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Respiratory Therapy


Respiratory therapists are specialized healthcare practitioners with training and expertise in the diagnosis, treatment and management of cardiopulmonary diseases, including mechanical ventilation in emergency, critical-care and long-term care settings. Respiratory therapists are licensed and specialty board-credentialed; they work together with critical-care physicians and nurses to develop treatment strategies.

Bachelor of Health Science in Respiratory Therapy

#1 Program in the Nation (College Choice, 2018)

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Master of Health Science in Respiratory Therapy

Credentialing success is higher than national average.

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Why choose a career in respiratory therapy?

Respiratory therapy as a profession has a 21% projected job-growth outlook between 2018 and 2028, much faster than the average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020). The median pay for respiratory therapists in 2019 was $61,330.

“Respiratory therapy is a great career for someone who wants to help others and save lives. Our jobs are fast-paced and team-oriented. We can work with a wide range of patient populations on a day-to-day basis, including newborns, kids, and adults with acute and chronic illness. The rapid growth of the respiratory therapy profession brings incredible opportunity for growth and development.” – Sarah Pehlke ’13/’16 MHS, respiratory therapist at Norton Women’s and Children’s Hospital


Why Respiratory Therapy at Bellarmine?

  • College Choice ranked the Bellarmine University Respiratory Therapy program as No. 1 in the nation in 2018.
  • The undergraduate program was awarded Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care’s (COARC) Distinguished RRT Credentialing Success for five consecutive years from 2013 through 2017 and also 2020.
  • The entry-level Respiratory Therapy graduate program is one of five in the nation.
  • Dr. Christy Kane, Interim Dean of the Lansing School of Nursing and Clinical Science, is president of the national Coalition for Baccalaureate and Graduate Respiratory Therapy Education (CoBGRTE) to continue her work toward advancement of respiratory care education.   
  • Graduates of all programs demonstrate a high employment rate upon degree conferral.
  • Students exhibit credentialing success higher than the national average.
  • Students complete more than 800 hours of clinical experience across varying patient populations through Intensive Care Unit, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Emergency Room, sleep laboratory, home care, pulmonary clinic, and trauma center experiences.
  • All students complete a capstone project in collaboration with hospital leaders to implement evidence-based practice and quality improvement projects at local medical institutions.

Program and Department Information

Respiratory Therapy Program Accreditation

The Respiratory Therapy Program (CoARC program number #200281, offering the Bachelor of Health Science degree in Louisville, KY) is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)  (

The Respiratory Therapy Program (CoARC program number #220281 offering the Master of Health Science degree in Louisville, KY) holds Provisional Accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (

This status signifies that a program with an Approval of Intent has demonstrated sufficient compliance with the Standards (through submission of an acceptable Provisional Accreditation Self Study Report (PSSR) and any other documentation required by CoARC, as well as satisfactory completion of an initial on-site visit) to be allowed to admit students. It is recognized as an accredited program by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC), which provides enrolled students who complete the program with eligibility for the Respiratory Care Credentialing Examination(s). The program will remain on Provisional Accreditation until it achieves Continuing Accreditation.

Respiratory Therapy Department Goals
  1. To prepare graduates with demonstrated competence in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains of respiratory care practice as performed by registered respiratory therapists (RRTs).
  2. To prepare leaders for the field of respiratory care by including curricular content that includes objectives related to acquisition of skills in one or more of the following: management, education, research, advanced clinical practice (which may include an area of clinical specialization).
Program Goals, Objectives and Evaluations

The mission of Bellarmine University is to educate its students’ “…mind, body, and spirit—for meaningful lives, rewarding careers, ethical leadership, and service to improve the human condition.” The goal of the respiratory therapy program is subsumed within the university mission, in that the program graduates serve as, “…competent advanced level respiratory therapists.” Intellectual, moral, ethical, and professional competencies are explicitly stated in terms of three program objectives. Progress toward each objective is evaluated annually, using two or more evaluation systems, under guidelines promulgated by the Committee on the Accreditation of Respiratory Care (COARC). Program objectives and evaluation systems are as follows:

For both undergraduate and graduate students:

  1. Intellectual competencies: To comprehend, evaluate, and apply clinical information relevant to advanced-level respiratory therapy practice (Cognitive Domain).
    1. National board examination system performance (Therapist Multiple Choice Examination and Clinical Simulation Examination).
    2. Survey following program completion looking at the graduate’s self-assessment of his or her professional knowledge base in reference to clinical expectations.
    3. Employer survey during first year after program completion assessing each graduate’s professional knowledge base in relation to clinical practice.
  2. Moral, ethical competencies: To demonstrate professional behavior (Affective Domain).
    1. Ongoing in-program clinical assessment of peer and patient interactions.
    2. Survey following program completion directed at graduate’s self-described attitudes and behavior toward patients and peers.
    3. Employer survey during first year after program completion assessing the graduate’s attitudes and behavior toward patients and peers.
  3. Professional competencies: To demonstrate technical proficiency in all skills necessary to fulfill the role of an advanced-level respiratory therapy practitioner (Psychomotor Domain).
    1. Survey following program completion looking at the graduate’s appraisal of his or her confidence and competence in performing clinical procedures.
    2. Employer survey during first year after program completion assessing the graduate’s clinical competency.
  4. Leadership competencies: To describe and apply leadership skills related to management and education.
    1. Survey following completion of the capstone assessing the graduate’s leadership skills.
    2. Employer survey after completion of the capstone assessing the graduate’s leadership skills and potential.

For graduate students only:

  1. Integrate findings from the sciences and humanities to improve health care across diverse settings.
  2. Collaborate within interprofessional teams using effective leadership skills, ethical awareness, and critical decision-making skills to promote change.
  3. Employ evidence-based practice methods to initiate changes and to disseminate results.
  4. Assume leadership roles that contribute to, and advocate for, social, cultural, economic, and political changes to impact health care delivery.

Working toward its goals and objectives, the respiratory therapy program addresses Bellarmine’s larger mission to benefit the public interest and improve the human condition.



    Sarah Pehlke, MHS, Interim Chair (email)
    Lauren Jones, MHS, Director of Clinical Education (email)
    Melissa Ross, Program Assistant
    Christy Kane, Ph.D. (email
    Autumn Plaiss, MHS (email)
    Dr. Carlos J. Ramirez-Icaza, M.D., FCCP, Medical Director
    Janet Vogt, MHS (email)
    Jerome Walker, EdD, (email) (website)

Study Abroad

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For more information about the Respiratory Therapy Department, call 502.272.8419.

All applications and correspondence relevant to admission should be directed to:
Bellarmine University
Office of Graduate Admission
2001 Newburg Road
Louisville, KY 40205