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Jacksonville University Launches Master of Respiratory Care in Response to Growing Pandemic-related Demand

JU partners with Chicago’s award-winning Rush University to develop the only respiratory care master’s program in the state of Florida.

In response to growing national workforce demand accelerated by the pandemic, Jacksonville University (Jacksonville, Fla.) is launching a master’s program for aspiring respiratory therapists, a medical profession that has played a central role in treating COVID-19 patients. The program is the only one of its kind in the state of Florida.

The Master of Science in Respiratory Care at Jacksonville University was developed in partnership with Rush University (Chicago, Ill.), a nationally recognized leader in respiratory care education. There are only eight comparable respiratory care programs in the U.S. accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). Jacksonville University’s long-standing partner, Baptist Health, also provided a generous $100,000 gift to help launch the program, which will strengthen the pipeline of qualified respiratory therapists in northeast Florida.

“We invest a great deal of our time and energy trying to help address future needs for our students and our community,” said Jacksonville University President Tim Cost. “COVID-19 continues to challenge communities all over the world, and there is an urgent need for more respiratory therapists to treat the most critically ill patients. Like several of the programs Jacksonville University has announced in the past year, this opportunity emerged from ongoing strategic discussions with our industry partners. Baptist Health alerted us to the need for more respiratory therapists in northeast Florida, particularly those with advanced education and training to care for COVID-19 patients who are on ventilators. Jacksonville University is proud to work with our world-class partners at Rush University and Baptist Health to answer that call with talent and training.”

“We are thrilled to be able to help launch Jacksonville University’s Master of Science in Respiratory Care program,” said Baptist Health Vice President and Chief Learning Officer Liz Bruno. “The COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness of the vital role respiratory therapists play in many healthcare settings. As the only respiratory care master’s program in the state, this program will address an important need in northeast Florida.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for respiratory therapists is projected to grow 19 percent by 2029, outpacing the average for all healthcare occupations. In Florida, the U.S. Department of Labor projects an average of 770 annual openings for respiratory therapists through 2028. An aging population and a growing emphasis on reducing hospital admissions are the two key drivers of this demand. 

“As we grow older, the rates of respiratory conditions such as pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will naturally increase, and respiratory therapists working in nursing homes and physicians’ offices can also play a critical role in reducing hospital readmissions,” said Jacksonville University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Dr. Christine Sapienza. “COVID-19, which ravages the lungs, significantly elevates the urgency around this workforce shortage. Our hospitals simply need more respiratory therapists with advanced education and training to treat this complex, deadly disease.” 

As the only graduate-level respiratory care program in Florida, the Master of Science in Respiratory Care at Jacksonville University combines the supportive academic environment, immersive technology, and more than 450 industry partnerships within JU’s Brooks Rehabilitation College of Healthcare Sciences with Rush University’s award-winning curriculum and clinical expertise in respiratory care. Rush University is home to nine health science programs ranked in the top 10 nationally by U.S. News & World Report. For the past two academic years (2019-20, 2020-21), the American Association for Respiratory Care awarded Rush’s respiratory care program with its Apex Recognition Award.

“Rush University is proud to partner with Jacksonville University to develop this program for northeast Florida, a region that has become a prominent hub for cutting-edge medical care, and where advanced respiratory care training is greatly needed,” said Dr. David Vines, professor and director of the Respiratory Care Program at Rush University’s College of Health Sciences. “At Rush University we are passionate about improving the care and quality of life for patients through exceptional, highly-individualized education, and Jacksonville University shares that mission. We believe this program will change lives in northeast Florida.”

The Master of Science in Respiratory Care program at Jacksonville University offers leadership and advanced practice preparation in multiple areas, including critical care, neonatal care and cardiopulmonary diagnostics. Jacksonville University is now accepting applications for a limited number of students in the first class of the two-year graduate program scheduled to begin in 2022.

Eligible students must have a bachelor’s degree in any field and 29 credit hours of prerequisites outlined at www.ju.edu/msrc. No previous healthcare experience is required. After graduating, students will be eligible to take the advanced examinations for Registered Respiratory Therapists given by the National Board for Respiratory Care. Interested students can sign up to attend a virtual information session with Jacksonville University’s Graduate Admissions team to learn more about the program and ask questions.