Friday, July 31, 2015
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Respiratory Care Program receives national accreditation

Jeff Stephens and Dr. Ravi Shankar
Respiratory Care Program Director Jeff Stephens and Medical Director Dr. Ravi Shankar show the letter acknowledging national accreditation for
AVC's respiratory program, which was started in 2006.

One of Antelope Valley College's newest health care provider programs has received national accreditation.

College officials were notified that the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs has awarded accreditation through 2014 to the advanced level Respiratory Therapy Program, which assures program graduates meet rigorous education standards.

"We are very pleased to receive this, and we are very pleased that the (peer review team) recognizes the quality of the program," said Dr. Ravi Shankar, a Lancaster physician who served as medical director for the program.

"The faculty, students, advisory committee, and medical director worked as a team to achieve the objective of accreditation for the program," said Dr. Karen Cowell, dean of AVC's Health Sciences Division. "We appreciate the support that Antelope Valley Hospital and Lancaster Community Hospital contribute to the program. The result of all of their efforts is that we have a fully accredited, local program that meets the needs of our growing community for advance practice respiratory therapists."

The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs based in Clearwater, Florida granted preliminary approval in March 2006 allowing the program to operate, according to Jeff Stephens, program director.

The approval enabled the first class of students who started in fall 2006 to take board exams upon graduation.

After the first class of graduates, commission representatives made a site visit to review the program's progress.

"It was an intensive process," said Stephens. "In some respects it was challenging to go through the various requirements, and to mold the program into the college's institutional learning outcomes."

To indicate the rigor of the process, Stephens said the program was launched with the help of an initial 300-page accreditation document. That was followed with a 643-page initial review and a site visit.

Stephens, a graduate of AVC's registered nursing program, predicts the quality of the respiratory program will gain widespread recognition within the next few years as reflected through the success of the graduates who take a three-part series of licensing exams. 

Stephens' 30 years of experience in local health care, including working in the emergency room of Antelope Valley Hospital, has been a benefit for students.

"I've found my role as a nurse practitioner has given me certain privileges (for students) that they otherwise wouldn't have," Stephens said. This enables students to build on real-life experiences.

The program was launched after area hospitals told college officials of the critical need for respiratory care providers. Up to 24 students can be admitted to the program each fall. There have been two graduating classes thus far, producing a total of 36 graduates.

"We have about a 64 percent employment rate within the Antelope Valley and surrounding areas," Stephens said. Others have taken jobs elsewhere, including Santa Barbara and Arkansas.

Respiratory care is a good career for those with compassion and a desire to help others, according to Stephens.