UC launches online bachelor's degree program in growing field of respiratory therapy

UC launches online bachelor's degree program in growing field of respiratory therapy
Posted at 12:00 PM, Jan 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-26 12:00:06-05

CINCINNATI -- The University of Cincinnati has breathed new life into its online offerings.

The university’s online bachelor's degree program in respiratory therapy has grown from just three students during its first semester in spring 2013 to 172 students in fall 2016. The program, housed within the College of Allied Health Sciences, is a degree completion program targeted to respiratory therapists with an associate’s degree.

"Earning a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy yields a pathway for our students to move into leadership roles in education, research and management," said K. Shane Keene, associate dean of the CAHS. "Additionally, the degree strengthens students for coveted opportunities in graduate school. Graduates will be in prime position to take advantage of hospital-instituted clinical ladders and possess a competitive advantage when applying for leadership positions."

K. Shane Keene is the associate dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences at the University of Cincinnati. Photo provided

Working respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing, such as those with asthma or emphysema. Patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs.

In the 2014-2015 academic year, 374 associate's degree programs in respiratory therapy existed, but there were only 61 bachelor’s programs in the same field, according to Keene. The college partnered with Pearson Embanet, which provides online program management services, to launch and support the program.

UC's program, which gives working respiratory therapists and new associate’s degree graduates a way to earn a bachelor’s degree, can be completed in 20 months with part-time enrollment. Prior to the creation of the bachelor’s program, students could only obtain an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy from UC.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for respiratory therapists is projected to grow 12 percent between 2014 and 2024, faster than the national average for all occupations.

"There is definitely an industry push towards the bachelor's degree. In a recent position statement, the AARC (American Association for Respiratory Care) called for a shift towards the bachelor's degree minimum, requesting all new respiratory care educational programs to award, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in respiratory care. Soon after, CoARC (Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care) followed with a proposed revision to accreditation standards, which would require all newly created RT educational programs to award a bachelor’s degree," Keene said.

The success of the bachelor’s degree program has spurred the university to develop a new online master’s program in respiratory therapy as well to meet the market’s evolving needs.

"UC has submitted a proposal to the Ohio Department of Higher Education. If the program is approved, it will also be offered 100 percent online," said Keene. "There are a significant amount of managers and educators that will be retiring as the last wave of the baby-boom generation. This will leave a void and a need for graduate prepared respiratory therapists."

The first year of the bachelor’s program focuses on courses designed to enhance students’ skills in critical thinking, reflective writing, problem solving, research methods and team building.

In the second year, students take advanced courses in designated fields and specialty areas in respiratory care. They complete the program with a clinical practicum at a clinical setting close to the student’s home.

Anyone interested in the program can register for classes or request additional information here.