Respiratory Care Students Breathe Easy About Future Career

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There is a growing demand for respiratory therapists who have a passion for helping others breathe easier.  Casey Shenefield, a respiratory care student at North Central State College, wanted to find a way to serve others as a Navy reservist.  “Getting out of the military full-time, I wanted to continue to serve in some capacity so with the help of my sister (who is currently a respiratory therapist) I discovered that NC State, which is local to me, had a great Respiratory Care program.”

Respiratory therapists help treat patients with breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders.  They take care of people who have trouble breathing – for example because of conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Shenefield has been in the Navy for 10 years active and three years in the reserve.  “I looked into NC State College before joining the Navy,” he explains.  “My sister has several colleagues who went through the program at North Central and highly recommended that I attend college here.  They told me it is a great program to prepare me for a career in respiratory therapy.”

North Central’s Respiratory Care Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. There are more than 185,000 respiratory care practitioners in the United States.  In a recent study by the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), 75% of respiratory care practitioners work in hospitals side-by-side with physicians and nurses as a vital part of the healthcare team.  Others work in laboratories, home health care, skilled nursing facilities, physicians’ offices, sales, education, and research.

“This career is one of those hidden gems within the healthcare field,” Shenefield says proudly.  “It’s something you don’t hear a lot about until you do your research or you are involved in the hospital with respiratory therapists.  I feel like the program here at North Central goes above and beyond to fully prepare you to do your job and be successful once you are in the hospital setting.”

Shenefield has already earned a degree in criminology but decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in respiratory care using the GI Bill to return to college during his military career.  GI Bill benefits help members of the military pay for college, graduate school, or training programs.  Since 1944, the GI Bill has helped qualifying veterans and their families get money to cover all or some of the costs for school or training.

“Coming to NC State, I was able to work with financial aid offices to get the GI Bill set up,” Shenefield says.  “They made the process super simple.  It was just a couple of paperwork items from my side and they established financial aid through the bill quickly and efficiently.”

Students in the respiratory therapist program learn a lot about patient care including drawing blood, oxygen therapy, medication delivery as well as cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Shenefield says his favorite part about the program is learning about the ventilators.  He explains, “I like the mechanical aspect of the ventilators, like how we can manipulate the body to do what we need it to continue to survive.”

“The same equipment that we are training on in class is the same equipment we are seeing in the hospitals in our clinical sites,” he says.  “Being able to have hands-on experience with the same equipment we are going to use in the real world is very helpful.”

In the Respiratory Care program at North Central, after the first two semesters, students have the opportunity to apply for a limited student permit.  It gives them the opportunity through the summer and the remaining time at NC State College to work full-time in a hospital setting.  Students are compensated and get to be more hands-on as they prepare for graduation. Graduates in the program are eligible to take the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) examination to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist and to attain a Respiratory Care license in the state of Ohio.

Shenefield will graduate from the program in May of 2024.  He says, “Just knowing the day I step out of NC State, I have an opportunity to work in a hospital right away is awesome.”