What is Respiratory Therapy?


A health care professional skilled in the assessment, evaluation, treatment, management, and care of patients with respiratory problems.  Clinical tasks are diagnostic and therapeutic to include administration of medical gases (oxygen, helium, nitric oxide, and carbon dioxide), aerosol and humidity therapy, positive airway pressure breathing (CPAP, BiPAP, etc.) therapy, incentive spirometry, mechanical ventilation, arterial blood gas analysis, and pulmonary function testing.  The respiratory therapist also has a knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and medicine sufficient to serve as a supervisor and consultant.  The minimum educational requirements is an associate (2-year) degree.  Those registered by the National Board for Respiratory Care are designated RRT, Registered Respiratory Therapist.

This program also provides a path to a Bachelor of Health Science (BHS) degree with an emphasis in either Health Services Administration or Medical Imaging.

Want more information?

Call 785-670-2170 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to request more information by mail or email Rusty Taylor, Program Director, rusty.taylor@washburn.edu.

A decision to become a respiratory therapist should be made only after a very personal commitment is made to become a health care professional with direct patient contact.  This decision should not be made lightly because it requires assuming the responsibility of caring for patients who are seriously ill.  A career as a respiratory therapist provides exciting and intellectually challenging work with sophisticated life-support systems.  Respiratory therapists are important members of the health care team, working with medical direction from pulmonologists and physicians specialized in trauma resuscitation, emergency and critical care, and pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation.  Respiratory therapists typically feel a strong sense of accomplishment and know that their work is important. 

Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRTs) have a well-define scope of practice and have been identified by the Medical Board of the National Academy of Sciences as Type B Physician Assistants.  Type B Physician Assistants are expected to have more knowledge about their medical specialty than the average physician who is not board certified in that area.

Accordingly, RRTs are expected to make recommendations on the respiratory care of patients with pulmonary disorders.  This level of interaction with physicians and other members of the health care team can be very rewarding.  RRTs are considered to be authorities on the operation of life-support equipment used in critical care areas such as trauma centers and intensive care units.  Interfacing mechanical ventilators to critically ill patients in respiratory failure, in order to provide life support, places great intellectual demands on the respiratory therapist.  Accordingly, respiratory therapists have high standards, with specialty board examinations provided by the National Board for Respiratory Care and licensure of respiratory therapists by 48 states plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico.  Career opportunities abound for both men and women as staff therapists or managers in critical care, rehabilitation, and education, or as technical specialists for high-tech equipment companies.

SOURCE:  Encyclopedia & Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health, 5th Edition; Miller and Keane.  W.B. Saunders


From the American Association of Respiratory Care: Be an RT


Contact the Program Faculty

Rusty Taylor, Program Director     785.670.2172

Ida Johnson, Clinical Coordinator  785.670.2171


The Washburn University Respiratory Care Program, #200323, Associate of Science degree, Topeka, KS, is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) (www.coarc.com).

Outcomes data from the Annual Report of Current Status has been posted on the CoARC website. Follow this link directly to the Programmatic Outcomes Data page: https://coarc.com/students/programmatic-outcomes-data/.


Professional Licensure Disclosure Respiratory Therapy

Washburn University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), and is reporting this information in compliance with Criterion 2.A. and 2.B. The Respiratory Therapy program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (COARC).

This program is designed to meet the educational requirements for respiratory therapists in Kansas. Please review the website for the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts for additional details about obtaining licensure in the state of Kansas. If you intend to seek licensure outside of Kansas after finishing your program, use the link above to find information on the state or U.S. territory in which you intend to be licensed in order to identify whether Washburn’s Respiratory Therapy program meets the educational requirements for licensure.

You can also review the licensing information for each state outlined by the American Association of Respiratory Care (AARC).

For more information, please contact allied-health@washburn.edu.


Allied Health
Benton Hall, Room 107
1700 SW College Ave.
Topeka, KS 66621

Phone & Email
Ph: 785.670.2170
Or: 785.670.2176

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