LCCC welcomes program director for respiratory therapy program

Photo of Lori Arnold standing behind a hospital bed in the LCCC Health Sciences nursing simulation lab. The bed has a simulation patient laying in it.The Respiratory Therapy program at Laramie County Community College, currently under development with a tentative student start date of Fall 2024, saw exciting progress recently as the program’s director began work and the college received a donated ventilator. 

Lori Arnold, a respiratory therapist for three decades, returned recently to her hometown of Cheyenne to take on the Respiratory Program director position. Her work in respiratory therapy took Arnold all over the nation, working in long-term acute care, critical access, wound care, neonatal, intensive care units and more. Most recently, Arnold worked in critical access care in Cody. 

“Respiratory therapists touch individuals from tiny neonates to geriatrics and everyone in between,” Arnold said. “We change lives one breath at a time.”

The establishment of the respiratory therapy program will help to address the growing need for respiratory therapists in Wyoming and specifically the state’s southeast corner. According to JobsEQ, in 2020, of the 120 regional respiratory therapy jobs in Wyoming, Albany and Laramie counties held 46% of these open positions. Currently there is only one respiratory therapy program in Wyoming offered by Casper College. With the launch of the program at LCCC, the college will not only be able to assist with the shortage of respiratory therapists in southeast Wyoming, but also help address shortages in Nebraska and Colorado.  

“Prior to (the COVID-19 pandemic), respiratory therapy was predicted to grow by 28% by the year 2030,” Arnold said. “Now our profession is expected to grow even more. In Wyoming, there have been so many full-time open positions. For a respiratory therapy department to fill that position sometimes takes up to 18 months. By having another school in the state of Wyoming, this will bring qualified candidates.” 

The Respiratory Therapy program at LCCC is planned to be an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree spanning five semesters, designed to develop the competencies, knowledge, skills, and professional abilities necessary for students to enter a successful career in the respiratory therapy field. Upon completion of the AAS degree, graduates will be eligible to sit for the certification and registry national exams, earning the credentials of Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT), and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).

The college on Oct. 18 received the donation of a Servo ventilator, made possible by the Medical Center of the Rockies. Arnold said it’s critical for the program to have a ventilator, with the donation saving the college thousands of dollars. 

“We wouldn’t be able to have (a program) if we didn’t have a ventilator to teach our students with,” she said. 

Earlier this year, LCCC received the final piece of funding support to develop the new program through the Wyoming Works Program. This funding will be combined with a financial commitment from Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.

Currently, LCCC offers 13 health care related programs, leading to a variety of career opportunities, to help meet the growing need of healthcare workers in Wyoming and the surrounding areas.

For more information on the Health Sciences & Wellness Pathway at LCCC, contact Alex Barker, pathway coordinator, at 307.778.1246 or ABarker@lccc.wy.edu.