Shortage Prompts Accelerated Training

September 30, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDSFerrisStateUniversity wants hospital patients to breathe easier, so the school has implemented an accelerated associate's degree program in respiratory care in Grand Rapids, in hopes of getting more students out in the workplace faster.

Jacqueline Hooper, dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences, said the university met with area hospitals to find the greatest areas of need.

"One of the areas of workforce shortage that was noted was respiratory therapist," Hooper said.

The shortage has been caused in part by new licensure regulations that took place in July 2004, Hooper said. In order for the therapists to be licensed, they have to be credentialed, and in order to be credentialed; they have to graduate from an accredited program.

Hooper said it also became apparent that the program needed to be more convenient to students.

"We needed to deliver the program in the communities in which the students lived," she said. "When you deliver in the community where they live, they tend then to work in that community. And then the employers have employees — and that was the whole idea."

For the revised respiratory degree, the lecture courses are available online. General education classes can be taken at community colleges, and Ferris attempts to situate the clinical portion of the class near the student's home.

Saint Mary's Health Care is one of 14 hospitals that have teamed with Ferris to train students. Ferris and Saint Mary's recently received one of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's MI Opportunity Partnership grants to fund the program at the Ferris' Grand Rapids campus.

"The grant allowed us to purchase instruction and technical equipment so that we can literally equip a laboratory on that campus," she said. "It also provides funding to hire a program coordinator."

The first cohort of 24 students will graduate in December 2006. The length of the course has dropped from 24 months to 18 months.

Hooper said the acute need for respiratory therapists makes the program unique.

Laurie Tamminga, supervisor of the respiratory care department at Saint Mary's Health Care, said one of the benefits of the program is the flexibility it gives the students. It also gives the hospital a chance to see if the students will work well in their organization, and vice versa.

"It's kind of a win-win situation," she said. "They can check us out and we can check them out."    

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