What is a Respiratory Therapist

Registered respiratory therapists (RRTs) are highly skilled health care professionals. They care for patients by evaluating, treating, and maintaining cardiopulmonary (heart and lung) function. Respiratory therapists have specialized medical expertise and use advanced medical technology. They are educated to treat all age groups from newborns to the elderly. They need good judgment, excellent interpersonal skills, and the ability to maintain composure in critical medical situations.


Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals. You will find them in neonatal nurseries, operating rooms, intensive care units, general wards, and emergency departments. Their duties include:

  • Maintaining an open airway for trauma, intensive care, and surgery patients
  • Assisting in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and support
  • Providing life support for patients who can't breathe on their own
  • Assisting in high risk births
  • Stabilizing high risk patients being moved by air or ground ambulance
  • Assisting anaesthesiologists in the operating room
  • Administering inhaled drugs and medical gases such as asthma medication and oxygen
  • Conducting tests to measure lung function
  • Teaching people to manage their asthma or to quit smoking
  • Providing in-home respiratory care to adults and children with chronic lung disease


Respiratory therapists also work in the community, bringing their expertise to:

  • Home care
  • Asthma, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and other clinics
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Rehabilitation
  • Diagnostic clinics and sleep disorder labs
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment
  • Medical equipment sales and service