Several schools offer online bachelor's degree programs in respiratory care, mostly as 2-year degree completion programs for individuals with associates degrees in the field. Many programs require that students have experience as respiratory therapy technicians or respiratory therapists. While the bachelor's programs may offer online coursework, there are also extensive clinical requirements that must be completed in a healthcare facility. This can usually be arranged at a facility convenient to the student.
Coursework covers technical skills, such as measuring blood gases and equipment operation. Students learn to communicate with medical staff and patients, and they explore the various respiratory conditions they might encounter. Classes may include pulmonary rehabilitation and home healthcare.
In most states, respiratory therapists must be licensed by the state. Graduates of these programs who are not already licensed should be eligible to take licensing exams. Certification from a professional organization, primarily the National Board for Respiratory Care, may be required for licensing, and, even if it is not, many employers prefer certified candidates.
Overview of Online Bachelor's Degrees in Respiratory Care
An online bachelor's degree program in respiratory care or respiratory therapy covers the evaluation, treatment and care of patients with cardiopulmonary disorders. Students acquire a range of technical skills, such as testing lung capacity, analyzing the composition of gases in the blood and setting up ventilators or other gas administration equipment.
They also gain competence in interviewing patients, consulting with physicians and evaluating and identifying breathing problems in patients, from infants to the elderly. Most bachelor's programs are completion programs, so applicants may need to have an associate's degree, and in some cases be working respiratory therapy technicians or respiratory therapists, to be accepted.
Classes in an online bachelor's degree program in respiratory care are offered either fully online or as an online-traditional classroom hybrid. Required credit hours of clinical practice must be completed at a participating medical facility. Students may access all lectures, readings and assignments through a school's website at their convenience, but must finish assignments by pre-set deadlines. Communication with instructors and other students is handled via online forums, e-mail, online chat sessions and phone. A bachelor's degree can be earned in four years, but a completion program typically takes two.
A personal computer, Internet access and Web browser are required for participation in an online program. Schools may use systems such as Blackboard to manage educational content.
Bachelor's degree programs in respiratory care integrate subject-specific courses with a general education core.
Respiratory Care Procedures
This course introduces students to the equipment and procedures used in respiratory therapy, as well as respiratory care theory. Equipment cleaning and sterilization, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and oxygen therapy are also covered.
Focuses on the structure and function of the human cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. Topics include respiration regulation, pH balance and blood dynamics.
Infant Respiratory Care
Students in this course learn to evaluate and manage cardiopulmonary conditions in infants. Coursework touches on resuscitation, ventilation and prevention of respiratory conditions.
Surveys a range of assessment and treatment techniques used in pulmonary rehabilitation. The interdisciplinary nature of rehab therapy receives particular emphasis.
Students in this course are introduced to issues in home health care and such concepts as disease management and outcome-based planning. The class also considers case management, discharge planning and Medicare.
An online bachelor's degree in respiratory care prepares new entrants to the field to become respiratory therapists, and working respiratory therapists to assume greater responsibility for the care of critically ill patients. Hospitals provide the most employment opportunities, but physicians' offices, retirement homes and home healthcare service providers also have job openings.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of respiratory therapists will grow 12% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The therapeutic needs of an increasing middle-aged and elderly population along with the expanding role therapists play in case management and disease prevention will drive growth. In May 2015, the BLS reported the median salary as $57,790.
Respiratory therapists who want to move into managerial or supervisory positions can consider earning a master's degree in their discipline. Some master's degree programs in respiratory therapy exist online.
Online bachelor's programs in respiratory therapy are available to students who have associate's degrees or experience as respiratory therapy technicians or respiratory therapists. Students learn technical and communication skills, as well as how to evaluate health problems.