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Respiratory Care Students Are a Breath of Fresh Air for the Community

October, 2020
  • RT students from left: Hansi Confer, Gary Beauchemin, Richard Abankwah, Emmanuel Ebeh, Denise Schwartz, Melissa Hirons
    RT students from left: Hansi Confer, Gary Beauchemin, Richard Abankwah, Emmanuel Ebeh, Denise Schwartz, Melissa Hirons
  • QCC RT second year students (green Scrubs) and St. Vicent's RT Group (blue and black scrubs).
    QCC RT second year students (green scrubs) at St Vincent's Hospital (L to R) Tonya Morrill, Crystal Desaulniers, Morgan Lindsey, Michaela Rouillard. St. Vincent's RT Group in black and blue scrubs.

Quinsigamond Community College honored those who are vital to our health and safety during national Respiratory Care Week, held this year from October 25- 31.

As the oldest Respiratory Care Program in the state of Massachusetts, QCC’s program has been leading the way in the region. This was never more evident than during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the College received approval from the program’s accrediting agency to allow QCC respiratory care students to simultaneously work on their student licenses and earn credits. This added a dozen students to the workforce, increased the Respiratory Therapists in Worcester by 10 percent and brought much needed medical resources to an extremely stressed healthcare system.

“From the moment QCC went remote, the program 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 from lay persons to the professionals that they had aspired to become,” said Amy Hogan, assistant professor of the College’s Respiratory Care program. “All sophomores graduated on time, achieved Registered Respiratory Therapist credentials, and secured Respiratory Therapist positions post-graduation.” 

This fall, there are 10 full-time students in the program, four second-year students and six first-year students. The second-year students are working on their clinicals at St. Vincent Hospital, Worcester and first-year students are at UMass Memorial Campus, Worcester.  While the students are not directly caring for COVID-19 patients, they are administering aerosolized medications, evaluating, and titrating oxygen therapy, caring for patients on mechanical ventilation, and providing various other therapies to optimize the lung health of their patients.

“COVID-19 has brought Respiratory Therapists to the forefront of the healthcare profession.  Respiratory Therapists are the only medical specialists 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,” said QCC’s Respiratory Care Program Coordinator, Keith Hirst.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median salary for Respiratory Therapists was $61,330 and employment projections of 26 percent are anticipated in the next several years, due to an aging population that will lead to increased cases of respiratory issues.

“In Worcester County, with a population of approximately 830,839, approximately 97,500 (12%) of adults have some form of chronic lung disease. Now, with the COVID-19 virus, even more people are in need of these types of professionals. This is why Respiratory Care programs such as QCC’s are so essential,” Mr. Hirst said.

Respiratory Care Week was established by President Ronald Regan in Sept 1983, due to the care that he received by respiratory therapists when he was shot, as well as to acknowledge the impact that chronic lung disease has on the population. 

To learn more at QCC Respiratory Care program, visit www.QCC.edu/respiratory-care

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