratory Sciences, 750 E Adams St, Syracuse, NY 13210; (315) 464-5580
    SUNY Syracuse offers an entry-level bachelor of science degree in respiratory care and a bachelor of science degree in cardiorespiratory sciences. The cardiorespiratory program is a leadership program for those who have already earned an AS degree in respiratory care. Students in the program learn and practice advanced respiratory care procedures, management, teaching, and research techniques. Classes begin in the fall.
    Program name: Respiratory Care; Cardiorespiratory Sciences.
    Department chair: Carl P. Wiezalis, MS, RRT; Clinical coordinator: Robert R. Fluck, Jr, MS, RRT; Medical director: Edward D. Sivak, MD.
    Approximate cost: tuition for New York residents is $3,400 a year, and $8,300 for out-of-state residents.
    Spaces available: 30 in respiratory care; 10 in cardiorespiratory sciences.
    Faculty size: five full-time and three part-time faculty.
    Entry-level salaries for graduates: $29,000-$35,000, with an average of $32,100.
    Special features: pass rates for the NBRC exam is 100 percent for the most recent CRTT and 80 percent for the RRT exam. Students complete advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), pediatric advanced life support (PALS), and the neonatal resuscitation program (NRP) before graduation.
  • Miami-Dade Community College Medical Center Campus, 950 NW 20th St, Miami, FL 33127; (305) 237-4031
    Miami-Dade offers two fully accredited programs: respiratory care technician (vocational credit certificate) and respiratory care therapist (associate in science degree). The technician program prepares students to specialize in the technical details of general respiratory therapeutics. The respiratory care therapist program is an allied health specialty practiced under medical supervision in the treatment, management, control, diagnostic evaluation, and care of patients with deficiencies and abnormalities associated with the pulmonary system.
    Program name: Respiratory Care.
    Program coordinators: Carol J. Miller, EdD, RRT; Bruce P. Krieger, MD, FACP, FCCP; Richard Prentiss, MPH, RRT. Approximate cost: residents, $45.90 per credit; nonresidents, $148.90 per credit.
    Spaces available: 40
    Faculty size: 3 full-time; 5 part-time.
    Entry-level salaries for graduates: technicians: $9 to $12.50/hour; respiratory therapists: $10 to $13.25/hour.
    Special features: Students rotate through excellent clinical facilities including an 1,800-bed county facility and several level III neonatal centers.
  • University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Health Related Professions, 4301 W Markham, Mail Slot 704 (14B/NLR), Little Rock, AR 72205-7199; (501) 257-2348
    University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Health Related Professions (CHRP) sponsors three respiratory care programs. A BS degree is offered in Cardio-Respiratory Care and is housed in Little Rock, the main campus of UAMS, Little Rock. An AS degree is offered in respiratory therapy on the Texarkana campus. Both the BS and AS programs lead to RRT-eligibility. The UAMS-CHRP Department of Respiratory Care offers a certificate-level (technician) program in Pine Bluff in conjunction with the AHEC-Pine Bluff. By fall 2000, the program will be upgraded to an AS degree program and will still lead to CRT-eligibility.
    Program name: Department of Respiratory Care.
    Program chair: Erna Boone, MEd, RRT.
    Approximate cost: $1,164/regular semester for residents; $2,892/regular semester for nonresidents.
    Spaces available: 24 in cardiorespiratory care; 12 in respiratory therapy; 12 in respiratory technician.
    Faculty size: 4 in cardio-respiratory; 3 in respiratory therapy; 2 in respiratory technician.
    Entry-level area salaries for graduates: $33,500, cardiorespiratory care; $32,000, respiratory therapy; $26,000, respiratory technician.
  • Community College of Philadelphia, 1700 Spring Garden St, Philadelphia, Pa 19130; (215) 751-8423
    The Respiratory Care Technology program is a 22-consecutive-month associate degree program that is fully accredited by the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. Students learn diagnostic and therapeutic procedure applicable to pulmonary care.
    Program name: Respiratory Care Technology.

    Program director: Frank M. Alsis, EdD, RRT, CPFT; (215) 751-8423.
    Approximate cost: 2-year program. Residents, $5,000; nonresidents, $10,000.
    Spaces available: 36
    Faculty size: 3 full-time; 2 part-time.
    Entry-level salaries for graduates: $38,000 to $42,000.
    Special features: Community College of Philadelphia offers the only respiratory care program in the city.

  • University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, School of Allied Health Sciences, Dept of Respiratory Care, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, TX 78284-7784; (210) 567-8850
    The University of Texas offers a bachelor of science degree in respiratory care. This integrated program requires 59 hours of program prerequisites and preprofessional requirements at the lower-division level prior to admission to UTHSCSA for the professional phase (22 1/2 months) in the junior and senior years. The professional phase requires more than 1,000 hours of in-hospital clinical practice.
    Program name: Department of Respiratory Care.
    Department chair: David C. Shelledy, PhD, RRT.
    Approximate cost: resident: $3,000/year for Texas residents; $13,400/year for nonresidents.
    Spaces available: 24
    Faculty size: 5
    Entry-level area salaries for graduates: $28,000 to $32,000.

Paul Mathews, PhD, RRT, FCCM, is associate professor, Respiratory Care Education, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan.