Respiratory Therapy Program

CHI St. Alexius Health
University of Mary

Respiratory Therapy Program

Introduction to the Program
Program Philosophy & Goals
Pre-professional Curriculum
Professional Curriculum
Pre-medical Curriculum Option
Master of Science Option
Admission to Professional Program
More Information/application
The Respiratory Therapy Program, founded in 1971, is co-sponsored by the University of Mary and CHI St. Alexius Health in Bismarck, North Dakota. The program prepares people for the bachelor of science degree in respiratory therapy. 

Students majoring in respiratory therapy complete two years of pre-professional course work at the University of Mary, or any other accredited college or university, followed by two full years of professional preparation at CHI St. Alexius Health. The professional program is accredited by theCommission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC), 1248 Harwood Road, Bedford, Texas 76021-4244; (817) 283-2835. Graduates are eligible to sit for the registry examinations offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC), leading to the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential. Requirements for licensure in the state of North Dakota are met by graduates who successfully complete the NBRC examinations.

National Excellence in Education Award:
The program was the recepient of the CoARC Excellence in Education Award recognizing the program as one of the top ten percent of all programs in the USA for RRT credentialing success.

What Do Respiratory Therapists Do? 
Respiratory therapists help people with heart and lung problems. They make decisions that directly affect their patients' well being. They work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and patient homes. Their patients range from newborn babies to elderly adults, and from people who help care for themselves to critically ill people on mechanical life support. Respiratory therapists help people with a variety of conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, heart failure, and smoking-related illnesses (emphysema and chronic bronchitis); they take care of premature babies who cannot breathe on their own; they care for people with traumatic injuries requiring mechanical breathing assistance; and they respond to all "code blue" emergencies. 

Respiratory therapists have long-term, day-to-day contact with their patients, which allows trusting relationships to develop. Therapists obtain medical histories through interviews, perform heart and lung physical examinations, interpret chest x-rays and lab data, and set treatment goals. They assess the patient's response to treatment, and change it if necessary. They interact with the family. As part of the health care team, therapists communicate and work closely with physicians and other health care professionals. In critical care and emergency areas, respiratory therapists insert artificial airways, draw and analyze blood, perform CPR, set up and manage mechanical ventilation, and perform diagnostic procedures to check heart and lung function. They help plan for the patient's hospital discharge to make sure any ongoing respiratory needs will be met outside of the hospital. In pulmonary rehabilitation clinics, respiratory therapists test tolerance to physical activity and prescribe exercise. In the home, they teach patients about their medications, how to control their diseases, how to treat themselves effectively, and how to operate respiratory equipment safely. Finally, respiratory therapists promote community health in the public schools and other arenas, teaching young people and their parents how to manage asthma, and educating youth about tobacco's harmful effects.

Specialty Areas in Respiratory Therapy
Specialty Place of Work Kind of Work Types of Patients
Adult Critical Care


Hospital Intensive Care Units; Emergency Departments; Transport Teams.
Initiate and manage mechanical ventilation; draw, analyze and interpret blood gases; perform and interpret invasive heart and circulatory system monitoring; assess chest X-rays and lab data; administer inhaled drugs; insert artificial airways in emergencies (intubation); assist in all code blues; work in a team with physicians and nurses; make treatment decisions based on diagnostic and physical exam data; communicate with patients and families. Trauma victims; patients with severe respiratory and cardiac disease; patients recovering from major surgeries; patients with paralytic diseases.
Newborn Critical Care


Hospital Newborn Intensive Care Units; Labor and Delivery Rooms; Transport Teams. Work is similar to adult critical care except involves newborn babies, often premature and weighing as little as one pound. Work in labor and delivery includes initial assessment and resuscitation of high-risk births. 
High-risk newborns suffering from respiratory distress syndrome or congenital birth defects.
Pulmonary Function Testing


Hospital or Outpatient Clinic Pulmonary Function Laboratory; Patient Bedside.
Perform a wide variety of diagnostic lung function tests using sophisticated computerized equipment; involves obtaining a brief medical history from the patient, giving precise understandable instructions, and gaining maximum patient cooperation.
People of all ages suffering from asthma; people with smoking related illnesses such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis; people with occupational- environmental exposure to air pollution.
Pulmonary Rehabilitation


Outpatient Clinics.


Patient and family education about the disease process, drug actions, drug self-administration, self-monitoring, and use of home oxygen. Designing and implementing exercise programs to improve activity tolerance, decrease breathlessness, and improve life quality: involves individualized physiological assessment and exercise testing for appropriate exercise prescription. Patients with advanced Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and other chronic lung diseases.
Home Care


Patient Homes.


Part of hospital discharge planning team to ensure ongoing respiratory needs are met in the home. Patient and family education about the disease process, drug actions, self-treatment, self-monitoring, equipment use and maintenance (e.g. oxygen, aerosol, breathing assist and monitoring devices). Involves patient interviewing and ongoing physical assessment in the home. Work closely with family physician. Focus is on disease management and prevention of re-hospitalization. Infants to adults with ongoing heart and lung illnesses: includes premature babies, patients with cystic fibrosis, COPD, sleep apnea, neurological conditions, congestive heart failure, etc.
Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders Sleep Laboratories.
Monitoring various aspects of heart and lung function during sleep, such as blood oxygen levels, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing patterns, length of apneic (no-breathing) periods, muscular effort, and brain waves. People with extreme day-time sleepiness and sleep apnea.
Asthma Education/ Disease Management Hospitals; Outpatient Clinics; Schools.
Patient, family, teacher education about asthma: the disease process, avoiding asthma triggers, recognizing warning signs; proper medication self-administration technique; role of various medications; emergency education. People with asthma, often-healthy school-age youth and young adults.

Career Opportunities and Salaries 
An unprecedented demand for respiratory therapists exists today throughout the United States. There are many more job vacancies than new therapist graduates. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, demand is expected to increase by over 21% through the year 2018. Since 1990, 100% of the University of Mary/CHI St. Alexius Health respiratory therapy graduates have found jobs either before or immediately upon graduation. Many soon move into leadership positions. 

Salaries vary with geographical regions in the United States. Sign-on bonuses and paid moving expenses are common in this high-demand profession. Students often receive employment offers months before graduation. It is not uncommon for new graduates to earn starting base salaries over $45,000 - 55,000 annually, even before they take the credentialing exams. University of Mary/CHI St. Alexius Health Respiratory Therapy Program graduates enjoy a national reputation for quality and competence, and are in high demand.

The Respiratory Therapy Program is unique in that it offers additional education and training in complex physiological invasive and non-invasive monitoring and diagnostics techniques. This additional education prepares students for work in a wide variety of settings. University of Mary/CHI St. Alexius Health graduates have an employment edge because of their national reputation for excellence.