Number of respiratory therapy students on the rise to help fight COVID-19

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Posted at 2:41 PM, Nov 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-08 18:23:44-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Just a few years ago, many of us had never even heard of them, and now they are one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. We’re talking about respiratory therapists.

The need for these medical professionals has increased 23 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it’s due in large part to COVID.

On Monday, Concorde Career Institute welcomed their newest class of respiratory therapy students.

It wasn’t long ago that Clarence Weaver was graduating high school trying to figure out what’s next, and now he’s on his way to saving lives.

“The best way for me to make an impact and to help this pandemic and hopefully heal these people is to become a respiratory therapist and help treat these people, help them get better,” said Weaver.

Shanika Roach, Program Director for Concorde’s Respiratory Therapy Program, said prior to COVID, it was a challenge just finding students who even heard of respiratory therapy.

“So I have a lot of students who come in and say, ‘hey I saw this on TV, I heard family members talk about this, I had a family member with COVID and I saw what a respiratory therapist does and now I want to help someone,’” said Roach. “Now working with the next generation of respiratory therapists I now realize how important it is to put out good graduates, graduates who understand and are ready to work in the field and help those of us who are out there on the front lines.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 10,000 openings for respiratory therapists are projected each year on average.

“Every day I get phone calls, emails, ‘hey when are they graduating, how many do we have,’” said Roach.

Concorde has seen a 10 percent increase in enrollment over the past year.

“It is definitely possible to go directly from high school into this program and continue if you have the drive and work ethic to do it,” said Weaver.

The program lasts 18 months and consists of 900 hours of clinical work in the hospital. Christopher Hackl is among the newest class of students. He was medically discharged from the Navy after contracting COVID.

“It’s really something a lot of people take for granted until you are sitting there in that bed trying to just survive,” said Hackl. “I think everybody should be doing their best to try and help each other.”

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