Close icon

AARC Timeline

The History of Respiratory Therapy

1943: Edwin R. Levine, MD, establishes a primitive inhalation therapy program using on-the-job trained technicians to manage post-surgical patients at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago.


July 13, 1946: Dr. Levine’s students and other interested doctors, nurses, and oxygen orderlies meet at the University of Chicago Hospital to form the Inhalation Therapy Association (ITA).

April 15, 1947: The ITA is formally chartered as a not-for-profit entity in the state of Illinois. The new Association boasts 59 members, 17 of whom are from various religious orders.

1947: Albert Andrews, MD, outlines the structure and purpose of a hospital-based inhalation therapy department in his book, Manual of Oxygen Therapy Techniques.

1950: The New York Academy of Medicine publishes a report, “Standard of Effective Administration of Inhalation Therapy,” setting the stage for formal education for people in the field.

March 16, 1954: The ITA is renamed the American Association of Inhalation Therapists (AAIT). In February 1966, it was again renamed the American Association for Inhalation Therapy (still, AAIT).

May 11, 1954: The New York State Society of Anesthesiologists and the Medical Society of the State of New York form a Special Joint Committee in Inhalation Therapy to establish “the essentials of acceptable schools of inhalation therapy.”

November 7–11, 1955: The AAIT holds its first annual meeting (now the AARC International Respiratory Congress) at the Hotel St. Clair in Chicago.

June 1956: The American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates adopts a resolution calling for the use of the New York Essentials in the creation of schools of inhalation therapy.

1956: The AAIT begins publishing a science journal, Inhalation Therapy (now RESPIRATORY CARE).

October 1957: The AAIT, AMA, American College of Chest Physicians, and American Society of Anesthesiologists jointly adopt the Essentials for an Approved School of Inhalation Therapy Technicians; the Essentials begin a three year trial period.

1960: The American Registry of Inhalation Therapists (ARIT) is formed to oversee a new examination leading to a formal credential for people in the field.

November 18, 1960: The ARIT administers the first Registry exams in Minneapolis.

December 1962: The AMA House of Delegates grants formal approval for the “Essentials for an Approved School of Inhalation Therapy Technicians.”

October 8, 1963: The Board of Schools of Inhalation Therapy Technicians is formed in Chicago.

1966: The Association hosts an Education Forum, the precursor to the Summer Forum, the AARC’s premiere mid-year meeting for managers and educators in the profession; the Association undergoes a third name change, from the American Association of Inhalation Therapists to the American Association for Inhalation Therapy.


1969: The AAIT launches the Technician Certification Program to offer a credential to people working in the field who do not qualify to take the Registry exams.

January 9, 1970: The Board of Schools of Inhalation Therapy Technicians becomes the Joint Review Committee for Respiratory Therapy Education (JRCRTE).

1973: The AAIT becomes the American Association for Respiratory Therapy (AART).

1974: The profession’s two credentialing programs merge into the National Board for Respiratory Therapy (NBRT); the AAIT forms the American Respiratory Therapy Foundation (ARTF) to support research, education, and charitable activities in the profession.

Image of AARTimes Magazine

1982: California passes the first modern licensure law governing the profession of respiratory care; President Ronald Reagan proclaims the first National Respiratory Care Week.

1986: The AART becomes the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC); the ARTF becomes the American Respiratory Care Foundation (ARCF); the NBRT becomes the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).

1990: The AARC begins developing Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPGs) for treatments and modalities common in the field; the ARCF launches an International Fellowship Program to bring health care professionals from around the world to the U.S. every year to tour health care facilities in two cites and then attend the AARC International Respiratory Congress.

1998: The JRCRTE evolves into the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).

2000: RESPIRATORY CARE journal is accepted into Index Medicus, the principal bibliographic database of the National Library of Medicine and its online counterpart, the MEDLINE service.

2003: The AARC launches Lung Health Day to promote better lung health to consumers. The Day takes place every year on the Wednesday during National Respiratory Care Week.

2004: Vermont becomes the 48th state to pass a licensure or other legal credentialing law governing the profession of respiratory care, effectively bringing legal credentialing to all 48 contiguous states; the AARC celebrates its 50th Anniversary at the International Respiratory Congress in New Orleans, LA.

For more, read this history by respiratory therapist Robert R. Weilacher, BHA, RRT.