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Respiratory care baccalaureate program could soon be offered at MJC

Modesto Junior College has taken the first step towards offering a bachelor degree in respiratory care as it submitted an official application to become one of the 15 California Community Colleges to be selected for a baccalaureate degree pilot program.

 “The opportunity to provide a baccalaureate degree program in respiratory care is an incredible fit given the air quality issues that have become a trademark of the Central Valley,” said MJC president Jill Stearns. “Further, the incidence of asthma and related respiratory disease associated with poor air quality heightens the need for an advanced level of care that can be provided by practitioners who hold a Bachelor of Science degree in respiratory care within the region served by Modesto Junior College.”

MJC submitted its application after Governor Jerry Brown’s signature on a bill that detailed the implementation of baccalaureate degree pilot programs at a select 15 community colleges throughout the state.

 In order to be considered, community colleges had to choose a vocational field not currently offered by either the California State University or the University of California.

“Employers in California seek candidates with advanced credentials and many struggle to fill positions in some of the fields that will be covered under the new program,” said CCC Chancellor Brice W. Harris in September. “This law will help us meet California’s workforce needs, does not duplicate CSU or UC degree programs, and gives more Californians access to affordable higher education that can enable them to obtain well-paying jobs.”

If approved, MJC’s baccalaureate program will be broken up into two portions, one of which will encompass MJC’s current associate degree in respiratory care. Composed of a total of 72.5 units, the program fully prepares graduates for the Registered Respiratory Therapy Exam and licensure by the Respirator Care Board of California.

Along with the first segment, the second portion will revolve around curriculum in research, education, management, and supervision. Additionally, curriculum will include education in higher levels of clinical practice that are needed in the community, including adult critical care, pediatric critical care, neonatal critical care, pulmonary function technology, cardiopulmonary diagnostics, and polysomnography.

This proposed pilot program comes at a good time, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 28 percent increase in respiratory care practitioners within the next six years. Other factors contribute to the growing need for this type of program, including a high vacancy rate of respiratory care practitioners and a number of existing practitioners nearing retirement age.

“Modesto Junior College’s baccalaureate in respiratory care program will also prepare leaders, who are able to plan, develop, and deliver high quality, cost effective health care services,” said Stearns. “Increasing higher education opportunities in the greater Modesto area is a strategic need for attracting business and industry to the county and improving job opportunities and quality of life in our community.”

For this program, MJC would only charge an additional $84 more per unit for upper-division baccalaureate coursework than it currently charges for lower-division courses.

The pilot program is set to commence no later than the 2017-2018 academic year, with participating students expected to complete their degree by the end of the 2022-2023 academic year.