SALISBURY, MD---The region’s largest medical center and largest institution of higher learning have joined forces in a new effort to expand the pool of future medical professionals. Officials believe this will ultimately impact health care for the region’s growing population, particularly the elderly.
Leaders of Peninsula Regional Medical Center and Salisbury University have announced the establishment of the Peninsula Regional Medical Center Clinical Instructorship at Salisbury University. For the first time the Medical Center will fund a faculty position in the Department of Health Sciences’ Program in Respiratory Therapy Department. This support will allow, allowing student enrollment to dramatically expand and address a in this critically shortage of needed program to expand dramatically respiratory therapists in the region.
SU and Peninsula Regional have a long history of mutual support. In the early 1980s pulmonologist Rodney Layton, M.D., approached the University about the need for a degreed degreed program in respiratory therapy for the region. Responding, SU hired Dr. Ted Wiberg, who founded the respiratory therapy major, and in 1985 the University graduated its first class in respiratory therapy. “How appropriate that on the 20th anniversary of that first graduating class we announce this clinical instructorship,” said SU President Janet Dudley-Eshbach. “The University is grateful to Peninsula Regional and proud to partner with a medical center with such an excellent national reputation.
“We also are grateful for the clinical opportunities and scholarships that Peninsula Regional offers to our medical careers students, not only in respiratory therapy, but also nursing and clinical laboratory science,” Dudley-Eshbach added.
“Salisbury University is the only institution of higher learning in Maryland on the Eastern Shore of Maryland offering a bachelor of science in respiratory therapy and the only one in the entire state offering it as a baccalaureate,” said Alan Newberry, president/CEO of Peninsula Regional. “The reputation of the department program is excellent. Its graduates have pursued medical careers at Peninsula Regional and we hope even more will find a professional home with us after they graduate. The clinical instructorship is an opportune way to increase that possibility by bolstering the number of students who can enter the major. We think this program is a win-win-win: A win for students, a win for our Medical Center and a win for the community.”
The first collaboration of its kind between the two institutions, the medical facility will contribute $20,000 a year for three years toward the salary of a respiratory therapy clinical instructor. The impact of the money is immediate. Because of regulations which that limit the number of students in accredited clinical study, the department had a previous cap of 20 new students a year, said Dr. Robert Joyner, chair director of the SU Respiratory Therapy Program. This fall, with the Peninsula Regional clinical instructorship, 33 students have been admitted to the program—a more than 50 percent increase and the largest entering class in the department’s history. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without help from the Medical Center,” Joyner said.
Nationally, demand is so great for respiratory therapists that SU majors are often offered jobs before they graduate. According to a In the spring of 2005 poll by the Washington Hospital Center,, the Maryland, Delaware, northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C., areas had approximately 350 respiratory therapist positions available this spring. Area programs were graduating only about 150—less than half of the need. The vacancy rate for respiratory therapists was 17 percent in 2004, according to a study by the Maryland Hospital Association.
Part of the demand is sparked driven by the increase in older Americans. According to a 2004 report, The “Graying” of Delmarva by the Business, Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) at Salisbury University, the elderly are increasing almost three times as rapidly as the rest of the general population in Maryland. This is exacerbated on the Eastern Shore, which is becoming a “retirement magnet.”
On the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland persons over 85 comprise the fastest growing segment of the population. In Dorchester, Wicomico and Worcester counties the 65+ age group is projected to almost double between 2000 and 2030, BEACON said.
Officials at both SU and Peninsula Regional believe continuing collaboration and cooperation between their two institutions will help to better meet the needs of this growing population.
For more information on the SU respiratory therapy program call 410-543-6365 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu. For more information on health profession scholarships at Peninsula Regional call 410-543-7126 or visit the Medical Center Web site at www.peninsula.org. "