Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists are health care professionals that monitor, assess and treat people with breathing problems. As experts in lung and heart health and medical technology, respiratory therapists help people regain and maintain normal breathing.  

Some lung and heart conditions treated by respiratory therapists include:

  • Asthma
  • Sleep apnea
  • Heart disease
  • Emphysema
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Influenza
  • Pneumonia
  • Smoking-related disease

Using advanced medical technology and treatments, respiratory therapists usually work in high-risk sectors of hospitals such as emergency departments, operating rooms and intensive care units.  However, they also provide public services in specialized health clinics (Asthma, cystic fibrosis clinics), sleep labs, home care, as a health team member, etc. 

Some services provided by respiratory therapists include:

  • Testing heart and lung function.
  • Providing breathing support during medical emergencies, operations or for patients in intensive care.
  • Delivering inhaled drugs, anesthesia and oxygen. 
  • Preventing cardiorespiratory disease, including smoking-related diseases.
  • Providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
  • Providing breathing-related health care services in specialized clinics.
  • Monitoring and providing care for patients in sleep disorder labs.
  • Working as a member of a health care team to develop health care plans.
  • Educating patients, colleagues and the public on breathing-related topics (smoking, lung health and function, etc.).

In Ontario, “Respiratory Therapist” is a regulated profession subject to the Professional Practice Guidelines, Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics defined by the College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario. For more information on regulatory colleges, view our What is a Regulatory College page.