Doctors have them, nurses have them, and so do respiratory therapists. We’re talking about specialty credentials designed to validate a practitioner’s competency in a specific and often challenging area of care. In the following Q&A NBRC Executive Director Gary Smith answers your questions about the specialty credentials available to RTs and what they have to offer therapists who want to get ahead on the job. 

Q: Respiratory therapists sometime question the need for specialty credentials. Shouldn’t having the CRT and/or RRT be enough to demonstrate someone’s abilities in the field?

A: The NBRC and AARC have long explained that the CRT and RRT credentials denote a certain level of excellence.We would never want to insinuate to employers and others that therapists holding only these credentials are not qualified to perform their duties as required in any patient care setting.Any recognition of, or requirement for, a specialty credential is a job related matter for employers to determine.

That said, respiratory care is an increasingly complex profession, and specialty credentials can help therapists differentiate themselves from their peers in areas where specialized knowledge and skill are required.

Q:The NBRC offers specialty credentials for neonatal-pediatrics (the NPS), sleep (the SDS), and now adult critical care (the ACCS). What goes into the development of these credentials?

A: The NBRC only develops specialty credentialing examinations at the request of one of its sponsors.The NPS, SDS, and ACCS examinations were all requested by the AARC.Even though a sponsor may request development of an examination, the NBRC has a very rigorous process to evaluate the need for a specialty examination.The steps include:

  • A viability study involving many different stakeholders regarding such an examination.
  • A national personnel survey to determine if there are enough practitioners to support such an examination.
  • A national job analysis to document that specific job tasks, skills, and abilities exist throughout the country.
  • Item writing and determining test specifications.
  • Setting a minimum pass level.
  • And finally, trademarking a specialty credential and administering the test.

It is interesting to note that few specialty examinations actually cover the costs ofdeveloping and providing these distinctive levels of excellence.

Q: How many RTs have earned these three specialty credentials thus far?

A: Right now we have 11,762 therapists who have earned the NPS, 243 who have earned the SDS, and 327 who have earned the ACCS.

Q: How do you believe the need for specialty credentials has changed over the years? Why are they more important today than ever before?

A: The body of knowledge and scope of practice for RTs have increasedsignificantly, and that’s just typical of health care in general.If one looks at physicians as an example, many new specialties have emerged over time, even subspecialties.The same is true for nursing.In fact, the American Board of Nursing Specialties has emerged as a body to accredit nursing specialty examinations as so many have evolved over the years.

The public wants to know that those who provide care to them are qualified. Ibelieve this trend will continue to provide a strong impetus for those who care for patients to demonstrate their competency.

Q: What role do you think specialty credentials play in boosting the career potential of respiratory therapists?

A: Increasingly, specialty credentials in many areas are being included in career ladders.Employers as well as patients want to know their caregivers are competent.Specialty credentials are one way to demonstrate a distinct level of professionalism and competence to these groups.

Q: Do you have any other specialty credentials on the drawing board?

A: Currently, the NBRC has no other specialty examinations on the drawing board. At present, the board is working hard on developing the new Therapist Written Multiple Choice Examination and is devoting significant resources to completing the criterion-related validation study and developing new test forms based on new test specifications derived from the most recent job analysis.