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Bachelor’s Popularity Skyrockets in Respiratory Care Field

Posted by Lisa Fuchs, MHA, RRT, CTTS, CHWC Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016

A rocket blasting off into outer spaceFor years, the entry point and the typical education among Respiratory Care practitioners has remained the Associate’s degree.

But as healthcare changes, so too has the tide begun to shift for Respiratory Therapists. In all aspects of allied health, the focus has been altered to place an emphasis on prevention rather than mere reaction. And that means an education that goes beyond what’s possible with an Associate’s degree.

As a result, Bachelor’s degree programs for Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRTs) have experienced an immense increase in popularity. Here’s why all RRTS who want to take the next step in their careers and keep up with the changing times ought to give careful consideration to this opportunity.

From Reaction to Prevention

Hospitals, clinics, doctors and all members of the healthcare team are now judged on their ability to improve the health of their patients on a long-term basis, not simply providing one-time cures when an illness or injury results.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the respiratory care field. An RRT in the modern world is just as likely to educate a patient on the numerous ways he or she can maintain a positive health outlook over the course of time as they are to provide a singular solution for a sudden onset respiratory issue.

It’s impossible to overstate the shift this represents. In the past, an individual might make a consultation appointment with a respiratory therapist to determine the best course of action and be sent on their way with their prescribed path. Now, patients will visit that respiratory therapist throughout the course of their lives, learning how to make dramatic lifestyle changes that will allow them to avoid the kinds of serious issues that may have landed them in a hospital in the first place.

This education-based, preventive approach to respiratory healthcare has grown popular because it is so very effective. And it will only continue to grow as time goes on.

The Awareness Factor

There’s another big reason why the Bachelor’s degree has become the preferred education level for respiratory therapists, and that’s because more people are finally talking about this subject.

Smoking is down around the country because a majority of people finally understand the detrimental effect it can have on lung health, not just for the smoker but on all those around them. We understand the way that pollutants in the environment affect our health from one day to the next. The education we now have about the different carcinogens and chemicals in even an everyday office setting is miles above what it was 20, 10, even just a couple years ago.

More people are finally taking lung health with the seriousness it deserves, and they’re consulting RRTs, the experts on the issue, in a proactive way that they never considered before. So much about the quality of our lifestyles comes down to an ability to breathe without impediment, and that idea has finally sunk in.

With this awareness comes a need for a large number of people who can speak as thought leaders on these issues, providing education that goes beyond a baseline level of awareness. RRTs are stepping up by earning their Bachelor’s degrees in droves, because that’s what is needed when society becomes cognizant of the very issues that RRTs are able to treat.

Is There An RRT In The House?

The healthcare team is something we really emphasize now at Nebraska Methodist College, and we would hope other institutions throughout the country follow our lead.

Allied health is fascinatingly diverse, probably more so than the average citizen would give it credit for. The simple truth is that your visit to the hospital or a healthcare clinic may not be to see a physician. You’re just as likely to receive your treatment from a Nurse Practitioner, have your vitals taken by a Phlebotomist and, yes, get your breathing problems analyzed by a Respiratory Therapist.

There’s a reason our school’s sole focus is no longer just nursing. Healthcare is too wide-ranging. You receive a sonogram from a qualified Sonographer, you get rehabilitation care from a Physical Therapist and his or her team of Physical Therapist Assistants, and so on and so forth.

Each of these fields is too dynamic, too complex to be overseen by a single person. That includes respiratory care, an area of interest with a broad knowledge base required to practice. That base expands every year, which is why RRTs are finding their skills and career possibilities strengthened when they earn a Bachelor’s degree.

Imagine the Possibilities

One more factor is proving to be decisive for those RRTs considering a Bachelor’s degree: career opportunities.

Respiratory therapists who have their sights set on taking on an expanded role in healthcare, particularly in regard to opening their own clinics, have found that the Bachelor’s degree is the way to do that. It confers a certain level of acumen on the individual who possesses it, allowing them to take that next step up in expertise.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the Bachelor’s degree in question has to be in Respiratory Care. In fact, a BS in Health Studies is preferred, as it provides additional insights into healthcare that allow a person to enhance their knowledge in numerous areas. This is precisely what NMC offers, and we do so because the degree allows graduates to widen potential career opportunities.

The simple truth is that career options increase with a Bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Party

The times are changing and will continue to do so. RRTs everywhere have proven remarkably resilient when it comes to doing what’s necessary for the betterment of their patients.

The Bachelor’s degree for Respiratory Therapists beckons. And more and more students are accepting the challenge.


Topics: allied health career, health professions, respiratory care