Respiratory therapy is a booming field. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the sector are predicted to grow by 14% in the next decade, creating a greater need for credentialed respiratory therapists.
Georgia State’s Online Master of Science in Health Science - Respiratory Therapy Concentration gives those with a bachelor’s in discipline a chance to earn an advanced degree.
The clinical master’s program can be completed in 91 credit hours, is designed for credentialed and experienced practitioners to advance and accepts applicants each fall. A competitive program, nearly 100-120 applicants vie for 50 spots – but that number is soon to change.
The COVID-19 pandemic placed respiratory therapists and other specialized care workers in the spotlight as individuals worked countless hours to care for patients in intensive care. The pandemic itself created a need for a greater number of these specialized workers, but the burnout and the number of respiratory therapists leaving the profession that followed created a need.
Georgia State recently received a $320,000 grant from Wellstar Health System to hire an additional faculty member for three years. The grant will allow program enrollment to increase by 20%, allowing more students to earn credentials and fill needed roles in hospitals throughout the nation.
“Not only did the pandemic bring a need for respiratory therapists but also this burnout piece also created this bigger need,” said Douglas Gardenhire, the chair of Georgia State’s respiratory therapy program – the oldest in the state of Georgia. Along with the online master’s program, Gardenhire oversees the in-person bachelor’s degree and master’s in respiratory therapy programs.
“The plan is to be able to get more students, hopefully graduate more of those students,” Gardenhire said, “So they can make their way to those hospitals – whether that is here in Atlanta, the state, anywhere – to be able to provide help and gain employment.”
The program’s coursework and design allow students to get hands-on experience necessary. On top of the didactic education, students in the respiratory therapy program perform 200-250 hours of lab work and up to 1000 hours of clinic work in two years, gaining valuable experience in a number of settings. Another valuable part of the program is its emphasis on critical care.
“I really think what sets us apart versus a number of other individuals is the number of credit hours and number of courses that our students take in mechanical ventilator management and overall critical care,” Gardenhire said. “We have a lot more focus in critical care courses.”
Georgia State brings a highly experienced, credentialed faculty to the program. Each instructor comes with the degrees and training necessary to promote excellence in the field, also receiving training on communication and writing detailed syllabi to promote student success.
“I only hire faculty members who are respiratory therapists and have a graduate degree in respiratory therapy,” Gardenhire said. “If they only have the master’s, I make them get a doctorate. I think that is the big thing we do – we hire the right people for the job that we want to get done and that just moves over into the student and exudes the excellence that we want.
“We’re trying to produce students into respiratory therapists that are as good as us, if not better.”
The majority-minority program boasts a unique, diverse student body, and Gardenhire said the program maintains relationships with schools like Taipei Medical University and others to allow international students to experience an American approach to respiratory therapy. Nearly every student in the Spring 2023 graduating class has a job lined up after graduation, which can be attributed to the skillset instilled when students matriculate through the program.
“We feel that we know that is happening because we hear that from our clinical partners,” Gardenhire said. “Those are the ones who are employing our students, so they give us that feedback. That’s what we continue to do each and every year that we graduate – making sure that group is just as good as the faculty or better.
“Ultimately, not everyone knows everything about everything, but we’re trying to make sure they know everything there is to know about respiratory therapy and how to be the best respiratory therapist.”
Want to start your journey to becoming a credentialed respiratory therapist? Learn more about the program that has won 12-straight distinguished awards from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) and six-straight American Association of Respiratory Care APEX Awards and its bachelor’s, master’s and online advanced master’s programs.