Eastern providing training for health care workers amid widespread national shortage


WILBURTON, OK (July 28, 2020) – The global COVID-19 pandemic has called attention to a widespread shortage of respiratory therapists and nurses across the nation. Amid a critical time in the healthcare professions, students in Eastern Oklahoma State College’s health sciences programs are preparing to become frontline caregivers.


Peggy Spears, director of the respiratory therapy program at Eastern, said the COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on respiratory therapists, a sometimes overlooked healthcare professional at hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities. Respiratory therapists treat people with health care issues affecting the cardiopulmonary system such as asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, cardiovascular disorders and trauma.

“Respiratory therapists have been a vital part of the emergency response team for many years, but recent events with COVID-19 have increased the awareness of the crucial role that respiratory care plays in critical care,” Spears said. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that by the year 2028, the nation will need 21 percent more respiratory therapists than are currently employed.

“Eastern offers a two-year associate degree program at the McAlester Campus that allows students to obtain a license to practice in a variety of health care settings upon graduation,” Spears said. “After reaching a certain level of clinical skills, students may also be able to apply for a respiratory therapy student license that allows for part-time job opportunities while still in the program.”


Eastern’s respiratory therapy program was launched in 2018 and the first class is expected to graduate in December. The application period for the program is March 1 through May 15. Visit eosc.edu/respiratorytherapy or call Spears at 918-302-3601 for more information.  


While the respiratory therapy program is relatively new to Eastern, the College’s nursing program has a long history of successful graduates.


EOSC Nursing Director Gina Bullock said Eastern consistently ranks near the top of Oklahoma’s registered nursing programs based on the percentage of graduates who pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), which is used by all state boards of nursing across the nation to assess a student’s competency. 


“Our graduates’ NCLEX pass rates are regularly above both the state and national average for first-time test takers,” Bullock said. “Students have the benefit of learning from experienced, caring faculty and training in diverse clinical sites to prepare for successful careers in a high-demand field.”


According to the Oklahoma Association of Nurses, the state of Oklahoma has a ratio of 700 registered nurses (RN) per 100,000 people. This ranks near the bottom nationally in the number of RNs per 100,000 population in each state.


“There is an extremely high demand for Eastern’s nursing graduates,” Bullock added. “More than 97 percent of 2019 graduates were employed as a registered nurse within six months of graduation. Many of our students have accepted a full-time position prior to graduation.”


Eastern’s nursing program is offered in Wilburton, McAlester and Idabel. Applications for the program are due by February 15 for the basic program and October 1 for Transition (Bridge) program each year. Visit eosc.edu/nursing or call Bullock at 918-465-1796 for more information.  

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