We Are UNCW

Thomas Nietman

 April 19, 2022

After a severe bout with pneumonia that required hospitalization and a long recovery, Thomas Nietman needed extensive respiratory therapy, a life-changing and life-saving experience that ultimately led to a new career path.

“During my illness, I was introduced to the fantastic profession and practitioners of respiratory therapy, and I have not looked back,” said Nietman, who is one of the architects for UNCW’s respiratory therapy program that launched in fall 2021 with its first student cohort.

A graduate of Johnson & Wales University Culinary School, Nietman spent a decade in the food and beverage industry before hanging up his apron for a lab coat to pursue pulmonary medicine.

“I think that my time in the culinary industry helped prepare me for a career in health care as many soft skills and experiences cross over, such as customer service, communication, working in teams, and having dynamic time management skills,” Nietman explained.

In 2011, the Fayetteville, NC native began his respiratory therapy education, earning an associate of applied science degree, followed by both undergraduate and graduate degrees from UNC Charlotte. He holds an advanced professional credential, Adult Critical Care Specialist, from the National Board for Respiratory Care and is a current member of the American Association for Respiratory Care and the Coalition for Baccalaureate and Graduate Respiratory Therapy Education. Nietman was also a faculty member and director of clinical education for Fayetteville Technical Community College and has had diverse clinical experiences, which include heavy rotations in all adult critical care units, the 20th busiest emergency room in the country (at the time) and neonatal intensive care.

When he joined the UNCW College of Health and Human Services faculty in the School of Health and Applied Human Sciences as a clinical assistant professor and director of clinical education, Nietman was tasked with helping to build a new respiratory therapy program from scratch. He credits the collaboration and support of his respiratory therapy team, UNCW colleagues and community partners for successfully creating the first entry-level baccalaureate degree in respiratory therapy for the community and state of North Carolina. The program offers two degree tracks in respiratory therapy – a four-year residential program and an online accelerated program, specifically designed for respiratory care therapists in the workforce.

“If I had to describe UNCW in three words it would be support, support, support! Without the support from the great educational teams at UNCW, what we do would not be possible,” he said.

Nietman hopes his efforts to aid in the development and training of new respiratory therapy professionals will have a positive community impact to meet the growing needs of Wilmington and southeastern NC.

“These graduates will go on to shape the future of the respiratory therapy profession and will have positive and far-reaching impacts as their careers progress.”

-- Krissy Vick

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