Southwestern Community College (SCC) student Shirley Peebles of Cherokee is shown working in Southwestern’s Respiratory Therapy lab. Behind her are Kiyah Collins (left) of Bryson City and Trinity Turner (right) of Bessemer City. (Photo courtesy of SCC.)

Blue Ridge to Offer Respiratory Therapy as Southwestern Community College Satellite Program

Featured Photo: Southwestern Community College (SCC) student Shirley Peebles of Cherokee is shown working in Southwestern’s Respiratory Therapy lab. Behind her are Kiyah Collins (left) of Bryson City and Trinity Turner (right) of Bessemer City. (Photo courtesy of SCC.)


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This fall, Blue Ridge Community College’s Transylvania County Campus in Brevard will serve as a satellite location for a new Associate Degree in Respiratory Therapy program through Sylva’s Southwestern Community College (SCC). With accreditation for the satellite campus received in mid-March, Blue Ridge and SCC are now accepting applications for respiratory therapy programs at both locations for the fall semester. Incoming students may begin their application or request information at www.blueridge.edu/respiratory-therapy.

“Our primary goal in partnering with Blue Ridge Community College is to streamline the process for students entering this vital healthcare field,” said Melissa Hyatt, SCC’s dean of health sciences. “With this accreditation in place, we are hoping to fill all our classes at Southwestern and at Blue Ridge. That way, we can effectively double the amount of graduates while simultaneously addressing the severe shortage of healthcare workers throughout Western North Carolina.”

The role of a respiratory therapist is to care for patients with any cardiopulmonary disease. This includes providing patient assessment, breathing treatments, bronchial hygiene and hyperinflation therapy. Respiratory therapists also establish airways, manage ventilators, wean patients from ventilators, perform suction and respond to emergencies.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respiratory therapist employment is projected to grow 14% through 2031, revealing a rapidly increasing need in this segment of the local workforce.

“Through our collaboration with Southwestern Community College, the Respiratory Therapy satellite program on our Transylvania County Campus will provide students with comprehensive education and training, including hands-on clinical experience, to ensure they are well-prepared to meet the diverse needs of patients upon graduation,” explained Leigh Angel, Blue Ridge’s dean of health sciences. “Additionally, by offering this program closer to home, students can pursue their education without the need for lengthy commutes or relocation, making it more accessible and convenient for aspiring healthcare professionals in our community.”

Last summer, the partnering colleges formed the Western North Carolina Respiratory Care Consortium, and this accreditation ensures that students in Henderson, Transylvania and surrounding counties can pursue a Respiratory Therapy education closer to their homes.

For more information about the respiratory therapy programs hosted at Southwestern and Blue Ridge community colleges, prospective students may contact Gretchen Guelcher at 828.339.4472 or visit www.blueridge.edu/respiratory-therapy. Students of the new satellite program will need to complete an application for both colleges to participate, as general education classes will be taken through Blue Ridge, and respiratory therapy classes in Brevard will be administered through SCC.