Why the World Needs More RTs, and How You Can Help

Female RT in Patient Room

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

Baby boomers are leaving the profession. 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.

What can you do to help?

Join the national campaign envisioned by the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) and The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). We welcome your support in making others aware of the need for more RTs. By sharing your own experiences alongside our campaign, you will bolster our power to make a difference as one collective voice.

Start by visiting MoreRTs.com for more information. Then, show your support by:

  • Driving greater awareness: Share information, content and references that convey the RT shortage, the growing demand, and the benefits of specialization.
  • Telling your story: We welcome video testimonials from RTs, patients, providers and educators to highlight the value of the respiratory care profession.
  • Assisting 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. With your help, we are excited to move forward! Visit MoreRTs.com to learn more and share your story.