Authored by: Laura Kanov, Senior Vice President, Product Strategy

Respiratory Care Week

In December, 1985, I passed the National Boards, and become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). This was my first foray into a real profession that has taken me on this wonderful journey through healthcare to healthcare IT. As the nation celebrates Respiratory Care Week, I want to shout out to all my RT colleagues and friends, recognize where they have come from, and how they contribute to the laudable task of saving lives, improving health, and educating patients in managing their respiratory conditions (or those of their children).

The Journey from Tank Jockeys to Respiratory Care Practitioners: Highlights from the History of Respiratory Therapy

1943: Edwin R. Lavine, MD, establishes a primitive inhalation therapy program using on-the-job trained technicians to manage post-surgical patients at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago.

1946: Dr. Levine’s students and other interested doctors, nurses, and oxygen orderlies meet at the University of Chicago Hospital to form the Inhalation Therapy Association (ITA).

1960: The American Registry of Inhalation Therapists (ARIT) is formed to oversee a new examination leading to a formal credential for people in the field.

1986: The AART becomes the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC); the ARTF becomes the American Respiratory Care Foundation (ARCF); the NBRT becomes the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).

2004: Vermont becomes the 48th state to pass a licensure of other legal credentialing lay governing the profession of respiratory care, effectively bringing legal credentialing to all 48 contiguous states; the AARC celebrates its 50th Anniversary at the International Respiratory Congress in New Orleans,

Think Respiratory Care Practitioners are JUST treating asthma and COPD? 

Despite having over 25 million people in the United States to treat for asthma, 14.8 million adults with COPD, and an additional 12 million who are yet to be diagnosed [1], that’s not all respiratory care practitioners are up to.

Today, you will find Respiratory Care Practitioners:

  • In intensive care units managing complex life support equipment like mechanical ventilators and ECMO devices.
  • On rapid response teams placing life sustaining airways into adults, pediatrics, and neonates to support artificial ventilation.
  • In emergency rooms or hyperbaric chambers delivering life-saving treatments.
  • In hospitals giving breathing treatments to people with asthma and other respiratory conditions.
  • In newborn and pediatric units helping kids with conditions ranging from premature birth to cystic fibrosis.

Think that’s all? The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the number of employed respiratory care practitioners to increase by 30,500 by 2026 [2]. That’s a 23% increase, versus a projected 15% increase estimated for other health diagnosing and treating practitioners. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the list goes on:

  • In operating rooms working with anesthesiologists to monitor patients’ breathing during surgery.
  • In patient’s homes providing regular check-ups and making sure people have what they need to stay out of the hospital.
  • In sleep laboratories helping to diagnose disorders like sleep apnea.
  • In blood gas laboratories analyzing arterial blood they just drew from an elusive radial artery.
  • In skilled nursing facilities and pulmonary rehabilitation programs helping people breathe easier and get more out of life.

Despite a broad range of license requirements from state-to-state, like keeping up with 12 C.E. hours annually in my home state of Tennessee, or 30 C.E. hours bienially in HBI Solution’s home base of California [3], respiratory care practioners stay dedicated:

  • In doctor’s offices conducting pulmonary function tests and providing patient education.
  • In asthma education programs helping kids and adults alike learn how to cope with the condition.
  • In smoking cessation programs assisting those who want to kick the habit for good.
  • In air transport and ambulance programs rushing to rescue people in need of immediate medical attention.
  • In case management programs helping devise long-term plans for patients.

HBI Solutions recognizes the importance of these practitioners and the conditions they manage for population health. Which is why we’ve developed predictive algorithms that help practitioners identify those at risk for events such as Asthma Exacerbation and conditions such as COPD.

So…to all of you who have Burton, Egan, and Shapiro on your bookshelves, who can reposition an ET tube without an X-ray, and know the difference between a blue bloater and a pink puffer – Happy Repiratory Care Week!