Education and credentialing in respiratory care: where are we and where should we be headed?

Respir Care Clin N Am. 2005 Sep;11(3):517-30. doi: 10.1016/j.rcc.2005.04.003.


Respiratory care is indeed at a crossroads. The profession will continue to develop by advancing the education and credentialing needed to function as physician extenders-true cardiopulmonary physician's assistants. As such, the respiratory therapist of the future will focus on patient assessment,care plan development, protocol administration, disease management and rehabilitation, and patient and family education, including tobacco education and smoking cessation. Respiratory therapists, through primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention activities, can positively affect peoples'quality of life. This advanced level professional will work in the intensive-and acute-care settings, applying sophisticated cardiopulmonary technologies, as well in clinics, physician offices, home care, long-term and rehabilitation facilities, industry, educational institutions, and research facilities. The alternative to this advanced practice is for the profession to remain a task-oriented technical field, focused on procedures and the technical aspects of oxygen and aerosol therapy, mechanical ventilatory support, and related diagnostic and monitoring techniques. Although there is a dignified and important role for the provision of the technical aspects of respiratory care, the authors believe that the future role of the respiratory specialist is that of physician extender. Higher-order performance will result in higher-order contributions to health care. This role will require increased numbers of baccalaureate and graduate degree programs in respiratory care and increased numbers of respiratory therapists who hold higher degrees,including the master's degree in respiratory care and doctoral degrees in related fields. Community colleges, 4-year colleges, and universities should be encouraged to develop effective articulation agreements and mechanisms to offer the bachelor of science degree in respiratory care to the community college student. Professional associations and accrediting agencies should promote the development of additional baccalaureate and master's degree programs in respiratory care. Education is best defined as positive behavior change. Amplified education can only improve the ability of respiratory therapists to contribute to the cardiopulmonary health of people worldwide.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel / education
  • Allied Health Personnel / trends
  • Credentialing / standards*
  • Credentialing / trends
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Therapy / education*
  • Respiratory Therapy / trends
  • United States