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About respiratory therapists

Respiratory therapists are regulated health professionals who provide direct patient care by evaluating, treating and maintaining cardiopulmonary function.

Respiratory therapists work in hospitals in diverse clinical settings including critical care, neonatal intensive care units, operating rooms and emergency departments. They also teach, and work in home care, clinics, research, rehabilitation and diagnostic clinics and sleep-disorder laboratories, medical equipment sales and services, and chronic disease and primary care networks.

Data availability

CIHI’s Health Workforce Database (HWDB) collects aggregate-level, standardized data on the regulatory environment, supply, and demographic and education characteristics of respiratory therapists in Canada.

Reports and analyses

Regulatory environment

In Canada, respiratory therapists are regulated in all provinces except Prince Edward Island and British Columbia. This profession is not regulated in any territories.i

Practice criteria

To practise as a respiratory therapist in Canada, an individual must register with a provincial regulatory body as required. The requirements to obtain a licence are similar across the country but can vary slightly from one jurisdiction to another.

Common requirements

  • Hold a diploma or bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy from an accredited program
  • Pass the national certification examination offered by the Canadian Board of Respiratory Care or the épreuve synthèse in Quebec
  • Obtain membership and/or credentialing by the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists (a condition of employment for many employers in provinces/territories without regulatory bodies)
  • Register with a provincial regulatory body as required

Scope of practice

The scope of practice for respiratory therapists is articulated in provincial regulatory legislation, which outlines the range of responsibilities that define the boundaries of professional practice.

Respiratory therapists are highly skilled professionals who provide advanced life support for extremely ill patients; they help keep patients breathing. Some of their main functions includeii

  • Treating patients who have experienced trauma or are in surgery or intensive care
  • Helping with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Stabilizing high-risk patients being moved by air or ground ambulance
  • Providing support in high-risk deliveries for babies who have trouble breathing
  • Educating the public and patients on appropriate measures to be taken during an influenza pandemic
  • Providing information and instruction to health care workers on proper infection control practices, particularly in the event of an infectious outbreak

i. Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists. Provincial Regulatory Bodies. Accessed on May 19, 2016.
ii. Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists. Respiratory Therapist. Accessed May 19, 2016.