NOV. 10, 2004 | For Jim Hammons, the decision to go into respiratory care, one of the more than 100 allied health professions that support the medical community, came when he watched respiratory therapists saving lives at a local hospital.
“It seemed exciting; a fast pace,” he said. Once he saw first hand how respiratory therapists interact with the patients and other medical personnel, it “sealed the deal” for his career track
Hammons, a respiratory therapist at the
The UAMS Respiratory Care program offers a Bachelor of Science degree for people who want an active, hands-on career. Respiratory therapists are needed in almost every branch of the hospital and on every Angel One helicopter leaving Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Respiratory therapists have responsibilities that range from caring for patients with acute asthma to delivering the first breath of life to high-risk newborns. UAMS offers the respiratory care program both in Little Rock and at the Southwest Area Health Education Center (AHEC) in Texarkana.
Hammons started in the respiratory therapist track at UAMS in 1987 and quickly became immersed in intense courses and even more intense instructors.
“Almost six weeks in I thought I should give up and go home,” Hammons said of the rigorous schedule. He found as the weeks went on that he was enjoying the courses and camaraderie of the other students.
For Hammons, the mix of academia, research and intensive care work in the hospital was a rush, and when he graduated in 1988 he joined the UAMS staff, mostly working nights in the nursery. In his current role as a clinical operations manager, he works closely with the students in the respiratory therapy program.
Respiratory therapy is hardly a job for the faint-hearted or insensitive. “You have to remember that even though this is a regular work day to you, for that patient or family member, it may be the worst day of their lives.”
Susan Brummett, an ophthalmic medical technologist in the Jones Eye Institute at UAMS, found her profession after talking with a neighbor who was an optician.
“It fascinated me, so I pursued the education,” said Brummett, who enrolled in the two-year program at UAMS to become an ophthalmic medical technologist. “The education paid off. Now I have a well-paying, rewarding career.”
She left UAMS after graduating but came back in July, mostly because she enjoys working with the students while at the same time being involved with the patients and procedures.
“I love what I do and every day I seem to learn something new about the eye. From adjusting glasses to harvesting corneas for the eye bank to doing ophthalmic photography, it has all been a wonderful learning experience,” she said.
While working with eyes may seem to be a narrow field, Brummett said there are a variety of specialties. Ophthalmic medical technologists help diagnose and treat eye disorders by measuring the eyes and calculating basic corrections for nearsightedness and farsightedness; creating ophthalmic photographs to document retinal and corneal lesions; assessing color vision abnormalities; measuring eye muscle function; and assisting in ophthalmic surgery.
What should students consider before going into the field?
“It takes a special person to work with patients,” she said, explaining that she enjoys the interaction with people, but that sometimes she sees serious eye problems that require not only special training, but compassion and caring.
Since its establishment in 1971, the UAMS College of Health Related Professions has graduated almost 5,230 students – most of whom have remained in
“Our graduates are in high demand, and most of our programs have a 100 percent job placement rate,” said Ronald Winters, Ph.D., dean of the
The Federal Perkins Loan also waives loans for graduates of allied health programs. Many hospitals and clinics also offer incentives to pay loans for graduates who come to work for them.
”Students have a wide range of health career options at UAMS, so they can choose a career that best suits their interests and needs,” said Michael Anders, M.P.H., associate professor in respiratory care and director of the Office of Student Affairs in the
Programs range from certificates to doctoral degrees, with most being Bachelor of Science degrees. Some professions provide direct patient care, while others are based in offices, clinics, or laboratories.
Allied health programs offered by CHRP include audiology, cardio-respiratory care (respiratory therapy), clinical nutrition and dietetics, cytotechnology, dental hygiene, diagnostic medical sonography (ultrasound), emergency medical technician and paramedic, genetic counseling, health information management, medical dosimetry, medical technology, nuclear medicine technology, ophthalmic medical technology, radiation therapy, radiologic technology, speech-language pathology, and surgical technology.
For more information about CHRP programs at UAMS, call (501) 686-5730 or visit www.uams.edu/chrp.
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