Respiratory therapists are essential to the health of so many. As our country’s population grows increasingly older, hospitals and physician practices face a critical need for specialized, high-quality respiratory care. The numbers for both current and aspiring respiratory therapists are decreasing, however, causing serious concern about meeting the high demand.

A survey of respiratory care leaders, conducted by the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), shows that almost nine in 10 (87 percent) agree or strongly agree there is a current, local shortage of RTs, and 84 percent think a shortage of RTs in the future is likely or very likely. Even before the effects of the pandemic caused a crisis in the field of respiratory care, the RT shortage was becoming a challenge.

Meanwhile, despite the lower numbers of RTs, survey responses from the AARC show widespread agreement that the following factors will continue to drive even higher demand:

While COVID-19 accentuated the need for more RTs, it also complicated and intensified the challenges we face. The sudden increase of respiratory patients led to extremely long hours and high stress levels for RTs. Some decided to leave the profession. Others left full-time employment to join more lucrative traveling respiratory teams that were contracted to treat patients throughout the country.

What key factors are driving the shortage of RTs and the need to improve recruitment and retention?

With more RTs, not only can we work to meet the higher demand, but we also can increase specialization in critical care and provide respiratory care in emergency departments, intensive care units or other hospital areas. RTs make an invaluable impact in managing life support or ventilation systems, administering aerosol-based medications, managing artificial airways, assessing lung capacity, and many other key functions to help keep patients breathing.


As part of our goal to bring more respiratory therapists into the profession and advance specialization, the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC), the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) and the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) have jointly launched a multi-year, national campaign to:

  • Raise public awareness of the value of the respiratory care profession
  • Recruit and retain more respiratory therapists
  • Identify, shape and inspire new leadership in the profession


We welcome your support in making others aware of the need for more RTs. By sharing your own experiences – as a respiratory therapist, a physician or clinical colleague, a respiratory care educator, a patient, or anyone else whose life is affected by the work of RTs – you will join our collective voice and bolster our power to make a difference.

  • Drive greater awareness: Share information, content and references that convey the RT shortage, the growing demand, and the benefits of specialization
  • Tell your story: We welcome video testimonials from RTs, patients and providers to highlight the value of the respiratory care profession
  • Assist with funding: Identify and introduce us to potential financial contributors so we can make the most of our campaign

If we are united in this shared purpose of growing interest, awareness and numbers in the profession, we will strengthen the future by ensuring access to high-quality respiratory care for everyone who needs it. Join us!

1 2020 CoARC Report on Accreditation
2 2021 AARC Human Resources Study
3 Resilience and Burnout Resources in Respiratory Care Departments | Respiratory Care (rcjournal.com)
4 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019-2029