Bob Martin: Hello and welcome to the second episode of our Top Careers in 2022 series on Imagine America Radio. Today, we’re going to be focusing on, specifically, fast-growing careers. Joining us today is Jim Bologa. Jim is the president and CEO of Porter and Chester Institute and YTI Career Institute. Today, we’re going to talk about the future of respiratory therapy careers. As a leading provider of education and respiratory therapy career programs, we couldn’t think of anyone better than to talk about this than Jim and, specifically, YTI Career Institute. Let’s start by telling our listeners exactly what a respiratory therapist does, Jim.
Jim Bologa: Respiratory therapists care for patients who are having trouble breathing. So, for example, anybody who might have any kind of chronic respiratory disease such as asthma or emphysema. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock. And they are considered a specialized health care practitioner, trained in critical care and cardiopulmonary medicine. And they do work therapeutically with people suffering from both acute as well as critical or chronic conditions. And along with cardiac and pulmonary disease, respiratory therapists will work with folks from all ages—from neonatal all the way up to geriatric.
Lee Doubleday: Wow. All right. Well, it’s no secret to our listeners that the reason—why this particular career is in such high demand. But now that we have a better understanding of what a respiratory therapist does, can you briefly explain the career opportunity for respiratory therapists? What does the Bureau of Labor Statistics data say about the demand for this profession?
Jim: Yeah. If you take a look at the BLS data, the employment of respiratory therapists is projected to grow 23% from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. There’s about 10,000 openings for respiratory therapists projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who are transferring to different occupations or exiting the labor force. And again, I think with the advent of COVID, it’s further exacerbated the need for respiratory therapists and in many health care settings.
Lee: Yeah, I mean, I knew respiratory therapists were in high demand, basically just by listening to the news. But are you seeing a lot of respiratory therapists retiring from the industry as well because of COVID—and that increases the demand?
Jim: Yeah, we are seeing that. I mean, I think depending on where you’re at in your life cycle and where you’re at in terms of your own makeup, in terms of your immune system—we are seeing folks retire. And again, as the COVID gets deeper, we’re definitely seeing increased demand for that. Because again, there are folks who’ve been doing this for a long time who are deciding at this point to retire. And there’s probably an element of just the physical and mental fatigue of doing this during COVID and the increased hours and being at that age where folks are looking to just take a break.
Lee: Right. Yeah, I mean, I can see why it’s projected to grow 23% then. Jim, I have a two-parted question for you. With this being such an in-demand field, should someone go to school to learn how to become a respiratory therapist? And how long is a respiratory therapy program?
Jim: Well, yeah, the short answer is yes, you do need to go to school. And our program is 20 months in length. It’s 1,932 hours, or 120 quarter credit hours, and our students will end up receiving an associate’s degree in specialized technology in respiratory therapy. So, the long and the short of it is, if you want to become a respiratory therapist, it does require an associate’s degree. And it does require you to spend, generally, up to 24 months pursuing that. Our program is a little bit shorter than that. And so, we’re excited about the fact that students can come to our school and get through the program in just 20 months.
Bob: In fact, I think you were a driver on us looking at this as a career. And I think that—my gut tells me that this was like a sleeping career up until COVID. All of a sudden, we started to see all these things happening with people and respiratory issues and coming up in demand for more. So, I want to make sure I got it straight. What you’re seeing is an aging workforce, which is increased demand. We’re seeing a COVID situation that may be forcing career decisions earlier for people that are just—they just don’t want—they want to get out of it. But do you also see this huge—I, at least, if I say that—I see just a huge new number of job opportunities here?
Jim: No, I think you’re spot on. I think that with the advent of any respiratory disease or with heightened respiratory diseases, there’s definitely the increased need for respiratory care. And I think it’s just becoming—people are becoming much more aware of this as a profession. And I think that with regards to COVID or any kind of respiratory virus or disease that’s out there, I think this is just the beginning of those kinds of things happening. And that’s just going to continue, I believe, to fuel the demand for respiratory care.
Bob: I’m not trying to imply that it’s kind of cool now. What I’m trying to say is that they’ve taken something that was essential before and not a lot of people knew about it and [inaudible] a top-shelf kind of thing. And now people just say, “Yeah, I really would like to help people. And I really would like to do this, and look at all the people, the opportunities—” That’s kind of the way I’m seeing it. Maybe I’m wrong. I could be wrong.
Jim: No, I think, again, COVID has definitely shone the light, if you will, on a number of different vocations that are deemed to be essential and critical to the day-to-day operation of our economies across our country and across the world, for that matter. I think respiratory therapy is one of those that folks never really thought about or had any contact with.
Lee: Yeah. I liked—to your point, Bob. A lot of people are thinking about “how can I help?” And that they were already maybe interested in a health care position but didn’t know that this existed up until now. And it’s a really great way for them to help. And it only requires an associate degree as opposed to a bachelor’s degree or something else. And it might be an easier way to kind of get their foot in the door, get into the hospitals to make a difference.
Jim: Yeah. And I would say the other thing, too, that we’ve done, which we’re really excited about is, we’ve taken our program and are delivering it now—versus it being completely residential in delivery—but we’ve actually taken it to a hybrid model where it’s lecture online, and your clinical experience where you live. So, we’re pretty excited about that delivery method. And it’s really, I think, making a difference for folks who do want to integrate some education in their lives with their families and with their existing work commitments and other family commitments and other types of commitments. So, we feel that the program that we’ve designed as a result of COVID really addresses the need for today’s student.
Bob: Good point. You said it. I think you’re spot on because I also think, though, that there’s an expectation within the student population that this is what they expect to see. If I’m going to be in a twenty-first-century respiratory therapy program, I expect to see some kind of hybrid model so I don’t have to always be going in. I can do it from the comfort of my home, the security of my home. I think there’s that expectation now from students. Speaking of expectations, talk to us a little bit about—we talk to guidance counselors and parents all the time, and we hear from them that they want to give good advice to these young people and what’s going on. But what I’m moving toward is, do you see three or four personality traits within people that are coming into this that we could convey back to our audience to say, “Hey, these are the kinds of people that seem to do really well in respiratory therapy”?
Jim: Yeah, sure. I mean, in terms of characteristics that I think go into making for a good respiratory therapist—I think, first off, you really have to be compassionate. You’re going to need to be able to provide emotional support to patients while they’re undergoing treatment and be sympathetic to their needs. I mean, it’s a scary time when you’re having to either go onto a ventilator or sort of participate in that breathing process. So, I think, first and foremost, definitely have to be compassionate. You also, I think, have to exercise a tremendous degree of patience with your patients. And then I think having good interpersonal skills is also helpful, and then I think you need to be detail-oriented and have good problem-solving skills. And, again, I mean, there is some science and math as well, so. Those are some of the highlights that I think go into making for a good respiratory therapist, in terms of the underlying qualities that that person could have.
Bob: Amen, and thank God we’re producing a lot of them. And one thing that you didn’t touch upon, but it was surrounding the entire conversation, is they’re so smart. They’re just so, so smart now. They got so much information coming in, and they’re able to—the young people now, the new therapists are able to take all this different information from so many different sources, deal with interpersonal relations. It’s such an exciting career for the right kind of person. We’re so lucky to have a lot of them going into it.
Jim: No, absolutely. It is important that students are comfortable with technology because, again, they’re going to be interacting with some of that technology in the health care setting to work with the patients as well. So, no question about it. It’s a very—I think—rewarding career for somebody who wants to go into health care.
Bob: Yeah. And you don’t have to go get a four-year degree. You don’t have to commit yourself to all that long period of time. You can look at making an impact and getting in and doing it in as little as 24 months. Plus, the personal satisfactions are immense—absolutely immense. Jim, before we take off—I want to make sure I’m not cutting in on Lee. Before we take off, why don’t you give us some of the contact information for people that want to get information about YTI respiratory therapy? And maybe you got some counselors who just want to talk about this whole hybrid model. I don’t know. But why don’t you give us the www dot?
Jim: Yeah, no. Absolutely. Yeah. For anybody who’s interested in finding more information, go to www.yti.edu. Again, that’s yti.edu. And if you just look up the respiratory therapy program on our website, you’ll be able to find that. You’ll find that the program is accredited through COARC, and you can find all the other bits and pieces of information around the program itself. I mentioned some of the months—I mean, again, 20 months to complete. And we do have career services—folks who work with our students as they get ready to graduate to find employment. And, again, I think there’s a lot of information on our website. And for those folks who want to take the next step, there’s definitely buttons on our website where they can apply now, and they can communicate with us however they choose. They can either text us, email us, an old-fashioned phone call, a Zoom call. We’re always available and willing to have any kind of communication with prospective students and their families and answer any questions we can for them.
Bob: Yeah. Great episode. Great conversation. Would you agree, Lee?
Lee: Yeah, it was.
Bob: We want to thank Jim Bologa, president of Porter and Chester and YTI Institute, for a great discussion on the respiratory therapy careers. This has been our second episode in our Top Careers of 2022 on Imagine America Radio.