The goal of YSU's FAST-TRACK is designed to reach healthcare workers who are underemployed.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Students with an associate degree in the health-care field, or who have completed sufficient course work in the natural sciences, can get a bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy in two years under a new Youngstown State University program.
Traditionally, it takes three years of additional class work for a person with an associate degree to earn a bachelor's degree, said Louis N. Harris, director of the respiratory care program.
The goal of the program, called FAST-TRACK, is to get those who are underemployed and already working in health care to move up and possibly double their salary, said Joseph Mistovich, associate professor and chairman of health professions at YSU.
The starting wage for respiratory therapists, also known as respiratory care specialists, is between $17.50 and $18.50 per hour, and sign-on bonuses up to $5,000 are available, Harris said.
How it works
Under FAST-TRACK, respiratory care classes that are normally taken in the second year of the four-year program are offered in the summer between the second and third years. That allows FAST-TRACK students to catch up with the regular bachelor's degree students, Harris said.
The FAST-TRACK option is slated to get under way this summer with a class of about 10 students. People interested in the program should call Harris at (330) 941-1764 before April 1.
There are 34 students in the entire respiratory care program, said Janet M. Boehm, associate professor of respiratory care.
Boehm, recently elected national president of the American Association for Respiratory Care, said the number of students in the program is limited by the availability of clinical sites, such as hospitals and other care facilities. Part of the curriculum is 1,000 hours of clinical work observing and performing procedures on patients, she said.
YSU's respiratory program attracts both traditional and nontraditional students.
Bruce Warrender, 48, of Transfer, Pa., who says he is known on campus as the "Gray Warrior," is a former truck driver who broke his back in an accident and had to retrain. Warrender, a senior, works part-time in respiratory care at Humility of Mary Health Partners.
Harris said about two-thirds of his senior students work under a limited license while still in school.
Beth Ferris, 39, of Canfield, who has a bachelor's degree in communications from Rutgers University, decided she wanted to re-train in the health field. A senior, she believes working as a respiratory care specialist will give her more flexible work hours and allow a better balance between work and family.
"I love it," said Nicolette Glover, 22, of Hubbard. Also a senior, she works part-time at Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren.
Respiratory therapists also work in home health and long-term care facilities and sleep laboratories, among others. Also known as respiratory care practitioners, they are members of trauma, resuscitation and code blue teams.
"Those people in jackets aren't always all nurses," Boehm said.
What they do
Respiratory therapists perform procedures such as pulmonary function testing, arterial blood gas sampling, aerosol medication and oxygen administration, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, airway management, and chest physical assessment techniques.
The advantages of a bachelor's program over an associate program is that students learn more skills and receive more professional certifications, Mistovich said. Immediately, that means better marketability. Down the road, it translates into better pay and advancement opportunities, he said.
YSU offers one of only two integrated respiratory care bachelor degree programs in Ohio and one of only about 50 in the country, Boehm said.
"We're seeing a massive critical shortage in many health-related fields, not just nursing. And in five to 10 years, the shortage will be even more serious because baby boomers will be retiring," Mistovich said.
"When you finish one of our programs, you're virtually guaranteed a job," he said.