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Educational Requirements

Educational Requirements

High School students interested in pursuing a career in respiratory therapy may benefit from basic and advanced coursework in biology, human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, health, art and the social sciences.

Educational Requirements

All Respiratory Therapists at St. Mary are required to complete a minimum of Associate's Degree program supported by the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC), or its predecessor the Joint Review Committee for Respiratory Therapy Education (JRCRTE), or accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). There are two and four year Bachelor degree programs offered by some schools.  After graduation, the therapist must then take a national exam and obtain proper licensure for their State.

In the US, a two-tiered system exists that is administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). First a certification exam can be taken, and if passed, the therapist is designated Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT). After that, a written registry exam and a separate clinical simulation exam can be taken, and if passed, will earn the designation of Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). Also, further examination for Neonatal/Pediatric Specialist may be taken allowing RTs to be designated as Neonatal-Pediatric Specialists (CRT-NPS or RRT-NPS). CRT status with one year experience in Neonatal or Pediatric Respiratory Care following Certification, or RRT status is required for eligibility to take the NPS exam.

Other exams that RTs are eligible to take include Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist (CPFT), Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist (RPFT), and Asthma Educator (AE-C). Some RTs go on to become sleep study technicians and obtain the credential of Registered Polysomnographic Sleep Technologist (RPSGT), which is governed by the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT).

Regulatory Bodies and Professional Societies in the United States

In the United States respiratory therapy is regulated by the individual states. All states except for Hawaii and Alaska require licensure by the individual state, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Others accept the accreditation granted by the NBRC. The American Association for Respiratory Care is the only professional organization in the United States specifically for Respiratory Care Practitioners.

In order to be considered for admission to a respiratory therapy program, a strong high school background (typically grades of B+ or higher) in science and math at the senior matriculation level is usually required. The program of study varies from one school to another, but all programs include the following:

Courses in anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, hemodynamics, mechanical ventilation, statistics, healthcare law, and medical ethics are required. Pass marks are usually set high. These studies relate to all body systems. Extra focus is spent on the respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological and renal systems.

Class sizes are usually small and offer classroom as well as clinical "hands-on" experiences. Many applicants already hold science degrees. Traditionally there is a measurable attrition rate due to a student's failure to meet expected performance standards. Most of the schools do not allow multiple rewrites of failed exams. The material from the entire program must be mastered, applied and retained. There is no "cook book" practice. RTs must think quickly under stressful situations and make the proper life-or-death decisions. RTs function as a patient advocate, as well as a staff, physician and patient resource. RTs function as a member of the health care team.

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