Palm Beach State College will receive $700,000 in federal funds to expand and enhance its clinical training lab for students in the Respiratory Care Associate in Science degree program.
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, who was responsible for getting the funding in the 2022 fiscal year budget recently signed by President Joe Biden, made a formal announcement at a press conference April 13 in the Lewis Center on the Palm Beach Gardens campus.
“Palm Beach State College is especially recognized for the important role it plays in responding to the workforce needs of our community,’’ Frankel said. “There are millions of people who suffer from lung disease that kills four million people annually, so it’s not surprising that the employment of respiratory therapists—who take care of patients who have trouble breathing— is projected to grow at something like 23% in the next 10 years, much faster than most occupations, with a median wage of about $62,000.”
The 33-year-old Respiratory Care program, led by Dr. Nancy Latimer, professor and department chair, is recognized by the American Medical Association and accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. Students who complete the program are eligible to take the national board registry exam to become registered respiratory therapists, and the job placement rate is 100 percent. It plays a key role in filling the pipeline of respiratory care professionals in Palm Beach County, which became more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What’s interesting about health care and health sciences in general is that it’s always changing, always growing. If we’re going to ensure that our students are ready to go to work right away, we need an opportunity to ensure that what they have here is the same as what they will see in the hospitals. This (funding) will give us that chance,’’ said PBSC President Ava L. Parker, J.D.
The construction work is expected to begin in December. Ed Willey, dean of Health Sciences, who was the founding clinical coordinator of the Respiratory Care program, said the lab was last reconfigured in 1989 and “renovation is certainly needed.”
“This is a wonderful recognition for PBSC. The past two years with COVID-19 was personal for us. The shortage of health care workers, combined with worker burnout, and the impact of the pandemic on all our lives — personal and professional —has led to a greater need for respiratory therapists trained to work on the front lines of patient care in Palm Beach County,” said Dr. Becky Mercer, associate dean of academic affairs on the Palm Beach Gardens campus. “These congressional funds mean that our respiratory care students will have upgraded teaching laboratories in which to train in electrocardiography, pulmonary function testing, adult, neonatal and pediatric mechanical ventilation, intubation, arterial blood gases, aerosol therapy and more.”
To learn more about the Respiratory Care program and the 100% online Cardiopulmonary Sciences Bachelor of Science degree program, visit www.palmbeachstate.edu/career-pathways/pathway-health. To view more pictures, visit the flickr album.