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Student Thriving in Respiratory Program

Edgecombe Community College Respiratory Therapy student Kevin Sharpe says his instructors “really know their stuff, and they are willing to go the extra mile to help us.”

His path may have been winding, but Kevin Sharpe has ended up exactly where he was meant to be, a student in the Respiratory Therapy program at Edgecombe Community College.

Sharpe, 36, is a graduate of North Pitt High School in Bethel. “I took a year off, life happened, and I didn’t go to college right away,” he says.

In his 20s, he enrolled in a large online proprietary university, earning a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration in 2013. “Having a successful career in healthcare without an RN or MD was a lot harder than I realized.

“I knew I wanted to be in healthcare, so I started prerequisites for nursing.” Soon after, he decided that path was not the right one for him. At about that time, a coworker and graduate of ECC’s Respiratory Therapy program began to talk to Sharpe about the program.

The coworker called Tim King, program chair, to tell him about Sharpe, and right away King reached out. Two weeks later, Sharpe was enrolled in ECC’s Respiratory Therapy program.

“I didn’t get a runaround at ECC like I had at other schools,” Sharpe explains. “ECC is different. It’s the environment and the people. No matter where I’ve gone on either the Rocky Mount or Tarboro campus, faculty and staff have been welcoming and helpful. They have a knack for knowing who needs help.”

Respiratory Therapy is a five-semester program at ECC. Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing, for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema.

Students begin the program as a cohort and remain with the same classmates throughout the program. They support one another, and the instructors support them.

“Tim and Josh (Josh Pendergraft, instructor and director of clinical training in Respiratory Therapy) are amazing,” Sharpe says. “They really know their stuff, and they are both willing to go the extra mile to help us.”

King records lectures for students who are unable to attend class, which meets daily Monday through Thursday. Students can then watch the lectures at their convenience. “If I don’t get something the first time in class, I’ll go back and watch the lecture. It’s super helpful,” Sharpe explains.

He adds that the instructors “not only teach us, they show us how to use the equipment, which is spot on.” The program relies on high tech patient simulators, providing students with training that mimics working with live patients.

Sharpe expects to complete the program in May 2023. He will enter a field that offers professional and financial rewards as well as opportunities for advanced degrees. In the Twin Counties area, respiratory therapists entering the field can expect to earn about $28 an hour. Pay increases with experience.

“Hospitals need more well-trained practitioners,” King says. “There is a high demand for our graduates.”

To learn more about Respiratory Therapy at ECC, please contact