What is a Respiratory Therapist?
Respiratory therapists (RTs) are allied health professionals providing individuals with cardio-respiratory and respiratory care.
RTs assess and provide therapeutic treatment to those suffering from respiratory problems, in collaboration with other health care workers.
Some of the diseases treated by RTs include asthma, cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia, and pulmonary fibrosis.
Education and training
RTs are regulated health professionals in some provinces and completing an approved program in one province may not be sufficient to become a registered RT in another. For example, RTs are regulated health professionals in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Québec, and Nova Scotia. Therefore, candidates interested in practicing in those provinces must meet additional requirements.
The Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists advises that applicants contact the regulatory board in the province where they are interested in practicing. In provinces where the profession is not regulated, standards are established and governed by individual employers. Regulation ensures that all members meet a basic standard of practice and competency, especially where the public’s safety and interests are paramount.
Students who graduate from the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists recognized and approved programs are eligible to sit for the national registration examinations provided by the Canadian Board for Respiratory Care. Upon successful completion of these examinations, candidates are awarded the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) designation.
Accredited respiratory therapy programs in Canada are found in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, and British Columbia. For a complete list, please visit the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists website. In Alberta, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary offer three-year diploma programs in respiratory therapy.
College/University partnership programs
Applicants interested in applying to a degree program should examine the college/university partnerships at the University of New Brunswick/New Brunswick Community College; Dalhousie University/Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre; Queen’s University/Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences collaborative degree program; and the University of Manitoba.
Respiratory therapy students take anatomy and other health sciences courses as well as engage in clinical placements throughout different health care settings. The majority of RTs have graduated from a three-year diploma or four-year joint diploma/degree program. Some therapists have entered the profession holding a previous degree.
Where do RTs work?
The majority of RTs work in an acute or primary care setting. They may also work in neonatal nurseries, operating rooms, or in the emergency department.
RTs may also work in long-term care facilities, diagnostic centres, as part of rehabilitation centres, in medical sales, or be involved in teaching, research, or patient education. In addition to their treatment and assessment responsibilities, RTs are also accountable for the safe mechanical and manual ventilation of ill patients (acute and chronically ill).
Salaries and demographic information
RTs earn an average of $21.87 per hour in Canada (classified as Medical Technologists and Technicians, according to the National Occupational Classification), which is above the national average of $18.07.
The employment outlook in this field is considered good. In Alberta, RTs earn between $25 to $40 an hour but there is variability depending on years of experience and place of employment.
Median annual salary for respiratory therapists in Canada (2007)
Source: Adapted from www.payscale.com
For more information regarding respiratory therapists, please visit The Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists website.