New degree for “broad field”

Zackary Willem

USI created a new Bachelor of Science program for respiratory therapy.

“Respiratory therapists work in every aspect of the medical field,” said Wes Phy, chair of the respiratory therapy program.  “However, very few people understand what they actually do.”

Phy worked as a respiratory therapist for more than 30 years. He worked as a medical director in major hospitals as well as in trauma centers, burn clinics and newborn intensive care.

“Respiratory therapy really is a broad field,” he said, “so we mandate that every student completing the four year program really knows their stuff.”

This program is the first time the university has ever had a Bachelor of Science program in respiratory therapy, and it is one of only five in the state of Indiana, Phy said.

“Previous students were only able to complete their associate’s degree in respiratory therapy,” he said. “The university, however, is allowing these alumni to return and complete two additional years in online classes to complete their bachelor’s.”

Phy expects the program to be a huge success with upcoming students and returning alumni and is  proud of the work he and his colleague, Jody Delp, have done for the university.

Prospective students must apply for the program and meet a long list of prerequisites.

“It’s a very selective program,” Phy said, “with a high turnout proven by a 100 percent pass rate on the national exam.”

The program allows a maximum of 18 students to be enrolled at a time. This low number yields the highest success rate, according to the Commission of Accreditation for Respiratory Care, that accredits the program.

“We do the best we can for our candidates to make sure they get the best knowledge of respiratory therapy before they graduate the program,” Phy said.

Students are also required to log 12 hours of time dedicated to shadowing a respiratory therapist at a nearby hospital or clinic.

“It’s like applying to be a pilot, but you have never flown a plane before,” Phy said. “We require shadow time so our students get a first-hand view of what a respiratory therapy is all about.”

Phy said this new program isn’t an easy one to get through, but it is one of the most rewarding.

“Respiratory therapists don’t just work in hospitals. We are here as resource for anyone to use patients or staff,” said Vicki Stevens, a respiratory therapist at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.

Respiratory therapists interact with patients of all ages assisting them with ventilations, surgery prep and setting up patient life support.

“I enjoy teaching students about respiratory therapy and showing them how difficult but rewarding our job actually is,” Stevens said.

She said a respiratory therapist works closely with doctors and nurses as a team daily to solve any complications or problems afflicting patients.

“Every single day we are here caring for patients,” Stevens said, “assisting hospital staff and teaching students what is required of a respiratory therapist.”