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Respiratory Care Week - October 24 - 30


Respiratory Care Week is a full week that is set aside each year in order to appreciate and acknowledge hard-working Respiratory Therapists around the world. Typically, Respiratory Care Week is celebrated in all parts of the world, but it is most notably recognized in the United States and Canada. Respiratory Therapists around the world use Respiratory Care Week as a way to celebrate their profession and dedication to high-quality patient care. 

Most respiratory care departments and school programs use this week as an opportunity to hold special events in their hospitals and schools to help raise awareness of the vital role a Respiratory Therapist plays as a part of the healthcare team. It’s also not uncommon for Respiratory Therapists to be recognized by nurses, doctors, and other departments of the hospital as well.


History of Respiratory Care Week

It took almost 40 years for Respiratory Care Week to become a vehicle to raise awareness about respiratory illnesses and why we need trained respiratory therapists in the healthcare industry. In 1943, Dr. Edwin Levine established a no-frills inhalation program at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. This program provided on-the-job training for respiratory therapists to assist post-surgical patients with their respiratory needs. By 1973, the organizations involved in this work became today’s American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC).

Driven by the AARC, President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation declaring the last full week in October as National Respiratory Therapy Week. The proclamation on September 15, 1983, spells out why this week is so important. “Chronic lung diseases constitute an important health problem in the United States. They afflict nearly 18 million Americans and cause nearly 70,000 deaths each year, many of which are the direct result of cigarette smoking.” 

Although cigarette smoking today isn’t nearly as huge a problem as it was 36 years ago, the current rash of vaping or e-cigarette illnesses has replaced cigarettes as a new culprit affecting younger smokers. (In fact, as of September 2019; the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are reporting just under 1000 people are suffering from respiratory distress due to this new fad.)

Respiratory Care Week not only shines a spotlight on efforts to reduce disabling lung conditions like asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) but the week is devoted to panel discussions and special events to help raise public awareness about what they can do to reduce devastating lung conditions. Additionally, this week is designed to boost interest on the part of people who might want to become respiratory therapists or other health professionals working in the area of respiratory care.

Why is Respiratory Care Week Important?

It promotes respiratory health

Respiratory therapists care for people not only with chronic breathing conditions, but also those who have suffered heart attacks, strokes, or shock. It's very important for all of us to know how to keep our respiratory health in top condition, and the information we get this week is a literal breath of fresh air.

The field is growing

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, respiratory therapy is becoming a desirable field. The Bureau estimates that between 2010 and 2020, there will be a 28% increase in the number of respiratory therapists. The growth won't let up as aging Baby Boomers need more specialized care.

Respiratory therapy pays well

If you're looking for a high-paying career that will give you the satisfaction of helping others, you can't go wrong with respiratory therapy. In 2011, the national median wage was over $26 per hour or $55,000 per year.

This week is important not only to acknowledge hard-working Respiratory Therapists around the world — but also serves as an opportunity to spread the word about this great profession.

Unfortunately, Respiratory Therapists often don’t get the credit that they deserve. But this special week is a time to focus on and highlight just how important the Respiratory Therapist is in caring for patients with cardiopulmonary disorders. 


The World Needs More Respiratory Therapists

Although the work of respiratory therapists is essential to so many, the numbers are decreasing for both current and aspiring RTs. At the same time, demand for specialized respiratory care continues to rise, making the growing shortage even more critical.

Why is there a shortage of RTs? Some of the most impactful market forces at play include:

Enrollment in respiratory care education is declining

There has been a nationwide decrease in undergraduate enrollment in institutions of higher education. Enrollment was down 4.5 percent this spring, which followed last fall’s downward trend. Enrollment in respiratory care education programs has declined 27 percent since 2010, and current data confirm only 10 percent of programs are enrolled to capacity.

Respiratory therapists and other healthcare workers report rising burnout

Healthcare workers who work in a stressful medical environment, especially intensive care units where respiratory therapists commonly practice, may be particularly susceptible to burnout. Among respondents to a recent AARC survey:

  • 72 percent reported experiencing burnout
  • 93 percent reported burnout as a major problem in healthcare
  • 92 percent stated their risk for burnout was similar to that of other healthcare professionals

Within the next 10 years, all baby boomers will be 65 or older. By 2030, a projected 92,474 RTs will leave the profession.

Workplace dynamics are changing

With COVID-19 came the rise of the traveling/contracted RT, a then-temporary solution that shows signs of staying power. As a result, hospitals now find it increasingly difficult to staff the number of full-time RTs they need, now and for projected future demand.

The good news: This is a time of tremendous opportunity!

Respiratory care job openings are growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that between 2019 and 2029, openings for RTs will grow faster (19 percent) than the average for all healthcare occupations. This is due primarily to factors that include an aging population, elevated patient acuity, and increased cases of respiratory illness.

Observing Respiratory Care Week

Attend a health screening

Respiratory Care Week allows you to get a free health screening and talk with a respiratory therapist. The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) sponsors Respiratory Care Week and they have a variety of festivals with free screenings, films, and even yoga demonstrations. Check with the AARC for an event in your community.

Organize a lunch-and-learn at work

Send out some emails, print up some flyers, and announce a lunch-and-learn for your coworkers. Your nearby hospital can probably suggest a respiratory therapist who can stop by and chat about respiratory care and even shout out the respiratory therapist profession. It's a great mix-and-mingle during lunch!

Set up a display at your neighborhood library

Take the initiative and set up a colorful display for Respiratory Care Week. Include a table for chats with a respiratory therapist. Maybe the library will allow you to show a film. Use your imagination and show how creative you can be so that we can all breathe easier. For more Respiratory Care Week ideas, go to the AARC’s website and download their planning guide.


Filed Under: COVID-19, diseases, awareness