An essential need, breathing

Shawnee State University students practicing labs on campus with each other.

Two SSU respiratory therapy students working on a model for a lab.

Shawnee State University Respiratory Program, Left to right: Lee Anne Pate, M.Ed., RRT Clinical Coordinator/Instructor and Amy France, M.S., RRT, Director/Instructor

Amber Jones first-year respiratory therapy student class of 2022

PORTSMOUTH — The world as we know it has changed in the year 2020 and it is with this change that the career as a respiratory therapist has changed and has brought it to the forefront.

Speaking with Amy France, MS/RRT and Director of the Respiratory Therapy program at Shawnee State University, people are used to hearing about doctors and nurses during the pandemic, but now they are finally recognizing the respiratory therapists who are essential in the healing when dealing with COVID-19.

France has been the director of the respiratory therapy program at SSU for ten years. Through these years, things of course have changed, but never as much as the changes that have taken place this year. She is also a graduate of the SSU Respiratory Therapy program with an associate’s degree and also a graduate of the bachelor’s degree program there.

When talking about some of the changes in the teaching of the program, France says that used to when she would introduce potential students to the program, she would show them videos of how big of a need therapists are and that they are needed all the time, but they are stand out now because COVID has drawn attention to their profession. “We are always there for codes and with people in respiratory distress, premature infants, but especially now. we are running vents, we’ve always run them, but now people are seeing it becoming spotlighted.”

France says, “Where they can’t shadow and see exactly what therapist does, I try to get them to look at different websites and we did a video to try to show them what they learn in classes and things of what the therapist does. We get calls and see every week now, people looking for jobs that need filled. All of these places are trying to recruit because there is such a great need. For this year, I had this year some higher applications, so people are not getting scared off, it’s actually gotten our name out there. Before, we were in the hospitals, but no one knew us.”

France continued, “On the Outlook Handbook we were projected as a growing profession and this will make it even more so. The outlook for this year states 19% much faster than average growth. We are an associate program and applications are due April 1st. Our max for accreditation is 24. If someone has questions, they can contact me at

The Respiratory Therapy program at SSU has aged in the respiratory program that ranges anywhere from 17 to 50 years old, some who are looking from displacement or looking for a new career. France says, “I’ve had brothers and sisters, married couples, mothers and daughters maybe not at the same time, but soon after. The protocols have changed some too, we normally teach protection at the beginning, but more so now, it is more strengthened in that area for them to know how to protect themselves. We are a very disciplined and strict program, but we have had to ease up as far as attendance and things, due to the virtual online class. Starting out in the fall, if we have any student that has contact with COVID, they have to stay at home, so we are streaming our classes. We’ve had to change into full PPE’s for our labs, because we are touching and so close.”

She also added, “We got approval from our accreditation when this all began, and they gave us some guidelines. Technically we are not allowed to do work hours for clinical hours and vice versa, but they gave us special leeway to allow to get them to graduate and do those jobs in respiratory and use those hours as clinical hours. It allowed them a lot be able to graduate.”

France who is married and raising three children a boy 13 and two girls nine and five says, “I love the respiratory profession and for me and my family teaching for now teaching it works. Doing the teaching makes me more available to my family, but I do miss the clinical work, but I get to go out with my students and get to work alongside them. I love the excitement of the profession and the ever-changing things you get involved in, this way I am able to help people. This place keeps me pretty busy.”

France said that Respiratory Therapy is such an in-demand career now. She has therapists that she’s taught all over the United States from Florida to Hawaii and that you can be a traveling therapist and see the world, and they pay you, she did that for a couple of years and met her husband doing that.

Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740)353-3101 ext. 1928© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights