Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences (PA College), central Pennsylvania’s preeminent learning institution for the health care field, announced today that its Respiratory Care program has received the President’s Award for Excellence in Credentialing Success from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).

PA College is one of only 23 colleges and universities in the country to win this award, and this is the third year in a row that PA College was honored by CoARC for its Respiratory Care program. In 2020 and 2021, the College received the Distinguished Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) Credentialing Success Award.

“Our Respiratory Care program uses real-life scenarios, simulated learning and classes taught by experienced faculty to prepare students for their roles in hospitals, sub-acute care facilities, home care and more,” said Joel Benner, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences Respiratory Care program director. “Our department is thrilled to receive this award and will continue to push for the most advanced respiratory treatment education in the country.”

PA College’s Respiratory Care program was chosen by CoARC’s board of directors for The President’s Award for Excellence in Credentialing Success because it demonstrates the following criteria:

  1. Has three or more years of outcomes data;
  2. Holds accreditation without a progress report;
  3. Maintains documented RRT credentialing success of 100 percent;
  4. Meets or exceeds established CoARC thresholds for TMC high cut score and retention.

Both the President’s Award for Excellence in Credentialing Success and the Distinguished RRT Credentialing Success Award recognize the College in preparing its Respiratory Care students to achieve the highest educational and professional aspirations. The award is presented as part of the CoARC’s continued efforts to value the RRT credential as a standard of professional achievement and is based on a rolling three-year average of factors like test scores, retention, and student/employer satisfaction.

“On behalf of all faculty, staff members and students, Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences is honored to receive this recognition,” said Dr. Mary Grace Simcox, president of Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences. “The field of respiratory care is more critical than ever, and it is our mission to pave the way for a brighter future for healthcare. We’re thrilled to be recognized for the high-quality education we strive for, as well as our students’ success and commitment.”

The Respiratory Care degree program culminates in a guaranteed placement period with one of PA College’s clinical affiliates. According to most recent data from CoARC, PA College graduates awarded a Respiratory Care Associate Degree maintain a 97 percent placement rate. The current national placement rate is 86 percent. Program gradates also hold a 100 percent employer satisfaction rate and a 100 percent RRT credentialing success rate.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for respiratory therapists is $61,830. Employment demand for respiratory therapists is projected to grow 14 percent through the next decade, much faster than the average for all occupations. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an even greater need for licensed, skilled respiratory therapists to provide critical care for patients with severe pulmonary conditions caused by the virus.

For more information about Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences and the Respiratory Care Associate Degree, click here.

PA College News

We’re proud of the ambitions and accomplishments of our students and alumni – learn some of their stories in our monthly feature:

Student Spotlight

Tanya Vigunas Freiberg, RN, BSN ’12 ’19
Alumna, and Student, MSN – Nurse Practitioner program

Two-time alumna Tanya Vigunas Freiberg began her career in health care in 2004, working as a Nurse’s Aid at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital.  Looking to advance into nursing, she enrolled in PA College, earning her Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) degree in 2012, and her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree seven years later.  As an RN, Tanya worked in the Trauma Neuro ICU at Lancaster General Hospital for seven years, before moving to the Critical Care Supplemental Staff in 2018.

 Now enrolled in the Psychiatric/Mental Health specialty track of our Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Practitioner program, Tanya is following a passion sparked earlier in life. Before starting at Lancaster General Hospital, she worked in the community with adults with intellectual disabilities and mental illness. She enjoyed working with this population and always felt she would find her way back to this type of work. Tanya explains: I am eager to help people affected by mental illness and promote mental health. I hope to work with children and adolescents to help them heal as well as learn healthy coping and emotional wellbeing.”

When asked to describe her health care hero, Tanya shares that she is inspired by all the wonderful health care professionals she has been privileged to work with and is always learning from her knowledgeable and caring colleagues.  Yet, she points to her grandmother, Barbara Keener Reed, RN ’55 as the person who very much encouraged and influenced her to become a nurse. Tanya explains: “When I was in the ASN program, my grandmother prayed that I would get to do my psychiatric nursing rotation at Philhaven where she worked as a psychiatric nurse. She actually waited to fully retire so that we could have the opportunity to be there together. After graduating, I was eager to work in the hospital Trauma Neuro ICU because I enjoyed neurology. Over the years I took care of many patients with mental illness and substance abuse disorders, and I never forgot my time as a nursing student a Philhaven. It was here that a passion to work with adolescents experiencing mental illness was ignited. My grandmother helped ensure I would have that experience and be under her wing to learn what she had through her years as a psychiatric nurse.” (To learn more about Barbara, read her Alumni Profile, below.)  

Alumni Spotlight

Barbara Keener Reed, RN ’55
Retired, WellSpan Philhaven

“My education equipped me for meaningful work, self-sufficiency and offered a sense of dignity,” shares alumna Barbara Keener Reed, RN ’55 of her studies at the Lancaster General Hospital School of Nursing (now PA College). It was also the start of a series of life experiences that would expand her world view, as she began to interact with patients and professional staff whose cultures and outlook differed from her own. After graduation, Barbara married and moved to Chester, PA where she worked as a staff nurse at Crozier Hospital, before becoming a stay-at-home mom in 1957.

After spending fourteen-years in missionary service in Somalia, with her growing family and minimal opportunities for active nursing duty, Barbara felt apprehensive about re-entering the profession on returning to the United States. However, knowledge and skills were not lost, and Barbara thrived in mental health nursing at Philhaven Hospital (now WellSpan Philhaven). This specialty proved to be a wonderful fit, and even after her retirement, Barbara continued to work PRN (as needed) until past her 78th birthday.  She adds: “Among many treasured memories is that of a former patient, encountered in other circumstances, who remembered me and initiated conversation. The change in her was so remarkable I would never have guessed her to be the same person!”

Barbara also pursued another passion on the side, working in case management for a program affording safe shelter for victims of domestic violence. Some women with histories of abuse or drug addiction, whom she met through church, also began to confide in her. This spurred Barbara on to enroll in studies in Marriage and Family Therapy, Marriage Therapy and Pre-Marriage Counseling.  She notes: “I was not qualified to ‘hang out a shingle’ but gained more understanding and skills, so I happily helped on a volunteer basis those seeking my counsel. If I were young today, I would most likely aim to become a clinical marriage and family therapist.” In retirement, volunteer opportunities to speak about her husband’s and her lived experience with his Alzheimer’s Disease have been most rewarding. Among the hundreds of listeners were chaplains, pastors, family caregivers and student nurses at her local community college.

Barbara has lived independently at Landis Homes since 2007, first with her husband who died in December 2017. She enjoys walking within the community’s campus, reading, playing Scrabble, scrapbooking and traveling. “Family is first in my interests,” adds Barbara, who is especially proud that her granddaughter, Tanya Vigunas Freiberg ’12 ’19, a two-time alumna and current PA College MSN program student has followed in her footsteps. (To learn more about Tanya, read her Student Profile, above.) Barbara published a memoir last year, entitled Standing on Holy Ground and Some Not So Holy (most of the first chapter can be read here).

Seeking People of PA College

Do you know an exceptional current student or alumnus whose experiences and accomplishments would help tell the PA College story? Or someone who has overcome an obstacle or reached a challenging milestone during their PA College experience? Please email your suggested names (and identify them in one of these categories) to Karen Jenkins. Self-nominations are also welcome!

PA College News