National Respiratory Therapy Week

This year marks the 14th annual respiratory Therapy Week from September 29 to October 5, 2002. Each year during this week, we try to raise awareness of lung disease and prevention, inform the public on who we are and let people know what we can do. In South-western Ontario, we have numerous fundraising events to not only achieve this goal, but to raise money for worthy causes. We hope to surpass our last year’s donations to the Lung Association and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation with these various initiatives.

Respiratory Therapy in comparison to other health-care disciplines is a young profession and thus many people, including other health-care disciplines, may not be sure what a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) is or what they can do. The general public does not usually find out about us until they are in a hospital or receiving home oxygen.

The official description of a Respiratory Therapist is defined as “an allied health-care worker who, under a physician’s medical direction and supervision, plans and implements a variety of therapeutic and diagnostic procedures for patients suffering from a wide range of heart and lung disorders.” Respiratory Therapists in the province of Ontario can also be referred to as Registered Respiratory Care Practitioners (RRCP). This description really only touches on a small part of what a Respiratory Therapist can do.

Respiratory Therapists generally work in larger hospitals, usually those having 50 or more beds, and work with the entire medical team in all areas of the hospital. You’ll find RRT’s/RRCP’s in neonatal nurseries, operating rooms, intensive care units, general wards, and emergency departments. Most respiratory therapists working in hospitals are responsible for:

  • Maintaining an open airway for trauma, intensive care, and surgery patients
  • Assisting in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and support
  • Providing life support for patients who can’t breathe on their own
  • Assisting in high risk births
  • Stabilizing high risk patients being moved by air or ground ambulance
  • Assisting anaesthesiologists in the operating room
  • Administering inhaled drugs and medical gases such as asthma medication and oxygen
  • Conducting tests to measure lung function
  • Teaching people to manage their asthma or to quit smoking
  • Providing in-home respiratory care to adults and children with chronic lung disease

Respiratory Therapists are graduates of three-year training programs, offered at community colleges and institutes in conjunction with hospitals. Several universities also offer four-year respiratory therapy degrees.

Following graduation from their training program, students are eligible to write the national registration examination of the Canadian Board for Respiratory Care. Successful completion of the exam leads to certification as a registered respiratory therapist. Licensure is mandatory for respiratory therapists in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia. In Quebec, membership in the professional corporation for respiratory therapy is mandatory.

Opportunities in this field are expected to grow at an above average rate. This is a relatively new field and most opportunities are still found in large urban centres.

The role of the College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario (CRTO) is to regulate the profession of respiratory care in the public interest. Since the majority of Council members are also members of the profession this system is referred to as “self-regulation.” The profession is regulated by setting out requirements for entering the practice, standards for the practice of the profession, and carrying out disciplinary action against registrants who fail to meet the standards of the profession.

By ensuring that only individuals who have met specific criteria enter the profession and that those in the profession maintain their level of competency, the public can be assured that anyone using the title “respiratory care practitioner” or “respiratory therapist” meets certain standards and is a competent practitioner. In 2001 there were 1843 members of the CRTO.

The Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists (CSRT) is a national organization representing Canada’s respiratory therapists. Founded in 1964 as the Canadian Society of Inhalation Therapy Technicians, the CSRT is dedicated to excellence in cardiorespiratory care.

Respiratory care is a 24-hour-a-day concern and all major hospitals maintain a full shift rotation of respiratory-therapy personnel seven days a week.

Respiratory therapists also work in the community, bringing their expertise to:

  • Home care
  • Asthma, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and other clinics
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Rehabilitation
  • Diagnostic clinics and sleep disorder labs
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment
  • Medical equipment sales and service

They can also be responsible for research, the purchase, operation and general maintenance of complex equipment. Respiratory Therapists also combine technical skills with scientific information for the benefit of the patients they serve.

Respiratory Therapists are often the first health professionals summoned to the emergency department. In order to function clinically at the patient’s bedside and also to handle routine maintenance within a respiratory-therapy department, the therapist must have precise knowledge of the design, function, and maintenance of the equipment and procedures in current use. Further, therapists must be able to deal effectively and sympathetically with patients as well as with physicians, nurses and other allied health professionals.

Like other professionals in medicine, graduate Therapists have an inherent responsibility to keep abreast of their field by reading current literature and attending professional meetings. Their major goal must be the well-being of the patient and this requires them to strive to provide the best services possible by keeping abreast of new developments.

For most people, breathing is as easy and natural as blinking. However, for thousands of Canadians, breathing is a struggle. They might be accident victims, premature babies with immature lungs, heart attack and stroke patients, or people who live with asthma and emphysema. When it comes to their care, a respiratory therapist will likely play a vital role on the healthcare team.

Want to know more?

Contact: Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario (RTSO) –

College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario (CRTO)

Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapy (CSRT)

Portions of this article and additional information were collected from the above listed web pages.