three-grads-firelands
From left to right, BGSU Firelands graduates, Brittany Sakal, Samantha Patalita and Shelley Krall.

Graduates of BGSU Firelands respiratory care program ready for expanded career options

Samantha Patalita, Shelley Krall, Brittany Sakal now have skills to work as respiratory therapists in wide variety of clinical settings

By Bob Cunningham ’18

The need for respiratory care, particularly in Ohio, is at an all-time high because of the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic.

The respiratory care program at BGSU Firelands is designed to prepare students for practice in respiratory therapy, especially during these trying times.

Theory, laboratory and clinical experiences provide students with the skills to work as a respiratory therapist in a wide variety of clinical settings evaluating, treating and managing patients of all ages with respiratory illnesses and other cardiopulmonary disorders. Respiratory therapists provide patient care, which includes clinical decision-making and patient education.

Students complete clinical requirements at award-winning medical facilities throughout northern Ohio, including the Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, University Hospitals and Mercy Health, among many others. Graduates are eligible to sit for the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) examinations to become a Certified Respiratory Therapist and Registered Respiratory Therapist and are also able to pursue a graduate degree.

Three students from the respiratory care program — Samantha Patalita, Shelley Krall and Brittany Sakal — graduated in December and are looking forward to the many opportunities that a bachelor’s degree in respiratory care will unlock. The projected annual salary for respiratory therapists working in the United States is $62,810 per year while the need for respiratory therapists is expected to grow by up to 23% by 2030, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Respiratory therapists manage ventilators and artificial airways for patients who cannot breathe on their own,” said Carol Puder, director of the respiratory care program. “Nothing else matters if you can't breathe. Respiratory therapists are experts in providing care to help you breathe better."

Hospitals around Ohio as well as out-of-state facilities regularly contact the program to recruit BGSU Firelands students, according to Puder.

“There are so many opportunities for respiratory therapists,” she said. “They can specialize in pediatrics, emergency care or long-term care, just to name a few — although the majority of respiratory therapists will work in a hospital.  

“Brittany, Shelley and Samantha have worked very hard the past year and a half to complete the program. They have shown flexibility throughout all the changes in course delivery due to the pandemic in addition to navigating a continually changing clinical environment. I'm very proud of their academic successes.

“They are dedicated to their patients and the profession of respiratory care. In addition to taking classes and completing the program, they were able to make a significant impact in the profession by working as student respiratory therapists. I have truly enjoyed watching their growth this past year and look forward to their continued success as registered respiratory therapists.”

Samantha Patalita

Patalita, who hails from Elyria, Ohio, was interested in a respiratory program, and BGSU had a partnership with Lorain County Community College, where she was already enrolled.  

“Prior to attending BGSU, I wasn’t as focused on my academic career,” she said. “After starting the program, I learned how to be a highly focused student who cares deeply about my field of study.”  

The program’s faculty really stood out to Patalita.   

“They are some of the best mentors I’ve had throughout my college career,” she said. “They are passionate about what they teach and truly care for each one of us. They did their best to help and provide the best resources for us to succeed.”  

Overall, she said that she had a wonderful experience in the program. It was a bit challenging in the beginning due to the pandemic, but her love for respiratory care and the education behind it is what ultimately helped her succeed in her studies.

“I learned how to manage study time, exams, family and general life, which in turn strengthened my proficiency with time management,” Patalita said. “Having this degree helps me concentrate on the specialized career path of cardiopulmonary disorders. It also provides me knowledge and a specific skill set to become a successful and proficient respiratory therapist.”

Brittany Sakal

Proximity was important for Sakal, from nearby Marblehead, when choosing a respiratory care program.

“Having a family of my own and working, I wanted a local but somewhat large university,” she said. “BGSU has smaller class sizes as well, which I prefer. They offer a large choice of online, in-person and hybrid classes too.”

Sakal said BGSU Fireland’s did a great job in preparing her for her career path.

“I took all my classes there and finished the respiratory care program there,” she said. “I am currently working under my limited permit as a respiratory therapist at Firelands Hospital. I have worked there now for six years, prior as a patient care technician. I truly enjoy it and cannot wait to expand my horizons.”

Sakal appreciated the guidance that Dr. Christine Genovese, associate professor in biology, provided her.

“She helped me with my chemistry and biology classes,” she said. “Dr. Genovese was an amazing professor. She always stayed over to help me; she kept in touch with me even after the semesters were over to see how my program was coming along; and she really made me feel important and boosted my confidence.”

Sakal said her experience in the respiratory care program was “quite the journey,” but will open so many doors in her career field.

“After I first started my prerequisites, my mom unexpectedly passed away, so I took a little break from classes for a bit to help my siblings take care of my dad, who has Alzheimer’s,” she said. “When I restarted my classes the following semester, I had decided that no matter what I was going to finish this program for me, my mom and my family — I just had to do it.”

Sakal worked 30-40 hours a week on the nightshift at Firelands Hospital while she was taking classes. When COVID-19 first surfaced in March 2020, she switched to online classes.

“We had clinicals on top of classes,” she said. “I had to pick up hours at work so I was working 50+ hours as well, all while trying to keep my teenage daughter and husband healthy too. It was a lot, but I pushed through — I knew I could do it.

“Respiratory care is a great program and I highly recommend. Everyone in the program is so helpful and always willing to work with you at any time. The respiratory care program is by far one of the best choices I have made in my adult career life.”

Shelley Krall

Krall, a Bellevue native, chose the respiratory care program at BGSU Firelands because of its reputation and high standards.

“The program director worked with me to allow a smooth transition into the program,” she said. “This is not the case with other programs that I believe is a deterrent for the adult learner to go back to school. Eliminating barriers for individuals to go back to school is a huge plus. Kudos to BGSU for that.”

BGSU Firelands did a great job of transitioning classes to an online format when the pandemic hit in March 2020, Krall said.

“COVID and online learning did create some challenges, but I felt like our Instructors were always available for questions,” she said. “I feel they did a great job given the circumstances — I really enjoyed the online format. BGSU provided a strong academic foundation for me in respiratory care. I need to continue to build off that foundation as I study for my board exams and prepare for employment in the respiratory care field.

“Having a respiratory care degree will allow me to have many different opportunities in the field of respiratory care. There are various avenues to take from working in the ICU to working in a sleep lab or pulmonary function lab.”

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | mbratto@bgsu.edu | 419-372-6349