Kettering College Respiratory Care Student Leads the Way

March 22, 2024 — Heather Allyn, a Respiratory Care student at Kettering College, is proving life can lead you to surprising places at any time. After being a stay-at-home mom for several years and caring for an elderly loved one, the thought of returning to college was something she couldn’t ignore.

Heather was diagnosed with a chronic lung disease as a child and was no stranger to respiratory therapists and their work to help her find comfort. When COVID-19 happened, she started thinking about respiratory therapists again since they were such an important part of helping people during that time.

She had never had an interest in pursuing a career in healthcare before then, but the idea was slowly coming into focus to do this. Caring for her sick family member helped her realize she really enjoyed that experience of being an advocate and helper for someone who needed and appreciated it.

Heather enjoyed being home with her kids and is grateful for that opportunity. She praises anyone who does that important job, but says, “When I was a stay-at-home mom, I started longing for another aspect of my brain to be engaged. I found myself online looking at things like string theory and astrophysics and realized I needed to get back to school.” When her youngest child began kindergarten, Heather enrolled at Kettering College. She says, “My daughter went to school, and then Mommy went to school.”

She chose Kettering College because we offer a bachelor’s degree in Respiratory Care and she wanted to be set apart from those earning an associate degree. Heather also appreciated the size of Kettering College. She says, “I had not been in school for 15 years, and I was scared to go back. I wanted a small school because it’s hard to get your needs met when you’re just a student number. Being a middle-aged mom of two and being married for a long time, I knew I needed individual attention. I wouldn’t have thrived like I have if I went to a large college.”

Whereas students might intentionally enroll at Kettering College for our faith-based curriculum, Heather admits she wasn’t seeking out this aspect, but she has found it to be an invaluable part of her education. Her religion courses have taught her the tools of empathy and compassion. She says, “Religion classes highlighted that we’re taking care of people and taught us how people process grief and how that might manifest as behavior. It was a piece of education I wasn’t expecting to get, but I found it incredibly valuable. It has given me a window into some of the thought processes and reactions patients might have, so I don’t just brush them off.”

As Heather prepares to graduate soon, her eyes are set on growing in a thriving career at a time when respiratory therapists are in high demand in a variety of jobs. Although she has had several interactions with respiratory therapists in her own life, she didn’t realize the wide range of jobs available in this career path until she enrolled at Kettering College.

The Respiratory Care program at Kettering College rotates its clinicals in a variety of medical facilities beyond Kettering Health. Heather says this has led her to be well-rounded and ready to work anywhere from a pediatrics unit in a hospital to a pulmonary rehab clinic. She says most people don’t think about studying to become a respiratory therapist because they simply don’t know about it as an option, but it’s an exciting career path with so many opportunities.

She says, “The Respiratory Care program here prepares you for as much as they possibly can in this range of scenarios. They teach critical thinking to solve problems clinically and to be engaged in this way.” In fact, she currently works as a student respiratory therapist in a hospital, and practices at such a professional level her colleagues only recently discovered she was a student and not a seasoned professional.

Heather credits this competency to her professors at Kettering College who have been working in the field for years. She says, “They understand clinically what skills we need and how to educate us to highlight those skills, so we can take that information and practice on our own.”

As Heather steps into a career as a respiratory therapist, she says she feels fortunate it’s a field that’s in such high demand with so many options. She says, “When I rotate to different places for clinicals, I feel like I am interviewing each location to see if I’d want to work there. I have the leverage to make the choice that’s right for me.”

Heather Allyn might not fit the mold of a “typical” student, but she has shown her peers and professors at Kettering College that a student can be anyone from any walk of life. From being a stay-at-home mom who was nervous to return to college to now being at the top of her class, Heather has led the way, showing everyone it’s never too late to answer the call, even when it was the last thing you expected to hear in your life.


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