How To Become a Respiratory Therapist in Canada

How To Become a Respiratory Therapist in Canada
How To Become a Respiratory Therapist in Canada

Respiratory therapists are integral healthcare professionals who care for patients with breathing difficulties and cardiopulmonary disorders.

Their expertise is essential across a broad spectrum of healthcare settings, from emergency rooms and intensive care units to home health services, where they offer life-supporting and enhancing therapies to patients of all ages.


What is a Respiratory Therapist?

Respiratory Therapists
Respiratory Therapists

A respiratory therapist (RT) is a dedicated healthcare professional with specialized training in managing, treating, and caring for patients with respiratory and cardiopulmonary issues. These professionals possess a deep understanding of pulmonary medicine and are skilled in the latest respiratory care technologies and techniques.

Their role is critical in diagnosing lung and breathing disorders, providing treatments, and offering support to patients suffering from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cystic fibrosis, as well as those needing acute care for conditions like pneumonia or respiratory distress syndrome or during recovery from surgery.


What Does a Respiratory Therapist Do?

Respiratory therapists engage in a variety of critical functions aimed at improving the respiratory health of their patients. Their daily tasks might involve:

  • I am performing and interpreting pulmonary function tests to assess the severity of respiratory dysfunction.
  • We administer inhaled medications and aerosol treatments to open airways and alleviate symptoms.
  • They manage mechanical ventilators for patients who cannot breathe independently, closely monitor their condition, and make adjustments as necessary to ensure optimal support.
  • They are educating patients and their families on managing respiratory illnesses, including techniques for effective breathing, medication management, and lifestyle adjustments to improve pulmonary health.
  • We are collaborating with an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals to develop and implement comprehensive care plans tailored to each patient’s needs.


How To Become a Respiratory Therapist in Canada


1. Enroll in an Accredited Program

To embark on a career as a respiratory therapist in Canada, one must first complete a formal education program in respiratory therapy. These programs are offered at diploma and bachelor’s degree levels and are accredited by CoARTE.

They combine in-depth coursework in human anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and respiratory care techniques with practical clinical experiences that provide students with hands-on skills in patient assessment and treatment.


2. Develop Relevant Soft Skills

Beyond technical expertise, successful respiratory therapists must also possess a suite of soft skills. Empathy and compassion are crucial for patient-centred care and supporting patients and their families through challenging times.

Strong communication skills are essential for effectively conveying complex information about treatment plans and collaborating with healthcare teams. Problem-solving skills and working well under pressure are also important, as RTs often need to make quick decisions in emergencies.


3. Complete the National Certification Exam

After graduating from an accredited program, aspiring respiratory therapists must pass the national certification examination administered by the CBRC. This rigorous exam evaluates the candidate’s knowledge and readiness to provide high-quality respiratory care. Passing the exam is a testament to the therapist’s competency and a prerequisite for obtaining licensure.


4. Obtain Provincial Licensure

The process of becoming licensed varies by province, with each having its own regulatory body that oversees the practice of respiratory therapy. Candidates must apply for licensure in the province where they intend to practice, submitting documentation of their education, exam results, and any other required information. Obtaining licensure is the final step that grants RTs the legal authority to practice in their province.


5. Prepare Your Professional Documents

Entering the job market requires well-prepared professional documents. A detailed resume and a compelling cover letter are essential for highlighting your educational background, clinical experiences, certifications, and soft skills that make you a strong candidate for respiratory therapy positions.


6. Pursue Further Certifications

In a dynamic field like respiratory therapy, ongoing education and specialization can enhance career opportunities and professional development. RTs can pursue additional certifications in neonatal and pediatric care, critical care, pulmonary rehabilitation, and sleep medicine. These certifications, offered by various professional organizations, signify advanced expertise and can lead to specialized roles.


Alternative Career Choices

For those drawn to the healthcare sector but considering different paths, several related careers offer opportunities to make a significant impact on patient care:


1. Occupational Therapist

National average salary: $84,611 per year

Occupational therapists help individuals overcome barriers that affect their emotional, social, and physical needs. Through therapeutic use of daily activities, they assist patients in developing, recovering, improving, or maintaining the skills needed for daily living and working, particularly after injury or illness.


2. Physical Therapist

National average salary: $85,629 per year

Physical therapists specialize in physically rehabilitating patients recovering from injuries or diseases that affect mobility. Their goal is to reduce pain, improve function, and promote the highest level of independence in movement for their patients.


3. Registered Nurse

National average salary: $93,504 per year

Registered nurses (RNs) provide comprehensive care in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, and community health organizations. They support patients through health and illness, offering medical care, emotional support, and health maintenance and disease prevention education.