Williston, VT– An historic moment at Vermont State University as campus leaders held a ceremony Wednesday to celebrate its first batch of students enrolled in a new respiratory therapy training program for upcoming school year.

The two-year program will consist of 14 students from across the Green Mountain State. Leaders from the University of Vermont Health Network, VTSU, and Community College of Vermont were in attendance.

Experts say the program will help prepare students for careers in the medical and nursing fields. Officials note this comes at a time when the need for doctors is at an all-time high in Vermont.

Future respiratory therapists were celebrated by health experts at the VTSU Williston campus.

“The world saw how critical the work of respiratory therapists is and we are proud to house the future of this progression at Vermont State,” says Mike Smith, Interim President of VTSU.

“First thing you’re supposed to do when you panic, take a deep breathe, At the end of the day, that’s what respiratory therapy enables people to do,” says Deputy Secretary Todd Daloz of the Agency of Human Services.

“Everybody from the people who needs help breathing on a breathing tube that’s on a ventilator to our grandparents that have chronic health issues, you’re going to be at each of those bedsides,” notes Ryan Kessler, a respiratory therapist at the UVM Medical Center.

In less than two weeks, students like Miranda Wigren will walk through the doors at VTSU.

“Being able to work side by side with the respiratory therapist and get an idea of what they do at the bedside was really important to making this decision,” says Wigren.

The timing couldn’t be better. Vermont healthcare experts say workforce shortages have plagued the industry over the last few years. It’s even forced hospitals to bring in traveling respiratory therapists, which Kessler says is unsustainable.

“They’re expensive and we need new blood into the workforce doctors that we can train with these programs,” says Kessler.

Kessler had some parting words of wisdom for the future therapists who will come after him.

“It’s a rewarding field. Listen to your instructor, talk to patients at bedside and try your hardest over the next few years,” Kessler says.

Students enrolled in the program had to complete prerequisite studies in anatomy and physiology.

The UVM Health Network invested $1.4 million into the program to help students with financial costs associated with the program.

The first day of classes for students attending VTSU will begin Monday, August 21st.