On the Front Lines

When Barbara Moss first discovered the Respiratory Therapy degree program at St. Augustine College (SAC), she was already working in the health care field as a Certified Nursing Assistant.
“I was excited to find St. Augustine. There are only a few respiratory therapy programs in the city so that’s kind of unique,” says Moss, adding that the diversity of the college also sets it apart from other institutions. “Even though it’s a school founded to serve the Hispanic community, the fact that I’m not Hispanic was never an issue. It was a very diverse classroom in every way; everyone was welcome.”

Within two years of enrolling, Moss received an Associate’s of Science degree in Respiratory Therapy, determined to find work in her new specialization. Little would she know that a global pandemic was just months away—a health crisis that would demand the expertise of professionals like her.

“It was extremely difficult,” she recalls, explaining that she continued her path at Chicago’s Swedish Covenant Hospital from a CNA to Respiratory Therapist after graduation. “We had a lot of extremely sick patients who were very unstable. In the beginning, it was really bad … really scary.”
Moss credits her SAC training for allowing her to be fully prepared to step into the front lines as a first responder.

“You really had to be strong,” she says. “It was a lot of work, a lot of people needing help, and a lot of unknowns. It hit respiratory therapists probably the hardest.”

While COVID-19 is far from over, Moss says she’s looking forward to finding ways to grow her career in this next phase.

“There are so many things you can do with a Respiratory Therapy degree,” she explains. “You could do home health; you could work in a hospital. It’s a great stepping stone to basically be the nurse of breathing.”

Moss says that while she’d like to continue her studies by earning a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree someday, she will never forget her time at SAC or the impact the college had on her life. In fact, a few years ago she even donated money to the Jewish National Fund for the planting of a tree in honor of SAC in Israel—spreading its message and mission to the other side of the world.

“I loved my experience there. It taught me everything about breathing that you wouldn’t ever think twice about,” she adds. “There’s so much to it, it’s unbelievable, and I really learned all of that at St. Augustine.”