Respiratory care students assist in COVID relief

By Jason Yearout ( Yearout is the features editor for The Campus Ledger. This is their fourth semester at the college. They enjoy walking their dogs and listening to comedy podcasts.

Online, labs, checkoffs and simulations are still held at Olathe Health Education Center. The center is located at 21201 West 152nd Street in Olathe. Photo by Sidney Henkensiefken.

At the start of the pandemic the need for respiratory therapists skyrocketed, however that need had been growing well before COVID-19 began. The college’s respiratory care program has been training students to meet the increased demands.

Chad Sanner runs the Respiratory Care Program at the College. While classes have moved to their lectures online, labs, checkoffs and simulations are still held at Olathe Health Education Center.

“In respiratory therapy, there’s a certain skill set that the students have to achieve,” Sanner said. “We have to have that hands-on skills training, and we can’t really get around that, and the college understood that when they encouraged faculty to move classes online, they knew that most of the healthcare programs would have to keep labs and skills checkoffs face to face, and that’s what we did.”

The program has a history of finding employment for its students. Students participate in clinical rotations, in which they work hands on in several different hospitals to develop their skills and determine what hospital will work best for them. Kelle Oestrich, a professor of respiratory care at the college, has seen many students join local clinic cites.

“When they [students] go to clinic, they are paired up with a respiratory therapist and they follow that therapist for the 12-hour shift in the hospital,” Oestreich said. “They get to actually do patient care, perform respiratory therapy with the licensed respiratory therapist watching them, making sure that they do a good job.

Rotations are overseen by Jill Murray, the director of clinical education. Since the pandemic began, the program has had to provide advanced PPE to its students, instead of the clinics themselves providing the equipment. Still, she is grateful for the support the college has provided throughout the transition.

“We’ve really felt supported in the respiratory program with everything we’ve needed in order to get our students to where they need to be and on the right track to graduation,” Murray said.

While classes sized have been reduced, there has been an increase in interest for the program. Sanner believes next semester will bring a large increase in enrollment.

“I’m imagining that next year, it may even be a bigger because there’s usually about a year lag and students have to take the prerequisites and stuff before they get in [The Respiratory Care Program],” Sanner said. “I would imagine a slight increase this year, I’m imagining it’s going to be even bigger next year.”

You can contact Chad Sanner for more information at


By Jason Yearout



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.