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QCC’s Respiratory Care Program Celebrates Respiratory Care Week

Contact: Karen Hutner
Office of Institutional Communications
khutner [at]

Release Date: 

WORCESTER, MA—October 25, 2021 — This week is Respiratory Care Week and in a world that needs more respiratory therapists (RTs), Quinsigamond Community College’s Respiratory Care program is doing its part to meet that growing demand.

In 1983, President Ronald Regan designated the last full week in October to be Respiratory Care Week. Every year since, those working in the profession and those dealing with chronic lung diseases have been honored during this week. Today’s research shows that chronic lung disease deaths have increased by 39.8%, rising from 389 million in 1990 to 545 million in 2017 worldwide. In Worcester county, with a population of approximately 830,839,000 approximately 97,500 (12%) of adults have some form of chronic lung disease and approximately 11,215 (1.3%) have pediatric asthma.

“Many individuals pursue a career in respiratory care after having personal experience with a respiratory therapist. Respiratory therapists play a vital role as part of the healthcare team. As cardiopulmonary specialists, they provide services for patients from the first breath they take in the delivery room, to the last breath they take, and the many breaths in between,” said Amy Hogan, director of Clinical Education, and assistant professor of QCC’s Respiratory Care program. “We help people breathe better by administering medications, providing therapies, and using sophisticated breathing equipment to help sustain life.”

QCC’s Respiratory Care program was established in 1967. It is the oldest respiratory program in Massachusetts. The program currently has 15 full-time enrolled students.

“All of our students are taking classes in-person, and are getting frontline exposure to patients who are struggling to take a breath... this includes COVID-19 patients,” said QCC’s Respiratory Care Program Director Keith Hirst. “COVID-19 has really challenged us in how we teach and ensure that our students are ready to take their board exams upon graduation. Having clinicals ensures that the students who will be on the frontlines, caring for COVID-19 patients when they graduate have hands-on experience.”

In 2020, QCC’s Respiratory Care program received Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) Distinguished Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) Credentialing Success Award for having over 90% of students pass and obtain the RRT credential over the past 3 years, and for meeting on-going programmatic thresholds as set forth by CoARC. QCC was one of a handful of associate degree programs that received this award.

“This speaks to the quality of the program and the outstanding job that the academic and clinical faculty have done in preparing the students to be successful not only in their board exams, but also in their future employment,” Mr. Hirst said.

“Our students are sought after because of their preparedness from the program,” Ms. Hogan added.      

QCC was also able to work with the accreditation board to allow QCC RT students to work and simultaneously earn credit, adding additional respiratory therapists to hospitals when they needed them most.

“From the moment QCC went remote in 2020, faculty, staff and the students worked diligently to explore new and effective avenues to complete educational requirements. Their team spirit and professionalism demonstrated that they had indeed transformed to the professionals they aspired to become,” Ms. Hogan said.  “All sophomores were able to graduate on-time and secure RT positions post-graduation, and all achieved the RRT credentials.”

In spring 2021, during the students last semester at QCC, they worked alongside their future colleagues as RT student therapists helping to treat patients.

“COVID-19 has brought RTs to the forefront of the healthcare profession.  RTs are the only medical specialist specifically trained in the cardiopulmonary system. As such, they are uniquely qualified to manage not only patients with COVID-19, but also any patient who has breathing issues, whether it is from a neonate born premature, someone who has lung disease, or dealing with a patient who has any kind of breathing issues,” Mr. Hirst said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of respiratory therapists is projected to grow 23% from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the 8% average growth rate of all occupations, with a current national average base salary of $60,000.

As the U.S. population ages, so too will an increased incidence of respiratory conditions, thus leading to an increased demand for respiratory therapy services. 

“The role of the RT is increasing as well.  RT’s are now involved with Telehealth, patient education, disease management, Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (a form of cardiopulmonary bypass), pulmonary rehabilitation, as well as being more involved with the management of the patient,” Mr. Hirst said. “This makes this program vital not only for the Worcester area, but also for Massachusetts as a whole.”

For more information on QCC’s Respiratory Care program visit, or email Mr. Hirst at Khirst [at] For more information about QCC, contact Josh Martin, Director of Institutional Communications at 508.854.7513 or jmartin [at]

Quinsigamond Community College is the most affordable higher education in Worcester County. As a regional leader in education and workforce development, QCC serves the diverse educational needs of Central Massachusetts by providing affordable, accessible, and high quality programming leading to transfer, career, and lifelong learning.