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Respiratory Therapy program nationally recognized for graduation rates

While Tidewater Community College’s respiratory therapy program director Jennifer Ferguson said she’s very proud of the Distinguished RRT Credentialing Success Award her program received last month, she’s not doing anything special to celebrate. She just considers it business as usual.

The award, issued by The Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC), recognizes Tidewater Community College’s program for its stellar 2012 national registry test pass rate of 100 percent — that’s 37.8 percentage points above the national average, taken from 394 similar community college and university institutions across the country.

“I tell the students: ‘You’re getting a TCC stamp, and you’re not going to get that stamp if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do, if you don’t demonstrate the qualities we expect of you,’” she said.

In its congratulatory letter to TCC’s respiratory therapy program, CoARC said: “This award is presented as part of the CoARC’s continued efforts to value the RRT credential as a measure of a program’s success in inspiring its graduates to achieve their highest educational and professional aspirations.”

Of those 394 schools, 2012 data shows TCC’s program among the top seven reporting the highest credentialing success.

Ferguson said her program also has a 100 percent job placement rate, and has maintained that statistic despite a fickle economy. “Every graduate who has wanted a job has gotten a job,” she said. “They would rather hire our grads than, quite often, people with experience, because they know what they’re getting from TCC. They get a well-rounded graduate who is able to merge into their departments and be a respiratory therapist and a professional.”

Ferguson believes the rigorous nature of the application and interview process, combined with an intense focus on honing sharp technological, clinical and decision-making skills, have contributed to her program’s continued success.

Students who want to pursue respiratory therapy must complete prerequisites with a minimum 3.0 GPA before admission into the two-year, six-semester associate degree program. Clinical rotations may begin after the first semester, but Ferguson and her faculty introduce their students to technology early.

“Our freshman students are in the simulation lab for a full clinical day every two weeks. They actually treat the high fidelity simulators as patients, so they go in individually and as groups and practice respiratory care, quite often in a higher risk environment,” Ferguson said. “In the simulation lab, we can make patients as sick as we want to. And we can allow students to learn and make decisions and learn critical thinking.

“We’ve worked really hard, and I’m very happy – now we just have to keep it up.”