Salina A partnership between Washburn University and Salina Regional Medical Center is allowing students here to participate in respiratory therapy courses at the college in Topeka.
The program was launched to help with a growing need for qualified therapists, who give medications to help patients with breathing. Their duties include managing patients' ventilator use after surgery and helping people who arrive at the emergency room with breathing problems.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that the nation has about 8,000 vacancies for respiratory therapists each year, while the number of students graduating is only about 4,000, said Dr. Pat Munzer, Washburn's allied health department chairwoman and respiratory therapy director.
The two-year associate's degree program accepts two students a year from Salina. For the first year, those two students were Stephanie Mikesell and Paige Enriquez, who were chosen from 20 applicants.
Both were interested in nursing. Mikesell, originally of Belleville, attended Fort Hays State University for two years, while Enriquez was getting read to attend Kansas Wesleyan's nursing program.
The Salina hospital will repay up to $10,800 in student loan expenses - the bulk of the students' tuition costs - for those who finish the program and go to work at the hospital.
The program replaced a partnership with an out-of-state school, but all clinical training for that program took place at the Salina hospital.
Munzer said that under the new program, the Salina students will do at least six days of clinical study each semester at hospitals in Topeka and Kansas City. That will allow them to deal with different situations.
"We have excellent equipment and technology," Mantz said. "But they're not going to see the helicopter-critical patients, those with higher-need care."