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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

New Online Respiratory Therapy Bachelor of Science Degree completion program perfect choice for SJVC grad

December 11, 2017

Online Respiratory Therapy Bachelor student Jessica MerrillThe timing was perfect for Jessica Merrill, who graduated from SJVC’s Respiratory Therapy Associate of Science degree program in Ontario last February and was researching Bachelor of Science – Respiratory Therapy completion programs in order to take her newly minted expertise a step higher.

Jessica was enrolled in a state college Respiratory Therapy program that had not yet started classes when Russell McCord, Respiratory Therapy Program Director on the Ontario campus, called to give her the good news. SJVC’s Online Bachelor’s degree completion Respiratory Therapy program was about to launch. She did some online research about SJVC’s newest education provision and started taking steps to enroll. She didn’t second-guess the instincts that told her this was the right move.

“Enrollment was super easy,” says Jessica. “I filled out information online; they already had my transcripts, and I never even had to have an in-person interview. Within a few days, they told me a spot was open for August. I signed all the agreements and financial aid stuff, and I was in.”

Enrolling in SJVC’s Bachelor of Science Respiratory Therapy (BSRT) completion program was actualizing a dream Jessica had nurtured since she was in high school. “I was in the Medical Magnet program and interned in a Respiratory Therapy department four hours every day after school,” she says. She had a “this is it” moment and began to plan her career path.

Jessica graduated from high school and was clearing a few Respiratory Therapy program pre-requisites at a community college when all career efforts came to a halt. A very serious car accident not only derailed her career plans, it made it uncertain as to whether she might ever walk again.

“I didn’t walk for almost five years, so that kind of put things on hold,” she remembers. “I didn’t know where I would go from there.” She went from immobility to tentative steps and walking with a cane to grateful independence. “My brain knew that I could walk, but my legs didn’t.” Self-determination prevailed.

Along the way, Jessica’s career dreams were seriously punctured. She found herself working for a post-production company, putting sounds and color into movies and TV shows. “It wasn’t for me, and I hated it,” she remembers. “My heart was always with Respiratory Therapy.”

It was her husband of three years, Jesse, who encouraged her to dust off her career dreams and enroll in the Respiratory Therapy A.S degree program in Ontario. She completed the program with great success. “He is happy, and without him, I couldn’t do any of this,” she says.

Jessica’s other inspiration to get her advanced degree? “My age!” she laughs. At 30, she is feeling a little pressure. “I’m getting so old and I didn’t have anything to show for my age. Others were getting their Bachelors’ degrees and moving, and I wasn’t getting anything done. I had to do this!”

Although Jessica did well academically in her Respiratory Therapy program at the Ontario campus, she has found she needed to make some adjustments to online learning dynamics for the BSRT program. “The learning style is a little difficult and you have to figure out your groove and what works for you,” she says.

“In (ground campus) class, I ask a million questions, but here (online) you can’t really do that,” says Jessica. “I do manage to ask about ten thousand questions in emails, but it’s really a self-motivation thing and you have to be really dedicated.”

Jessica has discovered several advantages to distance learning. “You are able to be home and can make your own schedule,” she says.  “You choose your pace; if you want to do all of your reports in one day, you have that option. Not having to leave the house and drive to the classroom is really nice.”

School-from-home works on many levels. “Before I was never home,” says Jessica. “Now, Jesse doesn’t have to worry about anything. I can do school and take care of home.”

She still misses that up-close contact with her instructors, though. “But they give you their phone number so you can text them right away, and they answer very quickly and very well.”

What really works for Jessica is the flow of the Online BSRT program. “The way SJVC set it up is there is one class every five weeks, and it makes it so easy, even for people who work full-time. It makes it so you can really focus on that one class and give it 100%,” she enthuses.

Jessica is coasting along with a 3.71 GPA. “Jessica is a hard-working student,” says Anastasia Kenrick, General Education instructor. “She consistently uplifted her classmates in the Forum through her conversations with them, as well as pushed herself with each step of the project in ENG321. She was an amazing student and will do a wonderful job as she finishes up her Bachelor’s degree completion program.”

Jessica’s dream career is just on the horizon. She already knows how it will feel and fit her ideals.

“You have to be compassionate and respectful of others because you’re going to have to deal with people of different cultures, languages and ideologies,” she says. Jessica was once inspired by a Respiratory Therapist and mentor who made an indelible impression on Jessica’s vision of herself. “She loved what she was doing, and I wanted a job that made me feel that way.”

It is all about to happen. Patience is an unexpected gift Jessica has embraced along the way.

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