Essay on AARC Raises Respiratory Therapist Educational Requirements to Bachelor's Degree

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1727 Words
Date:  2023-05-08

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) has raised the educational requirement to train as a respiratory therapist since 2014. Currently, in a revised statement the association proposed for a bachelor's degree entry-level educational requirements of an RT. In response, the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory care suggested a revision to its accreditation standards that will need new developed respiratory therapy programs to award a bachelor's degree. In other words, students who want to become respiratory therapists' must pursue bachelor's degrees instead of an associate degree like before. Whilst the new education levels would not impact those RTs already licensed, they will affect students' who want to pursue the respiratory therapy career field and have not met the bachelor's degree entry-level educational requirements (American Association for Respiratory Care, 2015). Therefore, this paper will explore the effects of raising education entry-level for the respiratory therapy career field from Associate to bachelor level and explore whether this move is justified.

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The profession of respiratory therapy requires changes to meet the growing demands of the medical community and to place RTs as critical players in community health. In 2007 the AARC formed the "2015 and beyond" committees to determine the necessary changes in the discipline to address the evolving issues (Barnes et al 2011, 2). The committees researched how the patients should receive healthcare services in the future and the provision of respiratory therapy services. RTS requires special knowledge, skills, and attributes to provide care efficiently, safely, and cost-effectively (Gorelick et al. 2011). Thus, it is necessary to make changes in the type of education and credentialing systems that are required to achieve this objective. Raising educational entry-level requirements to pursue a bachelor's degree in the discipline is one of the measures that help in moving towards a professional RT workforce, which will facilitate safe and efficient healthcare delivery.

Currently, healthcare is undergoing one of the most dramatic changes. For instance, the focus of care is altering from acute to chronic, the advancement of technology in health care, and competent workforce problems. Barnes et al. (2011) point out that the present RT does not resemble those of the 1950s and 1960s. Furthermore, the present and future roles of the RT will most likely differ. Further, today graduates' competencies need to practice as RTs have increased due to the changes witnessed in the society ranging from innovations in medicine provision and information technology (Barnes et al. 2011). Therefore, RTs need to be skilled in a wide range of areas, including disease management, emergency, and critical care, therapeutics, evidence-based medicine, and respiratory based protocols, diagnostics, leadership, and patient assessments. An AARC conference in 2010, postulated that to improve patient experience in the future there is necessary to introduce changes in RT education, accreditation, and credentialing processes to meet the demands identified in the previous conferences (Barnes et al. 2011).

Future RT's need to exceed the skills, knowledge, and attributes to be able to provide safe, efficient, and cost-effective health care. The pedagogical needs of the graduate respiratory therapists have changed in the last few decades, while their role has greatly expanded (Reeves 2013). In contemporary health settings, the RTs are expected to operate medical devices, administer medications, and perform therapeutic techniques that were not present a decade ago. They are also required to examine, assess and treat increasing complicated cardiopulmonary disorders (Barnes et al. 2011).

Besides, playing an active role as a bedside caregiver's, RT's are expected to give information on how respiratory care should be provided acting as consultants (Barnes et al. 2011). When attending to the patients, the RTs are required to highlight therapy goals and guide it; providing information that supports various methods of respiratory care employed in the intensive care unit. In particular, the respiratory therapists should have the capacity to explain and recommend patient care for patients with illnesses affecting their respiratory system (Vernon 2017). In this light, it is clear that RTs be knowledgeable, thus, it is necessary to raise the profession education entry levels to have individuals who will be well suited to care for the patients safely and efficiently.

Therefore, the respiratory therapist needs high levels of training and education to address the increasingly complex respiratory problems, handle medical devices, and provide consultants services. Nevertheless, respiratory therapy as a profession attracts many students due to its minimum entry requirements in comparison with other medical professions (Charania et al. 2016). As such, the education standard of the RT as a career choice has been low, which impacts on the quality of care provided to patients. Therefore, the current raising of the entry-level education standards to bachelor scarping off the associate program positively impacts on people's perceptions of the program and suggests that it is a less technical and more professional career. As such, most associate's degrees are viewed as more technical and less professional careers due to their minimum entry-level education requirements. Moreover, the minimum education level differentiates between technician groups and professions.

In meeting future demands of the RT profession, schools need to provide a high level of education and training. Constantly, education institutions have been facing obstacles in expanding their RT curriculum in training students for the new roles as the discipline is changing (Barnes et al. 2013). Since these demands are on the rise, schools must have to raise the RT entry-level education requirements to ensure the enrolled students can learn, comprehend, and implement the new ideas introduced in the curriculum. As such, there is pressure on schools to change the curriculum to teach the knowledge, skills, and competencies that are critical for respiratory therapy practice (Gorelick et al. 2011). In truth, the associates' respiratory therapy degree programs were straining to teach the attributes, skills, and knowledge that all RTs need to join employment (Barnes et al. 2011). For instance, teaching interprofessional education (IPE) enhances cooperation and patient care through shared education and training among health experts Vernon 2017. A study found that there was a significant difference between associates versus bachelor's/Master's degree programs in knowledge and perceptions about IPE (Vernon 2017). As such, most associates did not recognize IPE as a crucial element of RT education and training. It highlights the need to revise and raise RT entry-level education requirements to bachelor and also the existing accreditation standards which will allow IPE to take a more central role in the RT curriculum.

Research conducted at most Pennsylvania hospitals investigated the association between the nurses' level of education and the rate of mortality in many units. The study linked RTs' associate level of education with a higher rate of mortality in comparison with the RTs' advanced level of education (Becker &Vargas 2018, 2). They found that raising the number of RTs with higher degrees by 10% reduced mortality risk and rescue failure by 4%. As such, employers have realized the significance for RTs with a bachelor's degree, which has put more pressure on both education institutions and students in high school to respond. On one hand, the students aspiring to pursue the RT program in higher education will work hard to meet bachelor's program entry-level requirements. On the other hand, employers will demand RTs with bachelor's degrees due to the fact an increase in RTs with bachelor's degrees improves patient outcomes decreasing the mortality rate.

Moreover, in exploring the reasons RTs associate graduates pursue a higher degree was due to some reasons with personal objectives ranking first, followed by job development and professional development, and lastly, an increase in salary (Becker & Vargas 2018). Thus, this implies that the RTs with associate degrees do not view a bachelor's degree as important in service delivery. Hence, they have to be pushed by other factors such as better job prospects and salary increase. In fact, in New York nurses who graduate without a bachelor's degree are given 10 years to earn one and risk losing their practice license (Becker & Vargas 2018). As such, to avoid these situations and experiences the entry-level education requirement for the RT career field should be raised to ensure RTs are competent, skillful, and have the necessary knowledge to address the evolving respiratory illnesses using advanced medical devices.

It can be argued that the RT entry-level education requirements should remain minimum so that they can motivate many students to join the profession. Moreover, since many RT associates graduates advance their education levels to a higher degree the associate RTs can always move through this career path (Becker & Vargas 2018). The existence of many licensed and credentialed RTs with an entry-level associate degree shows that students pursuing an associate program can advance their education in the discipline on their own. A study found that the majority of the AAS graduate is transitioning to a bachelor degree at a higher rate (Becker & Vargas 2018). Nonetheless, they found that only a third of the associates' RT program students are able to credit transfer to bachelor programs due to their vocational focus (Becker & Vargas 2018). Hence, it is worth noting that the RT program has not exploited associates graduates' pathways to bachelor degrees. As such, due to RT content changes and the inability of students to do credit transfer, schools should do away with associate graduate programs. Due to their technical focus and the evolving role of RT, which calls for professionals with higher degrees.


In conclusion, many factors are contributing to the raising of entry-level educational requirements for the RT career field. First, the respiratory therapy field is changing and evolving. As such, there is a need for more RT content taught in schools, while the associate RT program is already stretched to teach more content. Therefore, RTs need the necessary knowledge, attributes, and skills to provide safe, efficient, and cost-effective care to patients.


AARC. "Degree Advancement Programs in Respiratory Care." AARC. Last modified August 14, 2015.

Barnes, T. A., Kacmarek, R. M., Kageler, W. V., Morris, M. J., & Durbin, C. G. (2011). Transitioning the respiratory therapy workforce for 2015 and beyond. Respiratory Care, 56(5), 681-690.

Becker, E. A., & Vargas, J. (2018). Communication of career pathways through associate degree program web sites: A baseline assessment. Respiratory Care, 63(10), 1207-1213., I., Weiss, K., West, A. J., Martin, S., Ouellet, M., & Cook, R. (2016). Advisory workgroup recommendations on the use of clinical simulation in respiratory therapy education. Canadian Journal of Respiratory Therapy: CJRT= Revue Canadienne De La Therapie Respiratoire: RCTR, 52(4), 114.


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