Respiratory therapist shortage: MATC doubling program enrollment

They were some of the heroes of the pandemic. Respiratory therapists have been working on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19.

But lately, many have left the job causing a shortage in the field and Milwaukee Area Technical College is trying to help fill the gap.

MATC is trying to double its enrollment in the respiratory therapy program.

It's something health care providers in our area asked for – with this huge need.

It's a hands-on program providing real-life training in a field that has worked the frontlines of the pandemic. 

Michael Christman is a respiratory therapy instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get breaking news alerts in the FOX6 News app for iOS or Android

"It’s something we’ve never seen before," he said. "We’re trying to meet the demands of the community by doubling enrollment."

The program which currently enrolls 30 students each year, will try to make it 60, a suggestion made by area health care providers.

We can pump up more students, but we need more qualified applicants for respiratory therapy," Christman said.

Eduardo Orta is in his second year planning to graduate next spring.

"You have to realize the job that you’re coming to do and it’s to save people and to help people," said Orta. 

While the career may be stressful with a shortage of staff, Orta is ready to get to work.

"It’s super rewarding to be able to see people every day and people in distress and be able to help them out in the best way we know how to," said he said.

SIGN UP TODAY: Get daily headlines, breaking news emails from FOX6 News

The program is looking for more students--like him--trying to keep up with new challenges.

"They’re needed, they’re in high demand, they’re frontline heroes," he said.

Christman says he suspects burnout, COVID fears and people retiring have all been factors in the shortage.

Right now, there are huge signing bonuses being offered to attract people to the job.

If you're interested in learning more about the program, visit MATC's website. 

Battle over Major Harris' burial exposes frayed family ties

If the murder of a 3-year-old boy was not tragic enough, the unexpected battle over his burial has taken the heartbreak to a whole new level.

Kyle Rittenhouse trial: Opening statements Tuesday after jury set

The homicide trial of Kyle Rittenhouse headed toward opening statements on Tuesday after a jury was seated in just a day despite the polarizing nature of the case.