"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
RTs 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 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
- 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
Become a RT
Being a Respiratory Therapist allows you to work as part of the healthcare team responsible for the treatment and care of patients with a variety of illnesses and disabilities. RT's are responsible for the cardio-respiratory care of patients requiring both acute and chronic intervention in their disease. As an RT you will learn what it means to be part of a team, and will feel a daily sense of accomplishment knowing that your academic knowledge and clinical decisions help people improve the quality, and sometimes even the length of their life. Making the decision to become an RT will allow you to embark on a vocation that is both challenging and rewarding.
Students learn theoretical subjects, such as anatomy, and receive clinical training in hospital and home care settings. While studying to become a respiratory therapist, join CSRT as a student member and receive the Canadian Journal of Respiratory Therapists (CJRT) and all of the benefits that CSRT has to offer. For more information about becoming a CSRT Student Member, click here.
Respiratory therapists in Canada graduate from three-year training programs offered by community colleges and institutes of technology. Some universities also offer four-year respiratory therapy degrees. The didactic component of the program is provided at the college, institute of technology or university and students receive clinical training in hospital and home care settings.
Following graduation from accredited programs, students are eligible to write the Canadian Board of Respiratory Care (CBRC) Examination. Successful candidates are then eligible for the CSRT Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential. In provinces where the profession of respiratory therapy is governed by provincial legislation, other credentials may be required.
Respiratory therapists in Canada graduate from a 3 or 4 year education program, depending if thry want a certificate or degree. The education programs are offered by community colleges and universities across Canada.
The Respiratory Therapy Education program includes a didactic component in a classroom and labs followed by a clinical practicum in the hospital and home care settings.
Following graduation from respiratory therapy accredited programs, students are eligible to write the CBRC National Certification Examination. Successful candidates earn the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential from their provincial regulatory body (if in a regulated province) or from the CSRT (if in a non-regulated jurisdiction).
Please note that this is not a list of accredited programs and that some programs on this list are not accredited. Please visit the Accreditation tab for a current list of accredited programs.
List of education programs by province:
Cégep de Ste-Foy (non-accredited)
- 2410, chemin Ste-Foy., Ste-Foy, QC, G1V 1T3
Monique Provencher, adjointe à la direction des études
Cégep de Sherbrooke (non-accredited)
- 475, rue du Parc, Sherbrooke, QC J1E 4K1 Manon Ouellet, Department Coordinator
International Programs - Qatar
Blueprint for the Profession
As the profession of respiratory therapy in Canada and the CSRT celebrates 50 years of existence, the nature of the roles and responsibilities of the practicing respiratory therapist continues to evolve. The challenges and opportunities practitioners across Canada face today are significantly different than they were a half century ago. In order to maintain the highest levels of patient care the profession will continue its evolution in response to multiple pressures, including: funding models, patient needs, new technology and demographic change.
The purpose of the Blueprint is to provide a framework in which future policy directions for the profession can be developed such that they remain aligned with the health needs of the Canadian population. This document will serve as a valuable resource for CSRT and its collaborators when considering the future strategic directions of the profession.
The Blueprint consists of a series of nine foundational pillars. The pillars are broad statements which are bolstered by supporting statements; these refer to more specific drivers or actions that support the realization of the above principles. The Blueprint is titled on a fundamental principle: “Respiratory therapy: dedicated to optimal cardio-respiratory health and wellness”
Code of Ethics
While performing their professional activities, respiratory therapists shall uphold the vision of the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists by adhering to the following principles of ethical and professional conduct.
Safe and Competent Care
Respiratory therapists shall perform their duties in a safe and competent manner, being guided at all times by their concern for the health and well-being of the patient.
Respiratory therapists shall perform their duties within their own level of competence and authority assigned to them. Should the delivery of care extend beyond their level of competence, respiratory therapists must seek additional knowledge or assistance from another member of the healthcare team.
Respiratory therapists shall perform their duties in accordance with the CSRT Standards of Practice for respiratory therapy and all other applicable laws and regulations.
Dignity and Confidentiality
Respiratory therapists shall provide care without discrimination, with respect for the rights and dignity of all individuals.
Respiratory therapists shall respect and protect the legal rights of the patient, including the right to informed consent and refusal or withdrawal of treatment.
Respiratory therapists shall keep in confidence all privileged information concerning the patient in accordance with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, and any other health information protection legislation that may apply in their province.
Professional Integrity and Accountability
Respiratory therapists shall conduct themselves with honesty and integrity in all of their professional interactions.
Respiratory therapists shall avoid any activity that creates a conflict of interest or violates any local, provincial or federal laws and regulations.
Respiratory therapists shall advocate their role as leaders in the promotion of health and the delivery of quality respiratory care as outlined in the vision statement of the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists.
Respiratory therapists shall be accountable for their practice, and will act in a manner that is consistent with the philosophy and Standards of Practice of the CSRT.
Respiratory therapists shall strive to be a role model for other members of the healthcare team by demonstrating responsibility, cooperation, accountability and competence in meeting the healthcare needs of the public.
Standards of Practice
Specialized body of knowledge
Respiratory therapists possess a specialized body of knowledge, and base the performance of their duties on respiratory therapy theory and practice.
Respiratory therapists are essential members of the healthcare team, and assume a variety of roles in different areas of practice, such as clinical, education, health promotion, management, research, administration, and consulting.
Respiratory therapists practice independently, interdependently, and collaboratively, and may practice within legislated professional regulations.
Safe practice and application of knowledge and technology
Respiratory therapists safely and effectively apply their skills, knowledge, and judgment based on the needs of their patients.
Respiratory therapists are committed to quality outcomes, and intervene so as to contribute to the best possible outcomes for their patients.
Respiratory therapists who are involved with technical procedures must do so in accordance with any regional, provincial, or manufacturer standards or recommendations. These procedures must incorporate best practice standards, and should be research based.
Respiratory therapists, in consultation with peers, relevant others, equipment manuals, and CSA guidelines shall select, operate and maintain equipment to provide safe, effective care.
Respiratory therapists ensure that all equipment is appropriately cleaned, disinfected or sterilized, and is properly maintained and calibrated by trained personnel.
Respiratory therapists will notify and discuss with the physician if he or she feels the ordered therapy/diagnostic procedure is inappropriate for the patient’s condition. The respiratory therapist may refuse to perform such therapy/diagnostic procedure if they feel that it is detrimental to the patient. Such refusal must be made clear to the physician and be documented.
Communication and collaboration
Respiratory therapists shall understand the objective of the ordered therapy/diagnostic procedure and will clarify with the physician if necessary.
Respiratory therapists will inform the patient of the therapy/diagnostic procedure that will be performed, respecting the personal and legal rights of the patient including the right to informed consent and refusal of treatment.
Respiratory therapists will maintain effective communication with members of the healthcare team regarding the patient’s status and progress.
Respiratory therapists will institute immediate supportive measures and notify relevant members of the healthcare team in the event of deterioration of the patient’s condition.
Respiratory therapists will document all information relevant to the provision of care as per organizational policies and procedures.
Respiratory therapists will determine the initial clinical status of the patient, and ensure the ordered therapy/diagnostic procedure is consistent and correct for the patient’s condition.
Respiratory therapists will collect data from the patient, the patient’s family, members of the healthcare team, health records and reference material to identify the patient’s level of function as well as relevant risks affecting and factors contributing to the patient’s health.
Respiratory therapists will develop and implement the plan of care in collaboration with members of the healthcare team.
Respiratory therapists use evidence-based knowledge in selecting strategies and interventions.
Respiratory therapists select strategies and interventions according to their effectiveness, efficiency and suitability in relation to the goals of the plan, and ensure that the goals of the plan are appropriate for each patient.
Respiratory therapists will maintain, modify, or discontinue the plan in consultation with members of the healthcare team.
Respiratory therapists will evaluate the effectiveness of strategies and interventions by comparing actual outcomes to anticipated outcomes.
Respiratory therapists will use the results of the evaluation to improve policies and procedures in respiratory therapy practice related to patient care.
Respiratory therapists will evaluate his/her performance of individual procedures and overall practice.
Professional accountability and responsibility
Respiratory therapists are accountable for meeting the ethical and legal requirements of the profession of respiratory therapy.
Respiratory therapists shall follow sound scientific procedures and promote ethical behaviour in practice and in research.
Respiratory therapists shall demonstrate behaviour that reflects integrity and compassion, supports objectivity, and fosters trust in the profession and its professionals.
Respiratory therapists shall report unsafe practice or professional misconduct of a peer or other healthcare worker to appropriate authorities.
Respiratory therapists will provide care without discrimination on any basis, with respect for the rights and dignity of all individuals.
Respiratory therapists shall refrain from indiscriminate and unnecessary use of resources, both economic and natural, in their practice of the profession.
Respiratory therapists promote disease prevention and wellness.
Respiratory therapists promote the growth of the profession, and present a positive image of respiratory therapy to the community.
Continuing education and competence
Respiratory therapists are committed to life-long learning to upgrade their knowledge and skills in order to keep their practice current.
Respiratory therapists shall assume responsibility for maintaining competence in their practice of respiratory therapy, and shall seek opportunities for professional growth.
Respiratory therapists shall acknowledge limitations in their knowledge, skills, or judgment, and will function within those limitations.
Respiratory therapists strive for excellence in the profession by participating in, and promoting the use of self-assessment tools as well as obtaining feedback from appropriate others in order to determine and improve their knowledge, skills, and judgment.