Jim Erdenberger has a mission: he wants to keep people breathing.
That mission provides his occupation and fills many of the 1992 NC State (then NCTC) graduate’s non-working hours.
The assistant director of pulmonary services at MedCentral Mansfield Hospital, Erdenberger is a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) and Respiratory Care Practitioner (RCP). Additionally, Erdenberger holds Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Basic Life Support (BLS) and Neonatal Respiratory Practitioner (NRP) designations.
In his 13th year with MedCentral, Erdenberger directly supervises 17 and interacts with 125 staff members. His primary areas of responsibility include pulmonary function, pulmonary rehabilitation, the sleep lab and neurophysiology.
Many of his working hours are spent trying to keep hospital patients supplied with the oxygen they need to breathe. “It’s something people take for granted until they don’t have it,” he said. “Our department is a very functional department. People can’t live without us.”
But helping people get their next breath wasn’t always the mission for the 1972 Mansfield Senior High School graduate. A cross country, swimming and track athlete for the red and white Tygers, Erdenberger first went to college to pursue a degree in physical education. He graduated from George Williams College, worked as a YMCA director and then in education, eventually becoming program director for the Mansfield Alternative School.
“One of the other guys at the Alternative School was attending NC State to go after his associate’s degree in Repitatory Care. I checked it out and decided it could be a good career.”
Erdenberger said he studied under NC State faculty members he now sees leading students to MedCentral for clinical experiences. “I was a part-time student, but I still got through in two years because they gave me credit for many of the classes I had taken previously,” he said. “I really just needed to take the respiratory classes. I had a very thorough education. It was an excellent experience. Rob Slabodnick and Kate Peresie taught many of my classes and they were excellent.
“There are a lot of changes taking place in respiratory therapy and I know NC State is among the schools constantly looking at things they need to add to their program to stay current. Sleep medicine is one example of an area that is new and developing.”
Coming full circle, the 58-year-old now leads class sessions for NC State respiratory care students beginning their clinical rotations, ensuring they gain the needed training and certification before seeing patients.
Even when off duty at MedCentral, Erdenberger is still on mission. He serves as a CPR instructor, and as a member of the Ohio Asthma Coalition and the Central Ohio Regional Leadership Council of the American Lung Association.
“My goal is to train 500 people per year in CPR,” he said. “That way there will be someone around to help if I need it.”
“Asthma is the number three reason kids miss school. In Ohio, it’s one of the most prevalent childhood conditions. The national average for asthma is three of 20, but in Richland County it’s three of 12 kids with asthma. One of the main causes is breathing second-hand smoke. That’s why I’m adamant about stopping smoking.”
A resident of rural Bellville, Erdenberger’s interest in swimming continues. He serves as coach for the Richland County Bears team.
Married 21 years to Jill, the couple has three children: Stephen, 20; Olivia, 19; and Max, 17.