The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

2011 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

IDENTIFYING AND UNDERSTANDING BARRIERS TO ADVANCED DEGREES FOR RESPIRATORY THERAPISTS.

Shawna Strickland, Rosemary G. Hogan; Cardiopulmonary and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO

Background: There are two different educational choices for potential respiratory therapy students: the Associate Degree of Applied Science (AAS) and the Baccalaureate Degree of Science (BS). While many choose the less time consuming AAS, an increased number of opportunities for advancement exist for those therapists holding the BS. The purpose of this study was to determine the background of the therapist holding the AAS and the barriers this therapist encounters in the pursuit of the BS in respiratory therapy. Methods: Study participants were credentialed respiratory therapists who responded to either a web-based survey or face-to-face survey in a six month period. The structured survey utilized closed and open ended questions regarding demographic, employment and professional data as well as barriers to advancement of education. The study employed SPSS TM statistical software to calculate descriptive statistics as well as content analysis for the open-ended, qualitative responses. Results: Analysis of descriptive data shows that of the 71 participants (54 female, 17 male), 51% of respondents hold the RRT designation and 77.5% hold either a certificate of completion or AAS degree. Statistical significance of a correlation between degree and income could not be shown (p < 0.05). 58% of those surveyed reported that their respective employer places a value of 8 (maximum 10) or more upon staff obtaining an advanced degree. A content analysis of the open-ended questions yielded three themes to barriers of pursuing advanced degrees by respiratory therapists (assuming full financial support): lack of time, family obligations and anxiety about returning to college. Conclusions: Although respiratory therapists'impression of employer desire for obtaining an advanced degree is high, financial compensation for such a degree is not evidenced with this data. Both employers and educational institutions have responsibility in addressing these barriers and promoting advanced degrees among respiratory therapists.
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