Consumer Information

Respiratory Therapy Professionals and Their Services


What is a respiratory therapist? A respiratory therapy technician?

At the direction of a licensed physician, a respiratory therapist evaluates and treats cardiopulmonary (lungs and heart) health. This includes teaching patients and their families about treatment and maintenance of pulmonary health problems, including the use of respiratory therapy equipment and medications.

Respiratory therapy technicians perform these services under the supervision of a licensed respiratory therapist or a licensed physician.


When would I consult a respiratory therapist or respiratory therapy technician?

Respiratory care may be provided only at the direction of a licensed physician. If you think you are suffering from a respiratory condition, consult your physician first. Your physician may refer you to a respiratory therapy provider if diagnostic tests or other forms of respiratory care are necessary.


What credentials does a New York respiratory therapist have? A New York respiratory therapy technician?

New York licensed respiratory therapists and respiratory therapy technicians have earned a minimum of an associate's degree from a respiratory therapy program registered by the Board of Regents and/or accredited by the national respiratory therapy professional association. These academic programs include a minimum of 30 semester hours in respiratory therapy care subjects and additional credits in related sciences.

In addition, every New York licensed respiratory therapy professional has completed appropriate supervised clinical experience and passed a national licensing examination. Licensed respiratory therapists are further required by law to complete 30 hours of continuing education every three years from an approved list of sponsors. Licensed respiratory therapy technicians are required by law to complete 24 hours of continuing education every three years.


What kinds of services can I expect to receive from a respiratory therapist or technician?

To determine the state of your cardiopulmonary health, respiratory therapists and technicians may run tests to identify such things as arterial blood gases, lung volume, and pulmonary infection, among others.

In treating cardiopulmonary conditions, respiratory therapists and technicians may:

  • set up and monitor therapeutic gases (e.g., oxygen) and environmental control systems;
  • initiate and support a breathing apparatus (mechanical ventilator);
  • insert and maintain an artificial airway;
  • administer medications needed for respiratory care; and
  • provide cardiopulmonary rehabilitation.

Respiratory therapists and technicians also help patients and their families by providing consumer education, including....

  • the proper use of equipment designed to aid respiration or administer needed gases or medication;
  • adaptive techniques or strengthening exercises; and
  • procedures used to clear the respiratory system.

Some respiratory therapists choose to specialize their practices. New York State does not issue licenses in specialty areas within the licensed respiratory therapy professions; instead, specialty credentials are determined by specialty certification boards of organizations of licensed professionals.


How do I know if a respiratory therapist or technician is licensed to practice in New York State?

In all health care facilities and agencies regulated by the Department of Health (e.g., hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home health care agencies), health care personnel must wear an identification badge indicating their full name and professional title.

Persons authorized to provide respiratory care must display on their ID badges the titles respiratory therapist or respiratory therapy technician, or the initials RT (respiratory therapist) or RTT (respiratory therapy technician). Licensees who have also earned credentials from the National Board for Respiratory Care may also wear the initials RRT (registered respiratory therapist) or CRTT (certified respiratory therapy technician).

In private offices (such as a doctor's office), a listing of all professional health care employees and their officially licensed designations must be posted in a conspicuous place.


What questions should individuals with disabilities ask about accessing services?

Ask such questions as whether the service location is physically accessible (curb cuts, ramps, restrooms, etc.) as well as whether there is a Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) and parking for people with disabilities.


Verifying a New York License

New York respiratory therapy professionals must display a current New York registration certificate; this certificate lists the professional's name, address, and dates of the registration period. Respiratory therapy professionals must reregister every three years to practice in New York. Some professionals also display their original New York license, diploma, licenses from other states, and membership certificates. You may verify an individual's license and registration on this site.

Last Updated: May 22, 2009