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Respiratory Therapy Technology
Associate Applied Science

Curriculum code 1241

The Respiratory Therapy Technology Program provides students the education and training required to work as respiratory therapists in a variety of health care settings. As part of the health care team, respiratory therapists are involved in caring for patients with cardiopulmonary disorders. Respiratory therapists work with patients of all ages in areas ranging from health promotion and disease prevention, to acute care management of life-threatening illness. Respiratory therapists provide life support in the form of mechanical ventilation, perform case management, pulmonary rehabilitation, patient, family, and community education, smoking prevention and cessation, and diagnostic testing. Although most respiratory therapists work in acute care hospitals, job opportunities exist in long-term care facilities, clinics, physician offices, diagnostic laboratories, and in-home care.

This two-year program begins with the fall term and includes four semesters and one summer session. Health Science programs conduct a rigorous curriculum of lectures, labs, and clinical assignments. Clinical rotations are conducted onsite at a variety of hospitals, generally during the daytime, with start times as early as 6:30 a.m. Holding a full-time job while in the program may affect your success and is not recommended.

Students may take general education classes in the morning, afternoon, evening, weekends or online, if available. These can be completed within five years of entering the program. Completion of this program is intended to lead to employment. If you are considering transferring to a four-year-college or university to obtain a bachelor’s degree using the courses from this program, speak with an academic advisor to review your options. For more information about the profession of Respiratory Care, please visit www.aarc.org.

Criminal Background Checks—In order to comply with certain state statutes and/or clinical affiliation agreements, students will complete a criminal background check. Application forms for criminal background checks may be obtained through the Career Programs Subdivision Office, B150, and fees paid to the Cashier's Office. For information on criminal background application procedures, contact the Career Programs Subdivision Office at (708) 974-5708. Deadline dates for completion of criminal background checks will be announced by program coordinators.

Nature of Work—In the hospital, respiratory therapists often work in high stress environments. Therapists are involved in all areas of intensive care, emergency room traumas, and end-of life care for dying patients. Respiratory therapists draw blood, and see patients with various traumatic injuries on a regular basis. Students are strongly encouraged to consider their ability to handle emotional aspects of death and dying, and see blood and body fluids. Respiratory therapists are staffed 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Most hospital therapists stand and walk all day, and need to be able to lift and move relatively heavy objects.

Program Essential Functions—All students must be able to perform the essential functions of the curriculum. In addition to the general admission criteria required by the college, respiratory students must be able to:

  • Use digital fine motor skills with both hands continually throughout the day

  • See clearly enough to read handwritten and computer generated communications

  • Work standing on their feet for the majority of the day

  • Walk to and from patient service areas of the hospital for the majority of the day

  • Help patients in and out of chairs and beds

  • Write and speak to patients and staff effectively

  • Interact appropriately with patients, physicians, peers and supervisors

  • Use good judgment to seek assistance when needed

  • Lift a minimum of 50 pounds unassisted

  • Apply safety and infection control standards learned in the program to maintain a safe and clean environment for patients and self

Employment Outlook—Job opportunities are expected to be very good, especially for respiratory therapists with cardiopulmonary care skills or experience working with infants. Employment of respiratory therapists is expected to increase by 28% from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than average for all occupations, because of substantial growth in the numbers of the middle-aged and elderly population—a development that will heighten the incidence of cardiopulmonary disease—and because of the expanding role of respiratory therapists in the early detection of pulmonary disorders, case management, disease prevention, and emergency care.

Although hospitals will continue to employ the vast majority of therapists, a growing number can expect to work outside of hospitals in home health care services, offices of physicians or other health practitioners, or consumer-goods rental firms. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor-Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate median annual earnings of respiratory therapists were $54,280 in May 2010. The middle 50 percent earned between $44,490-$61,720. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,410.

Certification—Graduates of the Respiratory Therapy Program are qualified to take the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) entry level exam, which awards the credential of Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) upon successful completion. Graduates are then eligible for licensure in the state of Illinois. CRT credential also qualifies graduates to take the Registry Examinations, which awards the credential of Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) upon successful completion. Visit the NBRC website for more information about credentialing examinations at www.nbrc.org.

Related Job Titles—Respiratory Therapist, Respiratory Technician, Respiratory Care Practitioner.

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