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Demand for respiratory therapists increases as COVID-19 cases rise

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 3:28 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - As COVID-19 cases ramp up across the United States, there is a huge need for respiratory therapists, not just in hospitals but also in the classroom.

LSU Health Shreveport says they are looking to fill many of these empty seats next semester.

“I think just the need for patient care in that capacity has increased and we just can’t graduate the person fast enough, so even though we are casting a broad net to try to recruit, we just are the best kept secret,” said LSU Health Shreveport Cardiopulmonary Science professor Dr. Tim Gilmore.

Shortness of breath is a leading symptom of COVID-19, and one of the main roles of respiratory therapists is helping patients on ventilators.

Gilmore says there is not only a shortage of the therapists in hospitals, but also those showing interest in the field.

“We need more good, qualified applicants therefore we can have larger classes to fulfill the community need. Currently the need for respiratory therapists is unprecedented,” said Gilmore.

He says the issue is that many do not know about the profession. Back in May 2020, LSU Health Shreveport graduated six students and Bossier Parish Community College graduated 13 students.

“Before I talked to admissions at the School of Allied Health, I didn’t know what they did, I thought it was some type of nursing, handling vents. And then coming into this program and learning so much about ventilators and learning how to do ABG’s and interpreting them, it really is a hidden gem,” said recent grad Ernesto Peña.

The U.S Bureau of Labor statistics report that in May 2020, the average median annual wage for respiratory therapists was more than $62,000, and the need for therapists is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

Gilmore says last year, students graduated early to help meet the demand in hospitals. There is no similar plan for this year, unless cases continue to rise.

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