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CCAC’s Respiratory Therapy program achieves perfect accreditation score

Program boasts 100% job placement rate due to increasing demand for skilled therapists

PITTSBURGH—The Community College of Allegheny County’s Respiratory Therapy Associate of Science Degree program received a perfect score last month from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). It is a repeat performance of the last time the program was accredited 10 years ago. Among the program’s strengths, according to CoARC, are an “engaged, interactive medical director, a well-equipped program laboratory, dedicated competent faculty, enthusiastic students and graduates, and a wide array of diverse clinical affiliates.”

“The accreditors were really impressed,” said Professor Richard Laurent, program coordinator, Respiratory Therapy and department chair, Allied Health.

The 100% rating also applies to the number of Respiratory Therapy students who secure jobs immediately upon graduation—in fact, many of the those who will graduate in May received multiple job offers after they began their clinical rotations in September. According to Laurent, there is a growing shortage of respiratory therapists because the first group of therapists in the relatively young field is nearing retirement age. As a result, CCAC students are often offered prospective jobs after just a couple of weeks in clinical internships where employers can observe their work ethic.

“We can guarantee them they’re going to have a job when they graduate,” said Laurent, who was in the first cohort of the CCAC Respiratory Therapy program in the 1970s. The graduates can practically choose where they want to work, in part due to the increasing number of medical facilities in the region, he said.

With the threat of COVID-19, or the coronavirus, taking hold in the region, skilled respiratory therapists will be in even greater demand. Affected patients in intensive care units are put on mechanical ventilators, which are operated by respiratory therapists in conjunction with doctors. Although there are always risks to health care practitioners, as long as standard precautions are followed, they should be fine, Laurent stated.

CCAC students also receive excellent hands-on training in a state-of-the-art lab that features mechanical ventilators and five interactive SimMan® simulators, which are anatomically correct mannequins used for teaching advanced life support skills. The students receive immediate responses from the “patient” based on their decisions. They are then able to view a video of their performance and learn from mistakes made in the lab, so when they get to the hospital or clinic, they are well prepared.

CCAC offers a Respiratory Therapy day program that starts in the fall as well as an evening and weekend program for nontraditional students that begins in May, with open enrollment all year. The evening program attracts many individuals who have a degree in another field but who are underemployed or are looking for a rewarding and well-paying career—the starting salary for respiratory therapists is $25 an hour.

Some of the graduates also pursue a Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy at Youngstown State University (YSU). An articulation agreement between CCAC and YSU enables graduates to seamlessly transfer to YSU and earn a bachelor’s degree through convenient online classes.

Deadline to register for the evening and weekend program is April 30; however, if the program is not full, applications will be accepted beyond that date. For more information about CCAC’s Respiratory Therapy Associate of Science Degree program, contact Professor Richard Laurent at or 412.237.2704.