Frequently Asked Questions
About the Advanced Practice Respiratory Therapist
A scope of practice was released in 2020 by the AARC Board of Directors. This scope is not a job description that would be adopted by an employer; rather, it provides a broad overview to guide future job descriptions and state licensing agencies’ scope of practice. This scope differs from current state laws in that the advanced practice respiratory therapist will be working within a defined scope of practice identified by a supervising licensed physician, as opposed to a licensed respiratory therapist who is limited to the written order of a physician. The advanced practice respiratory therapist-physician relationship requires a contract or agreement between the two parties to establish the scope for each advanced practice respiratory therapist. The advanced practice respiratory therapist will be a physician extender with the authority to provide services and procedures within a scope defined by the supervising physician and bounds of state laws.
Where will the advanced practice respiratory therapist work?
The AARC scope of practice states: “to provide diagnosis and treatment of respiratory diseases and disorders to patients under the supervision and responsibility of a licensed doctor of medicine or osteopathy.” It is expected that the advanced practice respiratory therapist will be involved in the care of patients of the supervising physician in any medical setting for which the physician is responsible, but the primary duties and responsibilities are expected to take place in the physician office/clinic or hospital outpatient settings.
Is there any possibility the advanced practice respiratory therapist will have prescriptive rights?
The advanced practice respiratory therapist is a new idea and incorporating this practitioner into the American healthcare system will be challenging. The first advanced practice respiratory therapists will likely look very different than those who are practicing 20 years later. Prescriptive rights are important, but not an issue that is a deal breaker, at least initially. Look how far the profession of respiratory care has come since the 1970s. Advanced practice respiratory care is expected to progress similarly.
I already have my master’s degree. Do I have to go back to school to function as an advanced practice respiratory therapist?
Yes. The education required by an advanced practice respiratory therapist will be different from that of an undergraduate or graduate respiratory therapist. A comparison of the CoARC accreditation materials provides a good description of the difference.
Are there CoARC standards for programs leading to a master’s degree in advanced practice respiratory therapy?
The CoARC published Standards for Accreditation of Advanced Practice Programs in Respiratory Care in 2016.
Are there currently any CoARC-accredited schools to become an advanced practice respiratory therapist?
How will the advanced practice respiratory therapist affect currently practicing respiratory therapists?
The advanced practice respiratory therapist will be a non-physician advanced practice practitioner whose scope of practice exceeds that of the respiratory therapist. It is expected that the presence of an advanced practice respiratory therapist will have no effect on respiratory therapists working in their current role.