Jun 21, 2024  
Catalog/Handbook 2023-2024 
Catalog/Handbook 2023-2024

Respiratory Care, AS

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Program: AS-25585

The purpose of the Respiratory Care Program is to prepare outstanding entry-level respiratory therapists (RTs) to meet the dynamic healthcare needs of the community. The two-year Polk State Respiratory Care Program is career-oriented, and consists of classroom, laboratory, and clinical experiences that lead to an Associate in Science in Respiratory Care degree. Upon successful completion of the national board exam, the graduate is eligible to apply for a respiratory therapist state license. The state license allows the graduate to participate in a rewarding career working with individuals who have a variety of lung and heart disorders.

A respiratory therapist (RT) specializes in the evaluation, treatment, and care of patients with heart and lung problems. The RT works within the scope of physicians’ orders and established protocols to administer respiratory therapy to patients with chronic illness (e.g., asthma, emphysema), as well as acute illness (e.g., drowning, heart failure, 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 fragile patients present in healthcare today. The majority of respiratory therapists work in hospitals in respiratory or cardiopulmonary departments. Critical thinking, patient- and environment-assessment skills, and evidence-based clinical practices enable a respiratory therapist 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 critical care, pediatric and neonatal 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 experiences and specific courses required in the program, the student is encouraged to complete the majority of required General Education 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 (i.e., 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) or an evening shift (i.e., 2:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.). The Respiratory Care lecture and lab courses are offered on the Lakeland Campus.


The Polk State College Respiratory Care Program is accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care, 264 Precision Blvd, Telford, TN 37690; telephone: 817.283.2835.

Admission Criteria

The Respiratory Care Program uses a selective-admissions process. Applicants selected for the program enter in the fall (Term 1). The following are the minimum requirements for program application:

  1. The prospective student must gain acceptance to Polk State College as a degree-seeking student with all required admission documents received by the Registrar’s Office.
  2. The applicant must complete any required Developmental Education courses.
  3. The applicant must have an overall GPA of 2.0 (or higher) at the time of application and admission to the program.
  4. The following prerequisite coursework must be in progress (or completed) at the time of application, and a grade of C or better must be attained in each course prior to matriculation into the program:

Note: BSC 2085C and BSC 2086C (Anatomy and Physiology I and II) must have been completed within seven years of the time of application and acceptance to the program. Exceptions to this policy may only be granted by the Program Director and are based on an individual’s education and experience.

  1. The applicant must submit a complete and accurate Polk State College Respiratory Care Application to the Respiratory Care Program Director via the online Etrieve portal.

Note: Prerequisites to a program and courses that can be taken prior to admission can change. A student not yet admitted may be required to take additional or alternate prerequisites prior to admission.

Selection Criteria

All eligible applicants are considered for the Respiratory Care Program. The most qualified applicants are selected based upon current course enrollment, completed coursework, and the cumulative grade point average (GPA) earned in prerequisite courses, program-required courses, and previous coursework. 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

Additional requirements to be completed after the selection process include:

  1. Completion of a physical examination and essential functions examination.
  2. Completion of immunizations and communicable disease screenings.
  3. Completion of CPR Certification for Healthcare Providers.
  4. Submission of a signed affidavit attesting that the applicant has not committed specific criminal acts.
  5. Completion of a drug screening by a department-approved vendor.
  6. Completion of a national background check by a department-approved vendor.

The Respiratory Care Program provides information regarding the completion of these additional requirements with the acceptance letter. An applicant with a specific conviction or a positive drug screening may not be accepted into the Respiratory Care Program. A positive drug screening or conviction occurring after full admission and matriculation into the program is addressed according to departmental policy and may cause dismissal from the program.

Program Cost

The cost of the program is approximately $12,000. This cost includes course fees, books, and uniforms. A complete list of fees is included with the application.

Examination and Florida Licensure

Each graduate of the Respiratory Care Program is required to take the Therapist Multiple Choice (TMC) Examination administered by the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC). Upon passing the TMC Exam, the graduate is granted the NBRC Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential. Once the graduate has obtained the CRT designation, he or she applies to the Florida Department of Health Board of Respiratory Care; this allows the individual to become licensed under Florida Statute Chapter 468 and its accompanying rules and amendments. Upon receiving state licensure, the CRT is able to seek employment.

Once the graduate has attained the registry-eligible requirements of the TMC Examination, he or she may take the NBRC Clinical Simulation Examination. Upon passing both parts (i.e., the TMC Exam and the Clinical Simulation Examination), the RRT (Registered Respiratory Therapist) credential is obtained. After notification of this credential is sent to the Florida Department of Health with 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 Board has the authority to deny licensure to an applicant with a conviction for any offense other than a minor traffic violation. A prospective student should be aware that a Social Security Number (SSN) is required to be issued a certificate or license by the Florida Department of Health, the state’s healthcare licensing authority.

The Polk State College Respiratory Care Program is highly successful in its training. For example, in 2020 and 2022, 100% of program graduates achieved Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) licensing, leading to a 100% employment rate.

Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs):
Upon successful completion of the program, the graduate is able to:
PLO 1: Demonstrate consistent and appropriate use of the scientific principles that form the foundation of respiratory care practice.
PLO 2: Assess and apply information related to the normal and abnormal states of physiology, specifically cardiopulmonary physiology.
PLO 3: Apply the necessary skillsets, ethical guidelines, and professional behaviors required of a respiratory therapist within a healthcare setting. 
PLO 4: Appropriately apply the equipment, medical gases, and medications utilized by the respiratory therapist.
PLO 5: Demonstrate the appropriate skills, techniques, and protocols associated with safe practice in respiratory care.
PLO 6: Communicate effectively using both oral and written formats.
PLO 7: Display the critical-thinking skills and analytical abilities necessary for continuous personal and professional growth related to respiratory care.

General Education Requirements (20 Credits Required)

Total Program Hours: 76

Civic Literacy Competency

Pursuant to Rule 6A-10.02413 of the Florida Administrative Code, effective in the Fall 2022 Semester, competency in civic literacy is a requirement for all students receiving an Associate in Science degree. Competency in civic literacy must be demonstrated through one of the two options listed below:

Option 1:


  • Successful completion of the Florida Civic Literacy Examination with a score of 60% or better.

Option 2:

Completion of one of the following assessments with the score indicated:

  • The Advanced Placement (AP) Exam in Government and Politics: United States with a score of three or better.
  • The Advanced Placement (AP) Exam in United States History with a score of four or better.
  • The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) American Government Exam with a score of 50 or better.
  • The Florida Civic Literacy Examination with a score of 60% or better.

Note: All approved accelerated credit is listed in Credit-By-Exam Equivalencies. The Credit-by-Exam section of the Florida State Articulation Committee website provides further details.

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