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Respiratory therapy student lands full-time position with generous signing bonus

Paulette Chevalier spent two decades in the insurance business before pursuing a medical career as a respiratory therapist.

“I wanted to get out of the cubicle and into patient care. I felt like this was my higher calling,” Chevalier said.

Chevalier started with an anatomy and physiology class at Tidewater Community College and is now close to completing an associate degree in Respiratory Therapy. She says the college had an array of resources that made it easy to succeed. “As a seasoned student, I appreciated the library staff, tutoring and the support of my professors,” she said.

Chevalier was recently offered a full-time position at Riverside Hospital with a $20,000 signing bonus. Once she earns her associate degree in May 2022, she will be working in a field she loves. “I walked away from a great career because I knew this was my passion,” she said.

Chevalier at the Regional Health Professions Center.

Chevalier began taking classes before the pandemic and had to adjust to learning online. She is grateful to be back in the high-simulation lab for hands-on training. “Being able to put my hands on the equipment and work with simulated patients has been so beneficial. It’s been the key to learning lifesaving treatments.”

The Respiratory Therapy program includes clinical rotations in area hospitals interspersed with classroom and lab work. “We do a lot of critical thinking in class, and seeing the work done in the field really helps solidify the concepts,” she said.

Chevalier is working on her required clinical rotation hours at Lake Taylor hospital and has also done clinicals at Sentara, Bon Secours and Riverside hospitals.

Chevalier says that she chose TCC because her husband, Akil Chevalier, is an alum of the college. He earned an information technology associate degree before moving on for bachelor’s and master’s degrees in IT.

“I really never considered going anywhere else. I knew TCC was affordable and I’d get a quality education,” the mom of two added.

She continued by adding, “I can’t say enough good things about respiratory therapy as a career. We’re trained to make independent decisions about patient care while working as part of the critical care team. If you are looking to provide patient care, but want to master a speciality, respiratory therapy is the way to go.”

To learn more about the Respiratory Therapy program, prospective students are invited to Open House, which is held on the third Thursday of each month (except December) at 3 p.m. in the Regional Health Professions building on the Virginia Beach Campus. Email Program Director Denise Bieszczad at for more information.