Respiratory therapists (RTs) are health care specialists that evaluate, treat and educate patients with cardiopulmonary (heart-lung) disorders. They work closely with physicians, nurses and other allied health members in critical care units, emergency rooms, nurseries and pediatrics, medical units and home care. RTs may be responsible for patient assessment, medical gas therapy, pulmonary hygiene, diagnostic testing, mechanical ventilatory and cardiovascular support, and rehabilitation activities.
The practice of respiratory care encompasses activities in diagnostic evaluation, therapy, and education of the patient, family and public. Diagnostic activities include obtaining and analyzing sputum and blood specimens, performing breathing studies to determine if lung function is impaired, performing sleep disorder studies and interpreting the data obtained from these. Therapy includes administering medical gases and respiratory medications to alleviate breathing problems, applying and monitoring mechanical ventilatory and cardiovascular support, maintaining artificial airways, performing bronchopulmonary hygiene procedures and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation. Education of the patient, family and public promotes knowledge of disease processes, medical therapy and wellness. These essential functions of the RT are practiced under qualified medical direction.
Graduates of the respiratory care program are eligible to complete a series of national examinations administered by the National Board of Respiratory Care that lead to the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential. Most states require a license to practice respiratory care and use these examinations or verification of credentials for state licensing. To remain licensed, RTs may also be required to obtain continuing education credit. Graduates readily find employment in hospital, clinic and home care settings throughout the country. Additional career opportunities exist in management, education, sleep medicine, research, sales and public health. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of respiratory therapists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2020. This increase is attributed to a substantial growth in numbers of the middle-aged and elderly population that will heighten the incidence of cardiopulmonary disease. In addition, advances in preventing and detecting disease, improved medication, and more sophisticated treatments will increase the demand for RTs. The mean annual earnings for RTs is $57,200 (www.bls.gov; Occupational Outlook Handbook, National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, May 2012).
The NDSU/Sanford Respiratory Care Program
A Bachelor of Science degree with a major in respiratory care from North Dakota State University includes two to three years of academic course work and a 15-month internship at Sanford Medical Center. The NDSU/Sanford Respiratory Care program is accredited by the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.
Academic course work includes college algebra, chemistry, physics, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, psychology and computer science. Students must meet general education requirements and requirements of the major. Transfer students need to successfully complete a minimum of 20 resident credits at NDSU prior to starting an internship. Each student also is required to complete a minimum of 12 credits of 300-400 level special elective courses on campus.
Special elective courses should be closely related to the clinical area in which students wish to specialize. Common specialty areas include: neonatal/pediatric general or intensive care, adult general or intensive care, emergency medical services, cardiopulmonary diagnostics, pulmonary rehabilitation or home care, education, and management. A list of approved special elective courses is available from the advisor.
Near the end of the internship year, students design a specialty proposal for an Individual Study (RC 494). Guidelines for this proposal are provided by Sanford Respiratory Care program faculty during the internship. Proposals are presented to a consortial committee for approval.
Internship Selective Admission
The full-time internship consists of lecture, lab and clinical education, which prepare the student to enter the profession of respiratory care. Admission to the internship is selective and based upon successful completion of all internship prerequisites (20 resident credits at NDSU), cumulative and core course grade point averages, career motivation, references and an interview. In addition, students must comply with criminal background and student conduct requirements. Applications are available from the respiratory care advisor; deadline for submission is March 1. An admission committee makes the selections.
General Education RequirementsCredits
|First Year Experience |
|Univ. 189 - Skills for Academic Success
| Comm. 110 - Fundamentals of Public Speaking
|Engl. 110, 120 - College Composition I, II
|| 3, 3
| English Upper Level Writing Course
| Stat. 330 - Introduction to Statistics
|Science & Technology|
|Biol. 220, 220L - Human Anatomy and Physiology I and Lab
|| 3, 1
|CSci. 114 - Microcomputer Packages or
CSci. 116 - Business Use of Computers
|| 3 or 4
|Micr. 202, 202L - Introduction to Microbiology and Lab
|| 2, 1
|Humanities & Fine Arts
|Social & Behavioral Sciences |
|Psyc. 111 - Introduction to Psychology
|| 3 |
| Social and Behavioral Sciences Elective
|| 3 |
|| 2 |
| Cultural Diversity
|| - |
|Biol. 221, 221L - Human Anatomy and Physiology II and Lab
|| 3, 1|
|Chem. 121, 121L - Principles of Chemistry I and Lab
|| 3, 1|
|Chem. 122, 122L - Principles of Chemistry II and Lab
|Chem. 240 - Survey of Organic Chemistry
|Chem. 260 - Elements of Biochemistry or
Bioc. 460 - Foundations of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology I
|| 3 or 4|
|HNES 210 - First Aid and CPR
|Math. 103 - College Algebra
|Phrm. 125 - Medical Terminology for Health Professionals
|Phys. 120 - Fundamentals of Physics
|RC 111 - Introduction to Respiratory Care
|RC 496 - Internship
|| 51 |
This sample curriculum is not intended to serve as a curriculum guide for current students, but rather an example of course offerings for prospective students. For the curriculum requirements in effect at the time of entrance into a program, consult with an academic advisor or with the Office of Registration and Records.
Department of Allied Sciences
North Dakota State University
Dept # 2680
PO Box 6050
Sudro Hall 118U
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Tel: (701) 231-8713
Fax: (701) 231-7606
Robyn Urlacher, Director
Respiratory Care Program
Sanford Medical Center
PO Box 2010
Fargo, ND 58122-0207
Tel: (701) 234-6147
Office of Admission
North Dakota State University
Dept 5230, PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Tel: (701) 231-8643
Fax: (701) 231-8802