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By Professor Liang Zongan, Chairman RC Division, Sichuan University
West China School of Medicine, West China Hospital of Sichuan University, was established in 1914. West China Hospital (WCH) is one of the largest single-site hospitals in the world and the leading medical center of West China, treating complicated and severe cases with 4,300 beds, 44 clinical departments, and 16 non-clinical/laboratory departments.
WCH is ranked 2nd on the Most Popular 3A Hospital List, and in 2014 over 4.9 million patients visited the outpatient department, 130,000 operations were performed, and 220,000 patients were discharged from inpatient departments. The hospital has the largest student clinical skills training base in China, supervising 165 PhD candidates and 325 master degree students. In the past two years, WCH has established long-term cooperative relationships with more than 30 internationally renowned institutions, including Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and The Mayo Clinic.
In 1997, I launched a four-year respiratory care (RC) training program with the help of former Chairman Dr. Sawyer and Loma Linda University. I am currently responsible for the RC program and chairman of the RC Division.
In 2000 WCH officially enrolled undergraduate students in the four-year respiratory care program awarding a bachelor of science degree upon graduation. Admission to the RC program is limited to 20 students per year. This is the only undergraduate teaching institution in China offering a BS degree in respiratory care and the curriculum is basically in accordance with that is taught in the U.S. Students complete general medical courses; specialized courses such as lung function, respiratory physiology, and mechanical ventilation; and conclude with a clinical practice course lasting 48 weeks.
Since its inception the RC Division has trained over 200 respiratory therapists, who have been distributed in 47 hospitals and a number of medical device companies over the 16 provinces. Many of the early graduates have assumed leadership roles as clinical directors and instructors in the RC Division.
In 2015, West China Medical School of Sichuan University formally established the Respiratory Care Division and will admit master of science and doctorate of science degree candidates in respiratory care. Undoubtedly, Sichuan University plays an important role in the development and prosperity of respiratory care throughout China.
At present, respiratory care in China is confronted with many challenges. First, China does not have an approved respiratory therapist licensing examination, although there are some examinations for the graduates from Sichuan University. Therefore, there is no relevant professional qualification certification or credential, and this is where further effort must be expended.
Second, as for undergraduate education, the teaching faculty was composed of physicians at the beginning, and although there have been some professional respiratory therapists join in gradually, it still cannot meet the teaching needs. There is a shortage of experienced faculty, and the hope is to have sufficient professional respiratory therapists to take on the teaching work.
Third, the RC curriculum, teaching methods, and materials need expansion and revision. Also there is a need to include further education and training in scientific research analysis and methodology.
Overall, the Sichuan University RC program’s goal is to foster the development of additional Chinese professional respiratory therapists, in part through the establishment of an international training center at WCH. The RC program will continue to support and encourage international cooperation and communication to assist in the establishment of international standards in RC education, evaluation, research, and credentialing.