Being first: HRS offers unmatched education and training to create tomorrow’s leaders


Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (HRS) alumni first advanced respiratory care therapist in the nation

The Ohio State University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (HRS) was the first in the nation to offer the Master of Respiratory Therapy (MRT), an advanced practice clinical master’s degree for respiratory care. The first class of learners graduated in the spring of 2021.

This innovative program advances respiratory therapists in the field and provides them more opportunities to be in leadership roles and diagnose and direct therapy. It prepares them to prescribe, order, dispense and administer drugs, medical care and medical devices related to patients’ hearts and lungs, all under the supervision of physicians.

The master’s degree program is designed to prepare advanced practice respiratory therapists (APRTs) to become clinical specialists in a variety of settings and open additional career doors in the burgeoning field.

The success of the program is clear – Mindy Conklin, an alumna from the first graduating class, is now the first APRT in the nation, recently landing a job at the Department of Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System.

Georgianna Sergakis, PhD, RRT, program director for both the Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy and the Master of Respiratory Therapy programs, says HRS faculty, leaders and staff anticipated the need in the profession and stepped up to fill it.

“There’s a strong need for advanced practice providers with expertise in cardiopulmonary care,” Dr. Sergakis says. “We anticipate their job prospects will be similar to those of nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other advanced practice providers.”

HRS is proud of its leading role preparing respiratory therapists, like Conklin, to deliver advanced and specialty care at major institutions in the country.

HRS offers first course to fill critical gap in care

Another pivotal effort by HRS puts undergraduate learners at the forefront of helping solve a major challenge for some hospitalized patients, with the first undergraduate course that simultaneously gives students clinical exposure and helps address health system needs. This initiative fills a critical gap in care by keeping patients active, addressing physical and cognitive declines from patients being in a hospital bed for days at a time.

Beginning in January 2023, students majoring in health sciences could apply to take a course that gives them experience collaborating with patients – helping them walk, taking them outside in a wheelchair or just talking to them at their bedside. Students are assigned to various departments in The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, assisting with patients at highest risk of functional decline or delirium.

“The students are exceedingly grateful to view health care in action,” says James Crick, DPT, PT, course lead for Cultivating Augmented Resilience-Building Efforts and Systems for Transitions, Rehabilitation, Education, Access and Maintenance (CARESTREAM).

“They’re driven, compassionate students who are interested in being healers, and this gives them their first taste of it.”

CARESTREAM is a series of state-funded initiatives at Ohio State designed to simultaneously give students clinical exposures, help address health system needs and prevent the nationwide problem of patients falling, becoming frail or losing function during or soon after their hospital stay. Helping patients stay active mentally and physically allows the students to have a meaningful impact on clinical staff as well, giving staff members more time to focus on the skilled care they provide and reducing staff burnout.

The course development team, comprising clinicians and faculty, hopes to expand the innovative program to also include students from other colleges at Ohio State, such as biology and chemistry majors, to help fill a gap in patient care and give undergraduates opportunities for direct hospital experience. Another first that’s crucial to a learner’s success.

Explore more stories of innovation, clinical care, education and community outreach at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.