The purpose of the Respiratory Care Program is to prepare outstanding advanced-level respiratory therapists (RTs) to meet the dynamic healthcare needs of the community. The Respiratory Care Program is career-oriented, and consists of classroom, laboratory, and clinical experiences. The program is a two-year curriculum that offers an Associate of Science in Respiratory Care degree. Upon successful completion of the licensure exam, the candidate is able to participate in a rewarding career working with individuals who may have a variety of lung and/or heart disorders.
Respiratory therapists (RTs) specialize in the evaluation, treatment, and care of patients with heart and lung problems. The RT works within the scope of physicians’ orders and/or established protocols to administer respiratory therapy to patients with chronic illness (such as asthma or emphysema), as well as acute illness (such as drowning, heart failure, or shock). The RT is a member of the hospital’s Cardiopulmonary Arrest Team and is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of the patient’s airway as well as life support equipment. The RT works with some of the most sophisticated machinery and medically frail patients present in healthcare today. The majority of respiratory therapists work in hospitals in Respiratory or Cardiopulmonary Departments. Critical thinking, patient/environment assessment skills, and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines enable respiratory therapists to develop and implement effective care plans, patient-driven protocols, and disease prevention and disease management programs. The RT can specialize in areas such as neonatal care, pediatrics, critical care, and pulmonary rehabilitation. Other career opportunities are available in physicians’ offices, home care, education, sales, and consulting.
The Respiratory Care Program is a limited admission program that consists of 76 credit hours and awards the Associate in Science in Respiratory Care upon successful completion. As a limited admission program, each applicant must first be admitted to the College and meet pre-admission requirements. Applicants are selected each year to begin the program in the fall semester. The College reserves the right to change the program and its requirements as needed.
The Respiratory Care Program requires a full-time commitment throughout the year, including a summer term during the first year. Due to clinical and specific courses required in the program, the student is encouraged to complete the majority of required science courses before entering the program. Most courses are offered Monday through Friday. Clinical experiences are integral to the Respiratory Care Program. The clinical assignments are provided in area healthcare facilities and may be assigned during a day shift (6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) or an evening shift (2:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.). The Respiratory Care lecture and lab courses are offered on the Lakeland Campus at 3425 Winter Lake Road.
The Respiratory Care Program has received initial accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) upon the recommendation of the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). Information on CAAHEP and CoARC can be obtained at: Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, 35 East Wacker Drive, Suite 1970, Chicago, IL 60601-2208; telephone number: 312-553-9355; and the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care, 1248 Harwood Road, Bedford, TX 76021-4244; telephone: 817-283-2835.
The following are the minimum requirements for application:
- Prospective students must gain acceptance to Polk State College as degree-seeking students with all required admission documents received by the Registrar’s Office. Applicants must achieve state standards for placement on the state-mandated college placement test or an accepted equivalent.
- Students must complete any required developmental education courses.
- Students must have an overall grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 or higher at the time of application and admission to the program.
- The following prerequisite course work must be in progress (or completed) at the time of application, and a grade of C or better must be attained in each course:
Please note that prerequisites to a program and courses that can be taken prior to admission to a program can change; students not yet admitted may be required to take additional or alternate prerequisites prior to admission to the program.
Note: BSC 2085C and BSC 2086C must have been completed within seven years of the time of application and acceptance to the program. Exceptions to this policy can be granted by the Program Director and are based on an individual's education and experience.
- Students must submit a complete and accurate Allied Health Application to the Respiratory Care Program Director.
- Respiratory Care is a limited admission program. The program uses a selective admission process. Those applicants with the best qualifications, as defined in the selection criteria, and who comply with all other pre-admission procedures and requirements may be admitted into the program.
- Students selected for the Respiratory Care Program enter the program in the fall (Term I) of the year.
All eligible applicants are considered for the Respiratory Care Program. The most qualified applicants are selected based upon current enrollment, completed coursework, and cumulative grade point average in prerequisite courses, program courses, and previous course work. The Respiratory Care Program selection committee may utilize members of the Polk State College Respiratory Care Advisory Board. The Advisory Board consists of various employers of respiratory therapists, including several hospital respiratory care directors.
Additional Program Requirements
Admission requirements that must be completed after the selection process has been finalized in order to remain enrolled in the program include:
- Completion of a physical examination and essential functions examination.
- Completion of immunizations and communicable disease screenings.
- Completion of CPR Certification for Healthcare Providers.
- Submission of a signed affidavit attesting to non-committance of specific criminal acts.
- Completion of a drug screening by a department-approved vendor.
- Completion of a national background check by a department-approved vendor.
The Respiratory Care Program provides information regarding the completion of these additional admission requirements with the acceptance letter. Applicants with a specific conviction or a positive drug screening may not be accepted into the Respiratory Care Program. Positive drug screenings and specific conviction histories occurring after full admission and matriculation in the program are addressed according to department policy and may be cause for dismissal from the program.
The approximate cost of the program is $10,500. This cost includes course fees, books, and uniforms. A complete list of fees is included with the application.
Registered Respiratory Therapists can expect a beginning pay of approximately $40,000-$50,000. Job openings are in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, home care, physicians’ offices, sales, and consulting.
Examination and Florida Licensure
Graduates of the Respiratory Care Program are required to take the entry-level examination administered by the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC). Upon passing the NBRC entry-level exam, the graduate is granted the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential by the NBRC. The CRT applies to the Florida Department of Health/Board of Respiratory Care; this allows the individual to become licensed under Florida Statute, Chapter 468, and accompanying rules and amendments. Upon receiving state licensure, the CRT is able to seek employment.
Once graduates have passed the entry-level examination, they are eligible to take the NBRC written-registry and clinical-simulation examinations. Upon passing both parts of the registry exam, the RRT (Registered Respiratory Therapist) credential is obtained. After notification of this credential is sent to the Florida Department of Health and completion of the application process, licensure as a Registered Respiratory Therapist in the State of Florida is granted.
The Florida Department of Health/Board of Respiratory Care is thorough in its requirements and background investigations associated with the licensure process. The Department of Health/Board of Respiratory Care has the authority to deny licensure to applicants with a conviction for any offense other than a minor traffic violation. Prospective students should be aware that a Social Security Number (SSN) is required to be issued a certificate or license by the Florida Department of Health, which is the licensing authority for healthcare licenses in Florida.