Date of Award

Fall 10-26-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Health Sciences


Health and Medical Sciences


Genevieve Pinto-Zipp, Ed.D

Committee Member

Deborah A. DeLuca, JD

Committee Member

Terrence Cahill, Ed.D


Critical thinking, Respiratory care, Respiratory therapy, interprofesstional education, higher education, health sciences education, respiratory care student, respiratory care faculty, respiratory care program, mixed methods, perception


Introduction: Today, with the increased demands in health care, working as a competentrespiratory therapist requires being a highly skilled, critically thinking professional. Although students are expected to learn how to think critically mostly in the academic environment from their faculty, only a paucity of studies has assessed the critical thinking of respiratory care students, with none, to our knowledge, assessing that of faculty. Therefore, the purpose of this mixed method study was to (1) assess the overall critical thinking skill levels of both respiratory care students and faculty, (2) investigate whether respiratory care faculty have stronger overall critical thinking skills than respiratory care students, and (3) determine respiratory care student and faculty perceptions regarding what critical thinking is and how it develops.

Methods: All Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care accredited U.S. respiratory care education program directors were emailed a request to participate and forward an attached letter of solicitation to their current respiratory care students and faculty. The link to the online survey was embedded in the solicitation letter. The online survey consisted of two sections: (1) profile sheet including demographic and three open-ended questions intended to collect qualitative data and (2) the Health Sciences Reasoning Test (HSRT) to assess participants’ critical thinking skill level.

Results: Twenty-two respiratory care students and 20 respiratory care faculty completed the HSRT. The mean of the overall critical thinking score showed a moderate level for the respiratory care student group (17.81) and a strong level for the respiratory care faculty group (21.65). The independent samples t-test revealed that the respiratory care faculty group had statistically significant stronger overall critical thinking scores than the respiratory care student group (p =.007). The qualitative component of the study revealed that in general participants were able to use themes identified in the literature to define critical thinking, report the role that faculty play in promoting students’ critical thinking, and list the educational strategies that promote students’ critical thinking.

Conclusion: The findings revealed that both the respiratory care students and faculty who participated in this study demonstrated an ability to think critically. The study also supported the assumption that respiratory care faculty have stronger overall critical thinking skills than respiratory care students. In light of these findings, the road to developing strong critical thinking in respiratory care students is partially paved; therefore, it is imperative for respiratory care programs and faculty to work together to take the critical thinking of respiratory care students to the advanced level recommended to meet the competencies specified by 2015 and Beyond.