A Pre-Pandemic Evaluation of the State of Staffing and Future of the Respiratory Care Profession: Perceptions of Louisiana Respiratory Therapists

Respir Care. 2022 Oct;67(10):1254-1263. doi: 10.4187/respcare.09894. Epub 2022 Jun 21.


Background: Workforce development for the respiratory therapy (RT) profession is a growing concern. Upcoming staffing difficulties are expected due to retirement, attrition from the profession, and decreased enrollment in accredited RT programs nationwide. This study assessed respiratory therapists' perceptions of staffing needs and future trajectory of the RT profession.

Methods: This cross-sectional study utilized a modified 39-question survey tool delivered via e-mail to 618 Louisiana members of the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) between November 2019-February 2020.

Results: The response rate was 19% (118/618). Although 50% of respondents perceived understaffing, 77.6% indicated the importance to remain in the RT profession. A majority (93.1%) agreed on the importance of maintaining an active membership in the AARC. Respondents working in a hospital setting perceived understaffed work environments more often than other groups. Salary was most important to the employee (33.6%, 39/116), followed equally by room for growth (14.7%, 17/116) and scope of practice (14.7%, 17/116). For the future of the profession, the ability to assess patients and develop care plans and the ability to receive reimbursement for services were indicated as most important factors. Most (69.8%) agreed that the entry-level minimum should be increased to the bachelor's degree, and 21.6% agreed the master's degree in RT should be supported to increase scope of practice.

Conclusions: This study indicated a consistent perception of understaffed work environments in respiratory care, and respondents expressed a perceived importance of remaining in the RT profession. This study also indicated support for raising the entry-level standard in RT and a desire for higher education to achieve professional growth and advancement.

Keywords: attrition; entry-level standard; growth; professional development; respiratory therapist; respiratory therapy; staffing; workforce development.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Respiratory Therapy* / education
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Workforce