6/19/2007 - SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Somewhere inside Bldg. 1900, an Airman Basic is learning to intubate a patient, run a ventilator and perform a spirometer test.
Someday, that same Airman, with maybe one or two stripes on his or her sleeve, could be stationed in Afghanistan performing those same procedures on patients whose lives are in that Airman’s hands, with no supervision available - or required.
The course the Airmen-in-Training assigned to the 882nd Training Group must take to qualify for such a high-pressure job is called the cardiopulmonary course. It was initially an entry-level course for the AiTs, but thanks to the forethought of the course’s instructors, the course has recently earned a deserved upgrade to an advanced-level course.
“(The change) truly makes this course a center of excellence,” said Col. Katrina Glavan-Heise, former commander of the 383rd Training Squadron.
Started in 1988, the two-phase program earned its entry-level status from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. With the entry-level accreditation, AiTs would be eligible to become certified respiratory therapists after completing the course, but would still need another two years of experience and training before becoming eligible to take the registered respiratory therapist exam.
With the new advanced-level accreditation, the RRT exam is right around the corner for AITs who complete Sheppard’s course. Becoming an RRT not only leads to higher pay, but better prepares the AiTs for the demands of the job.
“You have to come out of school ready to do the job,” said Tech. Sgt. James Woods, education program director. The training allows for the Airmen to be the “go-to-airman” on a deployment where they may be the only knowledgeable Airmen in the field.
The application package was written by Master Sgt. Shane Pearson and his team of instructors.
“I wanted to make the change because I wish it had been available to me,” Sergeant Pearson said.
The course’s criteria went through an overhaul in 2005, bringing it very close to CAAHEP’s advanced-level standards. When deciding to apply, all Sergeant Pearson’s team had to do was tweak a few things.
“Certain areas - neonatal care, in-home care - had to be broken up into their own blocks of instruction,” he said. “But beyond that, it was easy. Most importantly, it didn’t cost the Air Force anything. It takes the same amount of money and time to run this course as before, but now you get more credit.”
As a note for comparison, similar programs for civilians can take up to six years to complete; Sheppard’s program, due to its students’ training for 40 hours a week, takes a little over one year.
And, according to the same commission that accredits the civilian programs, when those Airmen complete the course, they’ll be as qualified and ready to take on their responsibilities as a civilian CRT.