Student Stories: Kathryn Ziegler

Kathryn Ziegler

Major: Respiratory Care

After her application for a health care program at College of DuPage was rejected, Kathryn Ziegler was unsure of what to do next.

Health Science Admissions

Then an unexpected opportunity led her to the Respiratory Care program.

“I had no interest in respiratory and didn’t even know the program existed,” she said. “Program Chair Barb Coe came across my name and academic record and reached out to me to apply for her program. Feeling very down and depressed from the rejection, I viewed this new opportunity as ‘one door closed, another door opening’ and immediately contacted her to find out more.”

Ziegler had previously earned an associate degree from COD and attended another community college for phlebotomy, but she didn’t feel prepared for her future job. However, after being accepted into the Respiratory Care program, she found her confidence building.

“I wish I would have attended COD’s Phlebotomy program, as the students seemed to complete it with much more confidence than I had,” she said. “At COD, I was the first student in my class to be offered a student position at the hospital, and once I graduated, I had multiple hospitals trying to recruit me.”

Armed with her Associate in Applied Science in Respiratory Care, Ziegler completed COD’s 3+1 program with Concordia University Chicago and earned a bachelor’s degree in health care management. She is an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) specialist and has applied to Rush University’s Master of Science in Cardiovascular Perfusion program.

She considers this as having come full circle, as she first heard about perfusion at COD.

“When I originally applied for the other health career program at COD, I needed to take prerequisite classes,” she said. “I signed up for two but one of them was not the correct class! I accidently signed up for Survey of Health Careers and it ended up being fantastic—I would recommend it for anyone trying to get into health care. The basis of the class was picking a different health care career each week and researching the amount of schooling, the salary, the demand/need and other topics. I picked perfusion one week because I had no idea what it was. I never once thought while researching it that I would one day apply for it.

“The program at Rush is very competitive and challenging to get into. It is a full two-year commitment where I will not be able to work. If I do not get into the program, I plan on taking a respiratory therapist travel contract and hopefully go to places such as Alaska, Seattle and New Mexico to work for a few weeks while getting to travel.”

As for COD, Ziegler said it is never too old to go back to school.

“You should first talk with a counselor,” she said. “My next advice is to take it one step at a time. I kept telling myself I was done with school because I was over it, but I went from finishing an associate degree to a bachelor’s and hopefully to a master’s degree.”

Learn more about the Respiratory Care program at College of DuPage