occupationsRespiratory Therapists   (NOC: 3214)

Respiratory therapists assist physicians in the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with respiratory and cardiopulmonary disorders. They are employed in hospitals, medical clinics, health units, extended care facilities, public health centres and respiratory home care companies Supervisors and instructors of respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists are included in this unit group.

Alternate titles for this trade may include: cardiopulmonary technologist, cardiovascular perfusion supervisor, cardiovascular perfusionist, certified clinical perfusionist (CCP), chief respiratory technologist, clinical perfusionist, perfusionist, registered respiratory therapist (RRT), respiratory therapist, respiratory therapy clinical instructor

Job Prospects!
If you were logged in you could click to learn about pay and prospects in your region for this trade.

Skills Summary Analysis!
If you were logged in you could learn how you measure up to the skill requirements of this trade.

Create portfolio!
If you were logged in you could document your skills and create a CV for this trade.

Need an account?


The following are some of the employment requirements for this trade:

  • Respiratory therapists require the completion of a two- to three-year college, hospital or university degree program in respiratory therapy, including clinical training. Clinical perfusionists require the completion of a respiratory therapy or regist

Pattern of Interests   |   Skill Requirements

Pattern of Interests

The code determined by the results of your answers to the Interest Inventory questionnaire. Each possibility has a 3 letter variation that assesses the degree and range of your interests along Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social criteria variables.


Innovative interest in speaking when assisting with diagnosis and treatment of patients; and in participating in research related to cardiac and pulmonary disorders


Methodical interest in compiling information by performing diagnostic tests such as arterial blood-gas analysis and cardiopulmonary function tests; and in monitoring, maintaining and testing diagnostic and therapeutic equipment, and in performing artificial respiration and external cardiac massage


Objective interest in precision working with equipment to administer treatments such as oxygen, oxygen-air mixtures, humidified air and medications

Top of Page

Skill Requirements

Below are Essential Skill categories and how they correspond to this occupation. This section will help you identify occupations where you have a good chance of succeeding. It can also help you see which Skills you may need to improve. Click on the Summary Analysis link above to view a complete analysis of how your Skills measure up to this occupation. This feature is only available for those Users that are logged in and have completed the self assessment component.

The most important Essential Skills for this trade are:

  • Numeracy
  • Oral Communication
  • Decision Making


Reading Text

Desired Skill Level Range: 2-4
  Respiratory Therapists
  • Read reminder notes and text entries in forms. for example, they read physicians' entries in patients' records to become familiar with diagnoses and treatment recommendations, and to learn about unusual conditions that may affect treatment plans. (2) , (daily)
  • Read entries in communication logbooks. for example, they read about changes to schedules, times and topics for in-service meetings, new equipment and changes to procedures. (2) , (daily)
  • Read memos, letters and e-mail. for example, they read memos from co-workers in their own organizations on topics such as policy changes, safety and medical procedures. they read letters from referring physicians which identify patients' medical conditions and prescribe treatments and therapies. they also read e-mail from colleagues who describe problems encountered in areas such as cardiovascular care and request possible resolutions for the problems. clinical perfusionists read e-mail which describe special techniques surgeons intend to use for upcoming surgical procedures and messages from anaesthesiologists about the equipment they require. respiratory therapists read e-mail about difficulties home oxygen equipment and symptoms patients are experiencing. (2)
  • Read equipment, policy and procedure manuals. for example, they read manuals for new equipment to understand operating and troubleshooting procedures. they may use this information to prepare learning guides and training materials for the equipment. they read their organizations' policies on topics such as contagious infection control, use of personal protective equipment and cleaning and disinfecting equipment. they may read the pulmonary function laboratory management and procedure manual outlining standard north american procedures for all cardiopulmonary testing. (3)
  • Read legislation. for example, they may read the compressed gas association's standards for air quality and transportation of dangerous goods regulations. they may also read provincial health ministries' qualification criteria and funding application procedures for home oxygen therapies. (3)
  • Read journal articles and research studies. for example, they may read articles in the canadian respiratory journal, canadian perfusion and chest to become familiar with new treatments for respiratory conditions, diagnostic methodologies, medical breakthroughs and new equipment. they may read research studies to remain knowledgeable of advancements in the field. (4)


Document Use

Desired Skill Level Range: 1-3
  Respiratory Therapists
  • Scan equipment gauges. for example, respiratory therapists scan equipment gauges to record readings when conducting cardiopulmonary function tests. perfusionists and anaesthetic assistants view gauges to check flows of air, paralytics, relaxants and anaesthesia during operations. (1) , (daily)
  • Scan product, equipment and identification labels for dates, concentrations and other data. for example, they scan labels on inhalers and gas and oxygen canisters to locate expiry dates. anaesthetic assistants scan coloured labels to identify paralytics, relaxants and anaesthesia. they then verify trade names and required concentration levels. they match information on patients' wrist identification labels to requisition forms. (2) , (daily)
  • Locate data in lists and tables. for example, they scan various lists to locate co-workers' contact numbers, review appointments and confirm supply and equipment inventories. they locate acceptable ranges of blood gases in specification tables and side effects of medications which patients are using on asthma medications charts, and identify brands. they also confirm their shift times and operating room assignments on staffing schedules. (2) , (daily)
  • Refer to a variety of diagrams and drawings. for example, respiratory therapists refer to assembly drawings to identify parts, switches and connections on cardiopulmonary testing equipment. perfusionists and anaesthetic assistants verify cable and tubing connections on basic schematic drawings when troubleshooting malfunctioning heart lung bypass machines and ventilators. (2)
  • Interpret test results displayed in graph formats. for example, they view patients' sleep and breathing graphs to determine when and what stages apnoeas and hypopnoea occur. they may view results of patients' pulmonary function tests to determine lung volumes and flows. clinical perfusionists and anaesthetic assistants monitor heart and breathing patterns to ensure patients' safety and comfort. (2) , (daily)
  • Interpret radiographs. for example, they view chest radiographs to identify spots and lesions on patients' lungs, potential pulmonary oedema, lung collapse and positions of catheters and breathing tubes. (3)
  • Locate data in entry forms. for example, they scan forms in patients' charts to verify dates and test results and review requisition forms to confirm patients' identities and tests ordered. they view testing equipment printouts such as displays of patients' blood gas levels, holter reports and pulmonary function analyses. respiratory therapists confirm equipment rental and consent forms are properly completed and signed by patients. they also review patients' responses to questionnaires such as the epworth sleepiness scale and the continuous positive airway pressure follow-up forms. clinical perfusionists review pre-anaesthetic forms to determine anaesthesia plans and operating room set-ups. (3) , (daily)
  • Complete a variety of checklists and forms. for example, they may enter their observations of students' capabilities and progress in performance evaluation forms, note strengths and weaknesses, and make training recommendations. clinical perfusionists complete pre-bypass checklists. respiratory therapists complete scheduled maintenance checklists, ventilator flow sheets, blood gas summary forms and instruction checklists for new clients. anaesthetic assistants complete detailed anaesthetic records prior to and during surgery. (3) , (daily)



Desired Skill Level Range: 1-3
  Respiratory Therapists
  • Write short notes and reminders. for example, they write notes in communication logbooks to report malfunctioning equipment, request the use of shared resources and describe changes in procedures and staffing schedules. (1) , (daily)
  • Write e-mail, memos and letters. for example, they write e-mail to ask co-workers to set up meetings and inform them of safety and equipment concerns and to suppliers to request product information. they write letters to physicians and palliative care nurses to provide test updates and ask them to reassess patients. they may write memos to instruct patients about medications and use of oxygen equipment. (2)
  • Write entries in patients' charts. for example, they comment on symptoms, test results, treatments administered, patients' responses and ventilator weaning measurements. perfusionists and anaesthesia assistants record exceptional reactions that occurred during surgery. (3) , (daily)
  • May write procedural summaries and instruction sheets for co-workers. for example, they may write summaries of procedures for new testing and treatment methods and instruction sheets for operating and disinfecting new equipment. (3)
  • May write short reports. for example, clinical supervisors may write short reports on policy standards for care in respiratory therapies and cardiology technologies. they include recommendations for review by regional committees. (3)



Desired Skill Level Range: 1-3
  Note: This is an important skill
  Respiratory Therapists
  • May collect payment from clients. for example, respiratory therapists employed by oxygen supply companies may collect payment and provide change for deliveries of oxygen therapy equipment and supplies. (money math), (1)
  • May prepare invoices. for example, respiratory therapists employed by oxygen supply companies may calculate prices of therapy equipment and supplies and apply client-specific mark-ups and taxes. (money math), (3)
  • May establish schedules for patients' appointments. for example, supervisors allocate appointment times for initial and follow-up consultations and procedures such as conducting cardiopulmonary function tests and instructing patients in the use of ventilators. (scheduling, budgeting & accounting math), (2)
  • May create staff assignment schedules. for example, when developing work schedules, supervisors consider numbers of respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists available, the lengths of shifts and the need for continuous care coverage. they make adjustments to cover vacation, sick and personal leaves. (scheduling, budgeting & accounting math), (3) , (weekly)
  • Measure vital signs and blood gas test levels at specified intervals. (measurement and calculation math), (2) , (daily)
  • Take a variety of measurements using specialized tools. for example, they measure oxygen and carbon dioxide gas exchanges, blood temperatures, blood and intrapulmonary pressures, and lung capacities using a variety of medical and diagnostic equipment. (measurement and calculation math), (2) , (daily)
  • Calculate medication dosages and delivery rates. for example, they calculate dosages to be administered based on manufacturers' specifications such as 5 millilitres of medication per one hundred pounds of patients' weight. they calculate oxygen flow rates and lung volumes using patients' heights, weights and lung pressures. (measurement and calculation math), (3) , (daily)
  • Monitor inventory levels for their work units to ensure that sufficient supplies are available at all times. (data analysis math), (1) , (daily)
  • Compare equipment readings to specified values. for example, clinical perfusionists compare patients' blood temperature readings, and monitor and adjust gas flows and pressure settings to levels specified by surgeons. anaesthetic assistants monitor and compare patients' pre and post-operation vital sign readings and fluid levels. (data analysis math), (1) , (daily)
  • Compare patient response rates to standards for their genders and ages. for example, cardiopulmonary technologists monitor patients' heart rates, blood pressures, breathing patterns and colouring during stress tests to ensure that they stay in normal ranges. (data analysis math), (2) , (daily)
  • Analyze data to determine patterns. for example, they analyze oxygen moderator readings to determine numbers of apnoeas and hypopnoeas occurring during various stages of sleep. (data analysis math), (3)
  • Estimate oxygen flow requirements by comparing pressures and flows of gases in patients' bloodstreams. (numerical estimation), (2) , (daily)
  • May estimate oxygen supply requirements of patients. for example, they may estimate oxygen requirements of patients travelling by air. they consider combined ground and air travel times, patients' typical usage patterns, contingencies for travel delays and time required to access oxygen supplies at their destinations. (numerical estimation), (3)


Oral Communication

Desired Skill Level Range: 1-3
  Note: This is an important skill
  Respiratory Therapists
  • Listen to hospital paging systems. for example, they listen to emergency code calls to determine the nature of emergencies. (1) , (daily)
  • Discuss ongoing work with co-workers. for example, they provide their shift replacements with updates on patients and their care plans. they inform their co-workers of malfunctioning equipment and possible resolutions. they discuss shift and appointment coverage and general work schedules. (2) , (daily)
  • Receive instructions and directions from supervisors and managers. for example, they observe demonstrations of equipment and new procedures such as properly ventilating newborns and ask their supervisors for clarification. respiratory therapists receive their work assignments and care instructions for specific patients from their supervisors. (2) , (daily)
  • Discuss medical diagnoses and patient care with other health professionals. for example, respiratory therapists speak to other medical practitioners about patients' assessments, test requisitions and results, and treatment protocols. they seek clarification of treatment orders such as care for patients who have 'do not resuscitate' orders. clinical perfusionists receive directions from surgeons and anaesthesiologists before and during surgical procedures and inform them of vital sign readings and flow rates. they speak to department heads of care units to resolve conflicts involving patient care and service. (3) , (daily)
  • Discuss medical conditions with patients and provide them with instructions. for example, they interview patients to gather health histories and understand their symptoms. they provide patients with pre-test instructions and inquire about their comfort levels during cardiopulmonary function tests. respiratory therapists provide instructions on safe use of home oxygen equipment and explain medical disorders for which patients are receiving treatment. (3) , (daily)
  • Speak to patients' families. for example, respiratory therapists in hospitals may speak to family members during cessation of life support. they reassure family members and confirm that their loved ones are not experiencing discomfort. (3)


Problem Solving

Desired Skill Level Range: 1-2
  Respiratory Therapists
  • Encounter uncooperative patients. for example, respiratory therapists encounter patients who refuse to wear equipment required to gather data on sleep patterns. they explain the function of the equipment and suggest adjustments that can be made to make wearing equipment such as masks more comfortable. (1)
  • Experience equipment malfunctions. for example, when ventilators and blood gas machines fail to work properly, they check power supplies, equipment connections and read troubleshooting suggestions in manufacturers' manuals. when unable to repair equipment, they borrow from other care units while waiting for service technicians. (2)


Decision Making

Desired Skill Level Range: 2-3
  Note: This is an important skill
  Respiratory Therapists
  • Choose equipment and medication for various surgeries. for example, anaesthetic assistants choose equipment and medication to suit the types of surgeries being conducted, pre-operation anaesthetic plans and known preferences of anaesthesiologists. (2) , (daily)
  • May choose the content and format for a variety of instructional materials. for example, when conducting in-service sessions on new equipment, procedures and testing methods, supervisors and instructors decide what is critical content for inclusion in instructional handouts, equipment reference sheets and presentation materials. (2)
  • May make decisions about the type, intensity and timing of patient care within their scopes of practice. for example, respiratory therapists choose methods for weaning patients from ventilators. they review gas and pressure readings, metabolic conditions such as kidney functioning and types of ventilation before deciding how to proceed. (3)


Job Task Planning

Desired Skill Level Range: 3
  Own job planning and organizing
  • Respiratory therapists working with home care companies plan their days and tasks to complete pre-scheduled appointments. emergency calls may require them to reschedule previously set appointments.
  • Respiratory therapists and cardiopulmonary technologists working in hospitals perform set duties as assigned by their supervisors. they are provided with a list of patients to see each day. their tasks vary from out-patient testing through intensive care and emergency room demands. they may need to adjust their schedules to accommodate newly-admitted patients requiring diagnoses before returning to their scheduled appointments.
  • Clinical perfusionists' tasks and duties are determined by the daily operating room schedules and vary according to the types of surgeries. they order their tasks in accordance with their profession's standards and the anaesthesiologists they assist. surgical schedules and critical care patients are first priority. they coordinate their work plans with those of surgical teams.
  • Supervisors of respiratory therapists are responsible for planning and organizing their daily schedules which include providing their departments with medical round updates. when short-staffed, they work with patients. they may need to re-prioritize their schedules to complete their administrative duties and be required to implement new procedures and protocols within set timelines.
Planning and organizing for others
  • Supervisors of respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists create shift schedules and assign specific tasks to team members.


Finding Information

Desired Skill Level Range: 2
  Respiratory Therapists
  • May find information about surgery preparations by reading anaesthetic plans and patients' files and speaking to surgical team members. (2)
  • May find information about patients by reading charts and medical files and speaking to them, their families and attending medical staff. (2)


Computer Use

Desired Skill Level Range: 2
  Respiratory Therapists
  • May use word processing. for example, supervisors use word processing software to prepare memos for co-workers, letters to physicians, training materials and patient handouts. (2)
  • May use graphic software. for example, supervisors may use presentation programs such as powerpoint to create slide presentations for use in training sessions. (2)
  • Use databases. for example, they search their organizations' databases to access patient information and review test results. they also enter patients' demographic data, test results and treatment information. (2)
  • May use spreadsheets. for example, supervisors use programs such as excel to create shift schedules, and record and track data on equipment, inventory and patients. (2)
  • Use communications software. for example, they use programs such as outlook to exchange e-mail with co-workers, colleagues and patients. clinical supervisors may use outlook's calendar functions to record appointments and project timelines. (2)
  • Use the internet. for example, they use search engines to locate professional association web sites, journals, medical reference pages and information about medical equipment. (2)
  • Use other computer and software applications. for example, they use various functions on medical testing equipment to view, print and download patients' test results. anaesthesia assistants monitor, adjust and record levels of anaesthesia and drugs using specialized software programs. (2) , (daily)


Critical Thinking

Desired Skill Level Range: 3
  Respiratory Therapists
  • May assess strengths and weaknesses of new therapists and students. for example, supervisors consider the work performance of therapists and students in the various wards they have been assigned and listen to criticism from patients and co-workers. they observe new respiratory therapists and students interacting with patients, practising their assessment skills and using medical equipment. (3)
  • Judge the appropriateness of therapies and equipment for particular patients. for example, respiratory therapists consider patients' ages, activity levels, airway obstruction, lung capacities and available medications when evaluating therapy possibilities. they determine which therapies and equipment will allow patients to lead relatively normal lives with minimal discomfort. they consider patients' psychological capabilities, support systems and living arrangements when evaluating oxygen equipment needs and supply formats. (3)
  • Judge the health of patients. for example clinical perfusionists and anaesthetic assistants assess patients' vital signs including heart rates, body temperatures, blood pressures and oxygen saturation levels. they monitor types of medications and anaesthetics being administered and remaining operating times. they also constantly evaluate monitor readings and respond to any changes to ensure that they sustain patients' lives. (3) , (daily)


Use of Memory

Desired Skill Level Range: N/A
  Respiratory Therapists
  • Remember procedures and protocols for tests they administer.


Working with Others

Desired Skill Level Range: 2
  Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists work as members of multi-disciplinary teams in a coordinated effort to manage the ongoing health of patients. They work with physicians, their supervisors and other medical personnel to ensure patients are tested and treated for various types of cardiopulmonary diseases.


Continuous Learning

Desired Skill Level Range: 3
  • Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists must maintain current knowledge of testing protocols, treatments and medications. The majority of their learning occurs on the job and through interactions with co-workers and supervisors. They may also read medical journals such as Chest, Respiratory Care and Canadian Journal of Respiratory Therapy. Their employers offer training when new equipment and procedures are introduced.
  • Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists are required to maintain certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. In some provinces and territories, respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists are required, by their professional associations, to complete a prescribed number of hours of continuous learning to maintain accreditation.


Other Information

Desired Skill Level Range: N/A
  Physical Aspects
  • Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists stand while carrying out most tasks. they walk to meet patients and may bend over patients to adjust equipment. they require hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills to insert airways and catheters, complete arterial blood draws and administer cardiopulmonary function tests. they use light strength for general work, medium strength to move gas cylinders and heavy strength to move patients from beds and wheelchairs to their feet. they must be able to discriminate among colours in order to recognize colour-coded identification on medications, gases and anaesthetics.
  • Respiratory therapists must be caring and committed to helping their patients.
Future Trends Affecting Essential Skills
  • As new technologies, treatments and procedures become available, respiratory therapists will experience increased need for continuous learning skills.

Top of Page