ATS Supports Respiratory Care
Provided by RTs

Statement of Support

American Thoracic Society Supports the Utilization of Respiratory Care Practitioners in the Delivery of Respiratory Care

America's health care system continues to evolve into an increasingly complex system in which quality and safety interact with cost. A growing population of high acuity patients needing respiratory care services challenges the system to provide high-quality care while controlling costs. To try to meet the needs of acutely ill patients, institutions have used a variety of minimally qualified technical support personnel to deliver respiratory care services. The educational and experiential preparation of these personnel varies greatly, and a minimum level of competence and quality cannot be assured in the absence of standardized curricula or certification in the preparation of these personnel.

Over the past 50 years, members of the American Thoracic Society (ATS), along with other medical groups, have been involved in the development of educational and certification programs for respiratory care practitioners (RCPs). Through improved education, national testing, and in some instances, state licensure, RCPs have attained a high level of technical knowledge and expert, research-based practice. Their education and experience make them uniquely qualified to provide safe, effective respiratory care services to acutely ill patients in institutional settings. Research demonstrates that short-term cost containment through substitution of unlicensed or minimally qualified personnel for well-trained professionals leads to higher long term costs resulting from patient complications that increase length of stay or require prolonged rehabilitation.

In their roles as pulmonary and critical care physicians, ATS member physicians are often the principal health care providers for patients with acute respiratory illnesses. As such, they are concerned that their patients receive the safest, and ultimately the most cost-effective, care available. For this reason, they endorse the position that acute respiratory care services should be delivered primarily by respiratory care practitioners.