Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists…dedicated to better breathing

What is a Respiratory Therapist?

Respiratory therapists (RTs) are highly skilled health care professionals. They care for patients by evaluating, treating, and maintaining cardiopulmonary (heart and lung) function. Respiratory therapists have specialized medical expertise and use advanced medical technology. They are educated to treat all age groups, from newborns to the elderly.

Most respiratory therapists work in hospital settings, particularly high-risk areas.

These areas include:

  • Intensive care units
  • Emergency departments
  • Operating rooms
  • Neonatal nurseries
  • General wards

Respiratory therapists also work in:

  • Outpatient clinics
  • Specialized medical centers, such as sleep labs
  • Patients’ homes

What is the role of a respiratory therapist?

Respiratory therapists provide advanced life support for extremely ill patients. They help patients to keep breathing.

Respiratory therapists:

  • Treat patients that have experienced trauma or are in surgery or intensive care
  • Help with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Stabilize high-risk patients being moved by air or ground ambulance
  • Provide support in high-risk deliveries for babies who have trouble breathing
  • Educate the public and patients on appropriate measures to be taken during an influenza pandemic
  • Provide information and instruction to health care workers on proper infection control practices particularly in the event of an infectious outbreak

Where else do respiratory therapists work?

Respiratory therapists also:

  • Help deliver anesthesia in the operating room
  • Administer inhaled drugs and medical gases such as asthma medication and oxygen
  • Do tests to measure lung function
  • Provide hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • Provide rehabilitation services
  • Teach patients to manage a variety of medical conditions including asthma
  • Provide respiratory care to adults and children in their homes
  • Provide healthcare in various clinics related to breathing such as asthma, emphysema, or cystic fibrosis clinics
  • Administer and provide care in cardiac diagnostic clinics, pulmonary function clinics, and sleep disorder labs
  • Provide education to patients, members of other healthcare professions, and the public on topics like smoking cessation.
  • Advance the practice of respiratory therapy by doing research and creating clinical practice guidelines
  • Fill managerial and administrative positions
  • Work in different types of jobs in private industries such as medical equipment sales, service and clinical support

How do I become a respiratory therapist?

To become respiratory therapists, students follow educational programs offered by either community colleges or universities. Colleges offer a three-year diploma program and universities offer a four-year degree program.

Respiratory therapy educational programs include both clinical and didactic components. The clinical component typically involves extensive hands-on training in a hospital setting.

Generally, becoming a respiratory therapist requires:

  • Graduating from a training program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Respiratory Therapy Education which is administered by the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists
  • Successfully completing a certification examination