Pleasant Hill Respiratory Care Program Director Doug Eden Prepares Students to Step Up—and Step In—During a Unique Time in Health Care
Doug Eden knows from personal experience that education can change the direction of one’s life forever.
When he was 23, he had just graduated from Towson University with his Bachelor of Science in Teacher Education and was planning to become a high school physical education teacher and coach.
But after his mother died unexpectedly, he decided instead to pursue a career in the medical field. He returned to school at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida, and graduated with his Associate of Science in Respiratory Therapy.
Since then, Doug has worked nonstop in the field—as a respiratory therapist at hospitals in Florida, New York, and Virginia, and then as an educator. He taught high school biology, human anatomy, and physiology before becoming director of clinical education at Hartnell College in Salinas, California. Doug joined Carrington College as an instructor in 2014 and became Respiratory Care program director in June.
We talked with Doug about Carrington’s Respiratory Care program, the misconceptions about respiratory therapy, and why the job market in his field is stronger than ever.
How would you explain your program to a prospective student who might be thinking about enrolling?
It is a program, that can be completed in as few as 23 months, in which students learn the theory and develop the physical skills necessary to becomes registered, respiratory therapists. Students who successfully complete the RC program are eligible for the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) credentialing exams, such as the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) exam and the Clinical Simulation Examination (CSE)*.
The program features two clinical rotations, in the third and sixth semesters. When students graduate with their Associate of Science degree in Respiratory Care, they’re prepared to sit for the credentialing exam. After they pass the exam, they enter the workforce as registered respiratory therapists.
What kinds of jobs are available to graduates of the program?
There’s a great variety of opportunities. Many of our graduates work at acute care hospitals in emergency and intensive care units, but there’s also a great demand for respiratory therapists in long term care centers, sub-acute centers, skilled nursing facilities, private medical offices, rehab centers, and as members of medical transport teams.
What is the job market like for students graduating from your program?
In my opinion, it’s always been strong, and it’s even stronger now. From what I have seen, there have never been enough respiratory therapists, and there’s a real shortage now. Working on the frontline has been intense and demanding for so many health care professionals. Over the past year and a half, respiratory therapists have put themselves at risk, working directly with patients. Sadly, some of those patients die. Then you come back the next day and do it all over again. As a result, a lot of respiratory therapists who have been doing it for 25-30 years have decided to retire early, which is creating increased opportunities for graduates entering the profession.
What would you say it the most common misconception about what respiratory therapists do?
I think a lot of people—including some students when they begin the program—are under the impression that it’s an easy, low-key medical position in which you basically administer aerosol treatments to patients. In fact, it’s often very stressful, as any respiratory therapist who has worked with—and lost—patients during the Covid-19 pandemic will tell you. It’s incredibly demanding, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
What traits or characteristics do students who excel in the program tend to possess?
Over the years, I’ve noticed that the students who excel are focused and driven. They know what they want and they’re all in. Many of them are balancing work, school and family, yet they do it without flinching. And it’s not always the “A” students who end up excelling in the field. I’ve seen plenty of “B” students thrive in the clinical setting once they graduate. They figure out a way to navigate whatever challenges or obstacles they encounter to get the job done. They succeed, no matter what.
The pandemic impacted everyone in different ways. How did it change the way you taught your program?
We came to school on March 17, 2020, anticipating a regular day. But instead, we were told to gather our stuff, leave campus, and begin teaching online the following day. We had to figure it out, literally overnight. Some programs—like ours—faced a unique challenge because we’re teaching interactive, hands-on skills that simply couldn’t be taught remotely. The leaders at Carrington understood that, and we were allowed to bring students back in May for simulation labs, following strict COVID-19 precautions. That was a lifesaver for our program, especially since all of our externship sites were temporarily locked down. For students and teachers alike, it was trial by fire. There were definitely struggles along the way, but we did it!
You’re a big believer in the power of education. Do you find it rewarding to see students changing their lives?
I really do. We have recent graduates who were working retail or restaurant jobs two years ago and are now working in hospitals, helping save people’s lives. Education offers a stepping stone to professional careers that not only pay well but offer benefits and job security.
I’m a lifelong learner. I completed my MBA in Project Management at Keller School of Management in 2019 and I’m currently pursuing my doctorate in Education. I know from experience that education opens doors that would otherwise remain closed. That’s why it’s so gratifying to see students succeed. In less than two years, they transition into capable professionals who are ready and able to make a real difference. That’s a great thing to see!
*Carrington College prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors. The College does not guarantee students will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the program