Marywood to introduce new respiratory therapy program


Photo credit: Anna Warkentin

Anna Warkentin, Contributor

Marywood’s new Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy program is preparing to bring a new level of respiratory therapy education to the region.

Assistant Professor Joy Hughes oversees preparation of the program as director. She plans to take a two-pronged approach, which first involves a degree-completion program set to begin accepting students this summer. The approach would also include a full four-year program she hopes to begin this fall. Before any applications are considered, Hughes needs to get the go-ahead from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) .

“I’ve been speaking with our referee, who is our person that helps us make sure everything is going in the right direction,” said Hughes. “He says he doesn’t see any problems with us getting the approval for accreditation.”

The commission plans to meet in March. While waiting, Hughes says she is not sitting idle.

“I’ve been preparing something called a self-study, which is just getting all of the information that was basically submitted already but now I have to put things in place,” said Hughes. “I’ve already been working on curriculum. I’m waiting to see some plans for how the lab is working but I’m already working on getting some equipment in. So things are rolling along with our base program.”

One of Hughes’ goals is to get the students involved with the community for as much hands-on experience as possible. So far, six hospitals and one sub-acute facility will welcome students from the program.

Hughes said a struggle many respiratory therapists deal with is being mistaken for a nurse or tech. She hopes getting as many students as possible into the area’s hospitals and rehab facilities will help counteract this knowledge gap.

A factor she hopes will help her students in the field is the four-year degree Marywood will be offering.

“The stigma of having a two-year degree gives you this idea that ‘Oh, well you’re just a tech,’ where we are an integral part of a healthcare system,” said Hughes. “We do make a lot of decisions— life changing decisions— regarding our equipment, regarding how we ventilate people.”

The shift to four-year degrees is still a relatively new one, with only about 20 programs offering a four-year respiratory therapy degree in the country. Of the six programs in Pennsylvania, the closest to Marywood is over 100 miles away.

Dean Lori Swanchak said she believes this program will “help put Marywood University in a strategic position to provide a much needed service within our service area.”

Hughes expressed excitement at being at the forefront of this advancement in her field. Dean Swanchak believes that with Hughes’ invaluable expertise and leadership, Marywood will be positioned to provide a much needed service to the area.

Contact the writer: [email protected]