Two students

Courtney Hinderscheit SP’12 (left) and Kate Bennek SP’12 in the respiratory care lab at Whitby Hall. Photo by Rebecca Zenefski SP'10

Inhale, exhale

St. Kate’s respiratory care program earns re-accreditation and national award.

By Pauline Oo

Getting an asthma attack is no fun; just ask some of the students in St. Kate’s respiratory care program —or John Boatright, the program director. Boatright, like his students with asthma, met his first respiratory therapist as a child after experiencing severe shortness of breath, wheezing and a tight chest.

“That’s the story you'll hear from about 25 percent of our class — we went to the emergency department and a respiratory therapist was called in to help us,” says Boatright.

Whatever their reasons for wanting to become lung and breathing experts, the students in St. Kate’s program can rest assured they’re getting a top-notch education. Recently, the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) re-accredited the respiratory care program for another 10 years and presented it with a 2012 Distinguished Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) Credentialing Success Award.

“The accreditation is very good news, and the award is a great honor,” says Boatright, who has now been involved in four successful accreditations for the program since its founding in the mid 1960s. St. Kate’s is one of four institutions in the Upper Midwest to offer a baccalaureate degree in respiratory care.

The RRT award requires a program to achieve a 90 percent or higher pass rate over three years in the RRT exam — an advanced-level exam that students can opt to take within six months of graduating. St. Kate’s had a 100 percent pass rate in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

“It’s very difficult to get all our graduates to take an exam that’s voluntary,” notes Boatright. “It was a collaborative effort among the graduates, the program and the hospitals [that hire our graduates] to accomplish this. The award validates what we do here. It proves that our students know their stuff — that their competency is high, their decision making is well founded and their assessment skills are excellent.”


5 things to know

  • A respiratory therapist is also called a respiratory care practitioner.
  • They work in critical care 80 percent of the time, helping patients of all ages and conditions breathe better.
  • You'll find them in every wing of a hospital, especially emergency rooms, ICUs and neonatal nurseries.
  • During a “code blue,” the respiratory therapist is the person standing at the head of the bed managing the airway, breathing and oxygen therapy of the patient who is in cardiac arrest.
  • Once called “oxygen technicians,” respiratory therapists today administer oxygen, medication and breathing/life support.

Alumna profile

The Star Tribune featured Holly Kaess ’12, a graduate of St. Kate's respiratory care program, in its “On the Job” section.