March 24-25, 1999

ITEM 102-1006-R0399 Approval of Proposal to Add an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Respiratory Care, College of Technology; The University of Montana-Missoula

THAT: The Board of Regents of Higher Education authorizes the College of Technology of The University of Montana-Missoula to award an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Respiratory Care.

EXPLANATION: The Respiratory Therapy Technology program responds to the need for qualified respiratory practitioners in Montana. Current program enrollment and placement data suggest a continuing need for the program. This proposal addresses needs suggested by respiratory care professional organizations as addressed in the following from the Position Statement on Educational Preparation for Entry Into Practice as a Respiratory Therapy Practitioner:

"Job analysis research by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) reveals that employers now expect higher skill levels from entry level practitioners. Additionally, the NBRC has noted diverging success rates on the entry level examination that directly correlates with the Respiratory Care educational level of the candidate. A technologically qualified practitioner who lacks the skills afforded by a broad education, is disadvantaged by the demands of our evolving health care system.

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) and the Joint Review Committee for Respiratory Therapy Education (JRCRTE) recently agreed to the formation of a new accrediting agency for Respiratory Care education programs which is scheduled to begin its activities on January 1, 1998. This agency, the Committee on Accreditation of Respiratory Care Programs (COARC), will propose to its sponsors that new Essentials (Standards) include a minimum of an associate degree in Respiratory Care at the entry level. The NBRC fully supports both the new accrediting agency and the proposed increased entry level requirement. Therefore, the AARC, JRCRTE, and the NBRC support the minimum educational requirement for entry into the practice of Respiratory Care to become the completion of an accredited Respiratory Care program granting an associate degree or higher."

Information provided by the Montana Career Information System (1996) stated the following in regards to the outlook for the respiratory therapy profession in Montana:

"Employment is projected to grow faster than the statewide average for all occupations in Montana. Nationally, employment in this occupation is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2005. There are more types of surgery at which respiratory therapists must be present. There are increasing numbers of people over 65 who have more heart and lung problems than the rest of the population. Opportunities exist for those with a four-year degree who have specialized in outpatient respiratory education or diagnosis and testing. Prospects are best for those who are registered."

Further documentation for the need for registered respiratory therapists can be found in Job Projections for Montana's Industries and Occupations 1994-2005, published January 1997 by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.

Program evaluations sent to graduates and employees six months following graduation from the College of Technology in Missoula show strong evidence for the desire for this program to become a registry program instead of a technician program. Accrediting agencies will soon require higher skill levels from graduates. The current program lacks the time needed to teach those additional skills.

In summary, projected growth and needs for respiratory therapists in Montana document the need for respiratory therapists. Graduates and employers state that additional skills are required to be technologically qualified. The professional organization is in the process of requiring a minimum of an associate degree as the minimum educational requirement for entry into practice. It is just a matter of time before this will be mandated. It is the desire of the Respiratory Therapy Technology program personnel and the advisory committee to be proactive rather than reactive. Our desire is to have the program already upgraded before this mandate is given.

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