What is a Registered Respiratory Therapist?

Christine Hudson
Christine Hudson
The respiratory and abdominal organs.
The respiratory and abdominal organs.

A registered respiratory therapist (RRT) is a therapist who is nationally registered and state-licensed. The primary duties of a registered respiratory therapist may include monitoring certified respiratory therapists (CRTs)and patient progress, administering new therapy to patients, and working side-by-side with physicians. Patients commonly have a form of lung disease, but may also have conditions like asthma or even a recent trauma. Registered therapists will more often be assigned to more serious cases, such as patients on life support.

The work environment for a registered respiratory therapist may be very stressful and demanding. An ability to remain calm and handle stress effectively is generally required for an RRT to be successful in his career. Students may receive training within hospital settings and even in private homes to prepare them for the type of environment they can expect.

In order to become a registered respiratory therapist in the US, a person must have an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy—in other parts of the world, such as Canada, the applicant must at least have training in a three-year program from a community college to become an RRT. Most of these programs offered at universities, medical schools, and through the military are advanced and lead to job placement right out of training. It is common for the therapists with more training and experience to also receive higher annual salaries. An aspiring registered respiratory therapist must also pass the certified respiratory therapist exam and then the RRT exam given by the National Board of Respiratory Care.

In the US, an eligibility time limit has been set for three years after certification. This means if a certified respiratory therapist has not taken and passed the RRT exam within three years of certification, she will have to take the certification again before being allowed to take the RRT exam. Other regions of the world have longer eligibility, and some do not have any time limit.

Demand for CRTs and RRTs is growing. A career as a registered respiratory therapist may provide more stability and security than most jobs, as medical professionals are always needed. Those interested in this career may wish to begin studies and preparation for their training in high school and select a high-quality post-secondary school to receive official training.

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    • The respiratory and abdominal organs.
      The respiratory and abdominal organs.