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Calling BS on Complaints about Degree Requirements

Written by: Vester Gravley on Monday, June 6, 2016 Posted in:

Years ago, the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) began to organize a series of conferences to divine the future of the profession in “2015 and beyond.”  This June’s issue of AARC Times Magazine features a glimpse into various aspects of that future, one of which is recommended education levels.

Citing one of two broad statements made by the national organization at its Summer Forum 2015 in Phoenix, the article notes an “upgrade” to the association’s previous goal of increasing the number of RTs who hold bachelor’s degrees, calling for “80% of therapists to either hold a bachelor’s degree or be working toward one as the entry level into practice by the year 2020.” The hope is that, by 2017, the organization will see “a significant increase in bachelor-degreed therapists over the 2014 (survey) figures.”

At the AARC Congress 2015 in Tampa, another statement was approved, calling for “all new RT educational programs to be accredited at the bachelor’s degree level or higher,” encouraging the progression from the associate’s level to the baccalaureate level as soon as possible. This latter issue has always been the cow pie in the cookies due to colleges’ and universities’ need to maintain enrollment quotas, graduate rates, and tuition dollars. This is especially true for smaller programs such as those in the community college setting. However, the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) is putting teeth to the vision, stating that it will “no longer accredit new respiratory care programs that do not offer at least a bachelor’s degree.”

This issue has stirred various and sometimes heated responses from educational programs on the one hand (who are complaining about decreased enrollment numbers and the threat of closing down programs altogether thus drying up the pipeline of new therapists in the profession) and employers (who are concerned about the affordability of hiring bachelor-level graduates) on the other.

Now, this is where calling BS is imperative. While other specialized therapies require master’s and even doctorate-level preparation to practice, respiratory therapy languishes far, far behind, losing more and more ground and professional respect. The time is now; the future is upon us!