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Respiratory therapists are clinical practitioners who evaluate, diagnose, develop plans of care for people suffering from problems with the heart and lungs. Respiratory therapists work under a physician who specializes in pulmonary and respiratory care; this type of physician is referred to as a respirologist (internationally) or a pulmonologist (United States and Canada).

Titles and designations

Typically respiratory therapists regardless of credential are referred to simply as a "Respiratory Therapist" (RT) or a "Respiratory Care Practitioner" (RCP). Since 2005 there has been a push to begin referring to respiratory therapists by their credential level to help separate the levels and identify scope of practice.


  • Registered respiratory therapist (RRT) —
  • Certified respiratory therapist (CRT) — A certified respiratory therapist is a respiratory therapist who has successfully passed the entry level examination given by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). The NBRC and the
  • Certified respiratory therapy technician (CRTT) —
  • Inhalation technician — Inhalation technicians are a role no longer utilized by health care systems in the world. Inhalation technicians were on-the-job trained technicians. Trained in oxygen and medical gas delivery and tank maintenance, the inhalation technician serves as a historical marker for the entry point of respiratory therapists into the world of medicine, pulmonology and healthcare in general.

Education and training[edit]

United States[edit]

An associate degree is required to become a respiratory therapist and bachelor degrees are becoming more prevalent. Training is offered at the postsecondary level by colleges and universities, medical schools, vocational-technical institutes, and the Armed Forces. Most programs award associate or bachelor's degree and prepare graduates for jobs as advanced respiratory therapists.

Licensure and certification[edit]

United States[edit]

A license is required to practice as a respiratory therapist, except in Alaska and Hawaii. Also, most employers require respiratory therapists to maintain a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), pediatric advanced life support (PALS), and Pediatric Emergency Assessment, Recognition and Stabilization (PEARS) certifications. State licensure is usually based on meeting the requirements for certification from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). The board offers the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential to those who graduate from entry-level or advanced programs accredited by CAAHEP or the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) and who also pass an exam. The NBRC also awards the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) to CRTs who have graduated from advanced programs and pass two separate examinations. Supervisory positions and intensive-care specialties usually require the RRT.