SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Ozarks Technical Community College will increase the number of nursing and respiratory therapy students it can educate by January 2023.

Respiratory therapists were instrumental in saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the United State will need more than one million new nurses to keep up with demand and nurse retirements to avoid a nursing shortage.  

“We have seen the need within our community and OTC has responded by expanding the college’s capacity to graduate more students with these essential skills,” said Dr. Aaron Light, OTC dean of health sciences.  

OTC is offering new pathways and degree programs for nurses and respiratory therapists, which will lead to an increase of 70-80 healthcare practitioner graduates each year.  

Respiratory therapy 

In March of 2021, the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development approved OTC to offer a Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy in 2023. The college is still seeking the necessary approvals and accreditations, but if the college receives all of the approvals OTC will admit its first class of bachelor’s degree-seeking respiratory therapy students in January 2023. OTC will have 15 spots available in Springfield and 15 at its location in Waynesville.  

Direct to Associate of Science in Nursing program 

The OTC Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) program is seeking approval from the Missouri State Board of Nursing to start a direct entry program that does not require a practical nursing license as a pre-requisite. 

Currently, OTC students must first graduate from a practical nursing program and achieve and maintain an active practical nursing license to be admitted into the ASN program. The new program will admit 24 students in its first cohort and they should graduate in about a year. The new direct-to-ASN program will be in addition to the current ASN program.

Certified Nurse Assistant/Medical Assistant/Emergency Medical Technician to Practical Nursing program 

If approved by the Missouri State Board of Nursing, the Practical Nursing program at OTC Springfield will offer students who are either certified nurse assistants (CNA), medical assistants (MA), or emergency medical technicians (EMT) the opportunity to enter the Practical Nursing Program with a new educational track.