Two-year program to address a shortage of critical inpatient and outpatient care team members
With the start of Vermont’s 2023-24 academic year just around the corner, leaders from UVM Health Network, Vermont State University and Community College of Vermont (CCV) on Wednesday welcomed more than a dozen students who will enter the University’s revitalized Respiratory Therapy Training program this year.
The students – 14 of whom will begin classes this fall, as part of the program’s first two cohorts of learners – hail from communities across Vermont and organizations throughout UVM Health Network. They heard messages of welcome and encouragement from health system and academic leaders, who gathered at the University’s Williston Campus, where the program’s classroom and hands-on clinical training spaces are located, to celebrate the revitalization of a program that had been in danger of being shuttered due to financial challenges and waning student interest.
“Earn-while-you-learn programs like this are critical to solving Vermont’s workforce challenges, particularly in healthcare,” said Joyce Judy, president of the Community College of Vermont. “This is an example of combining the resources of three institutions to accomplish far more together than any of us could on our own. We’re giving hard-working Vermonters the opportunity and the support to grow their knowledge and skills while continuing to earn a paycheck. It’s a win for students, hospitals and Vermont.”
In May, UVM Health Network, Vermont State University and Community College of Vermont announced a partnership designed to reinvigorate the program by focusing on reducing barriers to entry and supporting non-traditional learners. The Network invested $1.4 million in the two-year training pipeline, which is the only program of its kind in Vermont, providing tuition support and scholarships for students and operational funding for the program. As part of the partnership, CCV is providing support and resources for students who need to complete course prerequisites prior to enrolling, and Vermont State University has expanded the number of students the program accepts in each cohort.
“Today we are celebrating students whose desire to care for their communities embodies the mission of UVM Health Network,” said Jerald Novak, Chief People Officer of UVM Health Network. “Every one of them is here in pursuit of the knowledge and skills that will enable them to support and care for patients in careers that play critical roles on clinical teams across the healthcare continuum. I am proud to welcome them as the newest generation of aspiring healthcare professionals, and excited to see the positive impacts they will make on the lives around them.”
Respiratory therapists are highly-trained medical specialists whose focus is caring for patients with breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders that can stem from a wide variety of conditions and events, including acute respiratory distress syndrome – a serious condition that can occur following injuries or an illness like COVID-19. They work in a variety of clinical settings, from emergency rooms and intensive care units, to outpatient clinics; and with a variety of patients, from newborns to senior citizens.
“In Vermont – and at Vermont State University – we identify a problem and we get to work solving it,” said Vermont State University Interim President Mike Smith. “The pandemic proved how critically important respiratory therapists are, and Vermont State, in partnership with the UVM Health Network, put together a low-cost to no-cost way that Vermonters can earn the credentials for this well-paying, in-demand career. Congratulations to these students. I can’t wait to see what they accomplish!”
Vermont State University’s program, which is based at the system’s Williston campus, is the only Vermont-based respiratory therapy education program. The program provides students opportunities to train at multiple hospitals in Vermont and New York State, in addition to helping them secure clinical internships as part of their preparation for the National Board Respiratory Care credentialing exam to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). Visit VermontState.edu/Respiratory for more information.
UVM Health Network’s investment in the Respiratory Therapy Training Program is part of its transformative work to address national healthcare workforce shortages and patient access to care. To learn more about the Network’s growing suite of workforce development programs and initiatives, visit www.uvmhealthimpact.org