Career Opportunities Respiratory Care Program

In partnership with South Dakota State University

Respiratory Care Program

The South Dakota State University (SDSU) Respiratory Care Program at Rapid City Hospital offers associate and baccalaureate respiratory care degrees. You’ll learn the scientific principles of cardiopulmonary physiology and see them in practice. Upon graduation, you’ll be eligible to take the entry-level examination of the National Board for Respiratory Care to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist.

Locally and nationwide, there is a shortage for respiratory care practitioners. Currently, 63 percent of Monument Health’s Rapid City respiratory care department is comprised of SDSU graduates.

The first fall and spring semesters are spent on campus completing general education requirements. After that, students have class and clinicals at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital.

Program Features

  • 100% Job Placement
  • Online options, flexible scheduling
  • Paid internships
  • Nationally recognized for credentialing success
  • All faculty are nationally accredited Registered Respiratory Therapists
  • Accredited by the Commission of Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
  • Financial aid, scholarships and tuition assistance programs available – including Monument Health employees seeking to further their careers

For more information on the program and how to apply, visit the South Dakota State University pages on Respiratory Care (AS) and Respiratory Care (BS).

You can also speak to Program Director Lacy Patnoe, who’s based at Rapid City hospital. Phone: 605-755-3673. Email:

Common Questions

What does a Respiratory Therapist do?

Respiratory Therapists are heart and lung specialists. They work with patients of all ages, from premature babies to the elderly.  Disease states or conditions often requiring respiratory care include asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, and infant respiratory distress syndrome.

Where do Respiratory Therapists work?

Respiratory therapists provide hands-on care that helps people recover from a wide range of medical conditions. Therapists get to know their patients, and their patients’ families. Whenever breathing is an issue, they are there.

You’ll find RTs:

  • In hospitals giving breathing treatments to people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.
  • In intensive care units managing ventilators that keep the critically ill alive.
  • In emergency rooms delivering life-saving treatments.
  • In newborn and pediatric units helping kids with conditions ranging from premature birth to cystic fibrosis.
  • In operating rooms working with anesthesiologists to monitor patients’ breathing during surgery.
  • In patient’s homes providing regular check-ups and making sure people have what they need to stay out of the hospital.
  • In sleep laboratories helping to diagnose disorders like sleep apnea.
  • In skilled nursing facilities and pulmonary rehabilitation programs helping older people breathe easier and get more out of life.
  • In doctor’s offices conducting pulmonary function tests and providing patient education.
  • In asthma education programs helping kids and adults alike learn how to cope with the condition.
  • In smoking cessation programs assisting those who want to kick the habit for good.
  • In air transport and ambulance programs rushing to rescue people in need of immediate medical attention.
  • In case management programs helping devise long-term care plans for patients.

Information obtained from

How is the Respiratory Care Program in Rapid City structured?

Our respiratory therapist program is either two or four years in length and upon completion, awards the Associate of Science or Bachelor of Science degree. Coursework or pre-requisites from the first fall and spring semesters of the curriculum must be satisfactorily completed before the student is accepted into the clinical portion (professional year) of the AS program. Prior to acceptance, all pre-requisite classes must be completed with at least a “C” in every course, and your overall GPA must be at least a 2.60.

Can the pre-requisites be taken from any university?

The answer is yes. South Dakota State University is the program’s home university, but you may complete the general education and prerequisite courses at any university. All pre-requisite courses are offered online or face to face.  If these classes are taken at an out-of-state university, please contact me so we can make sure your classes will be transferable. Program Director Lacy Patnoe is happy to review any previously completed coursework to transfer to SDSU.

When do I start learning about Respiratory Care?

The second year is spent at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital, completing the professional respiratory care classes. The AS degree portion begins each May and is one year in duration. When you begin that year, you will be in “class” full time.  You will attend lecture, participate in lab, and complete clinical. Clinical is the time that you spend at the bedside working with our clinical instructor, or another licensed respiratory therapist, on actual patients.

Can I take my credentialing exam and become licensed to practice as a Respiratory Therapist after completion of my AS degree?

Yes. When you complete the professional course year, you will graduate with an Associate Degree (AS). Upon graduation, you are eligible to take the credentialing exams. After successful completion of the credentialing exams, you can receive a state license to practice.

Is the BS Degree required?

Currently, the BS degree is not required to practice as a Respiratory Therapist. It is recommended for advancement in the career. Our BS degree is set up for working professionals. Most of the courses are online and can be completed at your own pace.

Will I be able to find a job after graduation and what can I expect to earn?

The field of respiratory care provides excellent opportunities for those interested in a dynamic and exciting career in cardiopulmonary sciences. Salaries for respiratory therapists are excellent and compare favorably with other allied health fields. The median annual wage of respiratory therapists is $62,000. Job opportunities for new graduates are also very good. While U.S. employment in general is forecast to increase by 15 percent, the need for respiratory therapists will grow by up to 26 percent making respiratory care one of the fastest growing occupations!

Information obtained from

Contact Us

Speak to Program Director Lacy Patnoe, who’s based at Rapid City hospital.