The Respiratory Care program at Hawkeye Community College prepares students for employment in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with deficiencies and abnormalities associated with the cardiopulmonary system.

“If you like helping people and want a career that has options for different life circumstances, respiratory care is for you,” said Jamie Bute, director of the Respiratory Care program at Hawkeye. “Respiratory therapists lead rewarding careers, being there for our patients when they cannot breathe and nothing else matters.”

Respiratory therapists handle many duties, including electrocardiograms, arterial blood gases, nebulizer treatments, ventilator management, oxygen therapy, pulmonary function tests, and sleep studies.

Students learn through classroom instruction, laboratory experiences, simulations, supervised clinical experiences at local and regional hospitals and other healthcare settings, and an eight-week practicum (internship) at a healthcare facility.

“Graduates of the program leave with four special certifications, where other local colleges typically leave with one,” Bute said. Hawkeye’s Associate of Applied Science degree in Respiratory Care is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.

Respiratory therapist is one of the fastest growing occupations in Iowa.


Hawkeye’s classroom instructors are also clinic instructors, which means students experience consistency and quality in their learning. The state-of-the-art Patient Simulator Lab prepares students for real-world experiences. The lab includes realistic manikins that cover a lifespan to support life-like simulation and equipment used in today’s medical facilities.

The simulators exhibit vital signs, clinical signs, and symptoms. They are controlled behind the scenes by computers running patient care scenarios, and patient care results are displayed on the monitor near the patient’s bedside.

The Respiratory Care program operates on a four-day school week, adding a little convenience for commuters and students juggling school, work, and family.

Respiratory therapist is one of the fastest-growing occupations in Iowa, with starting wages at $41,500-$51,000 per year according to Iowa Workforce Development. The Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care reports more than 97 percent of Hawkeye’s Respiratory Care students graduate on time, and the program has a job placement rate of 91.7 percent.

“The most in-demand work is in acute care hospitals, but the subspecialty of sleep studies is growing quickly, opening up new opportunities,” Bute said. “Another growing field is traveling respiratory therapists, who assist hospitals with short-term needs.” Other career options include long-term care facilities, home care, and diagnostic laboratories.

– Jason Staker

For more information about Hawkeye’s Respiratory Care program, visit www.hawkeyecollege.edu/cf/respiratory-care or call 391-296-4493.