Respiratory therapy is categorized as an allied health profession in the United States and Canada. Respiratory therapists (RTs), also known as Respiratory Care Practitioners (RCP), specialize in the assessment and treatment of respiratory and cardiovascular pathologies. These include chronic lung problems (e.g., asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, COPD), and more acute multi-systemic problems stemming from other pathological conditions such as heart attacks, stroke, or trauma as well as complications at birth. RTs are specialists in airway management, mechanical ventilation, blood acid/base balance, and critical care medicine. RTs work closely with other medical disciplines such as physicians, nurses, speech therapists and physical therapists etc.
Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT) are required to complete a minimum of a two-year associate degree program. There are also three-, four- and five-year degree programs. There are also Master's and PhD degree programs offered by some schools. After graduation, the therapist must then write a national exam administered by the Canadian Board of Respiratory Care (CBRC) in Canada and/or the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) in the United States.