Patients' Breathing Problems Lead To Unusual WCC Course
: ;A few engine adjustments wïll put your two-door sedan back into first gear and onto the highway. People take a little longer. ■etween leaving the surgery röm and leaving the hospital, aiing patients frequently ;ed help. The field of inhalafïon therapy developed to bridge them across the recuperation period. At University Hospital it is insidered possibly the fastest growing specialty which has developed around the medical profession. Broadly, it involves the administration of the machines which help people breathe. These include iron lungs , and rocking beds for polio victims, oxygen face masks and oxygen tents. One respirator feeds into the wind pipe of an elderly patiënt who just had an operation, supplementing his difficult breathing; a similar machine does all of the breathing for a young man whose ribs were crushed in a traffie accident. The study required for understanding such machines and caring for these patients has been combined into courses under the new School of Inhalation Therapy at Washtenaw Community College. lts first class of 11 graduated Sept. 15. "The hospital has had a department of inhalation therapy since. 1950," Don E. Gilbert, chief inhalation therapist says it it was limited to on-thei-training. The experienced ïerapists could only talk to ir apprentices as thoroughs possible during working irs, This became unaccept?, and we saw that to employ the qualified personnel Lroquired, we would have sel ooi them ourselves." rhis, three years ago, Gilbert and Dr. Thomas J. DeKorni'eld, associate professor ariesthesiology at the U-M, began developing the program and applied for government aid. Tuition for the first 12 studemts was supplied under Lhe i Manpower Development Training Act of the Michigan Ëmployment Securities Commission. "On a one-year basis the course entailed a concentrated 2,000 hours or more, 365 days straight," Dr. DeKornfeld said. "The program is now revised to a two-year curriculum on the regular t f mester plus holidays schedule. "The scientific areas have been expanded and liberal arts courses such as English and Political science have been added. Graduates now earn an Associates in Arts (twoyear) degree. The MESC grant was also part of the program 's launching. Students now pay regular Washtenaw Community College tuition, or may apply for scholarships which the department has r e c e i v e d t h r o u g h several industrial sources or through a rotating loan from the Michigan Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases Association. Respiratory disease patients orm a second major área of concern to the inhalation therapist. In addition to air and oxygen, the respiratory equipment can supply the lungs with medication in the form of a mist. Such treatment also reduces discomfort f o r the aging, Dr. DeKornfeld said. As the uses for the program expand, so does the need for personnel. "There . are only about 300 registered inhalation therapists in the country," he stated, "spread thinly among about 8,000 hospitals. Those graduating from the WCC program are not registered, he specified, but are registry eligible. To become registered they must pass two r.igid examinations administered by a national certifying board. The written exam is given once a year at various centers, and an oral one is conducted twice a year at locations usually relaying f rom the e a stern and western United States. "A high percentage f a il these exams, but the professionals prefer to keep the standards high," Dr. DeKornfeld said. Therapists without the surname "registered" can still expect beginning salaries of 5,500 ranging to $7,500. A registered therapist m i g h t earn more than $12,000, probably in an administrative position. Dr. DeKornfeld estimates without hesitation t h a t he could place 30 of his students at hospitals within 45 minutes worth of phone calls, the need is so prevalent. Yet a WCC advisory committee had to turn away approximately 56 applicants for the 28 maximum accepted in the current program. The students attend their theoretical classes in the supplementary classroom - converted basement of the campus Reformed Church. Hospit a 1 experience, composing about half of their curriculum each semester, is d i v i d e d among the U-M, Veterans' Administration and St. Joseph Mercy hospitals. They soon will use a textbook, "Inhalation Therapy Procedure Manual," written by Dr. DeKornfeld and Gilbert, to be published near the end of this year. All of the graduates are placed within the state, since the department was organized to fill this need. WCC's program is the only one in Michigan, one of only two or three in the midwest, and one of less than 20 accredited in the nation.
Washtenaw Community College
Ann Arbor News
Thomas J. DeKornfeld