Two female nursing students taking vitals on a dummy

New and expanded healthcare programs at Blue Ridge

By Leigh Angel, MSN, RN
Dean of Health Sciences
Blue Ridge Community College

This year and into 2023, Blue Ridge Community College is strategically expanding its healthcare programs, including a respiratory therapy program that will launch in Fall 2023 and a larger nursing program to support the growing demand for healthcare professionals in our region.

A new respiratory therapy program
Blue Ridge has chosen to implement a respiratory therapy program in response to healthcare employer needs in our community. More respiratory therapists (RTs) are needed to provide care to those living with acute or chronic lung illness or injury resulting from the effects of COVID-19. Additionally, we have a shortage of RTs in our area. Lastly, we have an increased need for RTs to care for our community’s aging population.

Respiratory therapists assess, treat, manage and educate patients and clients with lung injury/illness and cardiopulmonary diseases. RTs work with patients in hospitals and rehabilitation centers as well as clients in the home care setting. RTs perform diagnostic testing and provide advanced treatment. They also work with patients throughout their lifespan, from neonatal infants to older adults.

Graduates of this program will earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in respiratory therapy. This degree will be transferable to four-year universities to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

A career in respiratory therapy can be quite rewarding. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020), the median wage for RTs is approximately $63,000 per year and the profession will experience a 23% growth in jobs available in the United States.

A good candidate for this career is someone who has a passion for caring for those who need medical care in a variety of settings. Breathing is an essential function of life and RTs help support this function throughout life.

RTs must work well with others on an interdisciplinary team, have excellent written and oral communication skills, take initiative and be self-guided. Respiratory therapists are also busy when managing a group of patient care needs and should be organized and focused to ensure care is provided in a timely manner. RTs also need to be able to remain calm during stressful situations and think and respond quickly during emergencies.

We plan to begin this program in Fall 2023 at the Transylvania County Campus in Brevard and will utilize the facilities at the Health Sciences Center Building in Hendersonville as needed. We are also hiring for a full-time faculty and a part-time clinical coordinator. Faculty candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree and a current listing as a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).

An expanded nursing program
Every person needs the care of a nurse at some point in their life and it is important that Blue Ridge Community College helps increase the number of nurses to care for the needs of our local community.

We anticipate adding 20 seats to our nursing program in Fall 2022. We currently accept 54 students each fall semester and hope to welcome 74 students this fall.

Similar to all disciplines in healthcare, we recognize the need for more nurses in our local healthcare workforce. We have heard from our local employers about their needs for more nurses and we are seeing this as a trend across the country.

Blue Ridge’s nursing faculty and students are outstanding. The nursing faculty are highly skilled and qualified instructors. All of our faculty hold master’s or doctoral degrees and some hold nationally recognized specialty certifications in education and simulation.

Additionally, the first-time pass rate for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) is 96% for the class of 2021. We are proud of our high-tech simulation labs in Henderson and Transylvania counties, distance learning technology, personalized instruction, and supportive leadership.

How to apply for Blue Ridge’s nursing program
Blue Ridge Community College is currently accepting applications for the Fall 2022 cohort. Applicants must meet admission criteria, including biology and chemistry readiness (taken in high school or college), a current listing on the North Carolina Nurse Aide Registry (, and a score of 67 or higher on the TEAS exam. More information is available at

To learn more about Blue Ridge Community College, visit