What is the role of a respiratory care practitioner (RCP)? (Click to open)
Respiratory care is a dynamic, high-tech, high-touch field involving direct patient care.
RCPs work under the direction of a physician and assist in the diagnosis, treatment and management of
patients with pulmonary disorders.
RCPs work with patients of all ages - from premature infants to the elderly - and commonly treat
such diseases as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. In disease diagnosis, RCPs measure the
capacity of a patient's lungs to determine if there is impaired function. After diagnosis,
the RCP is responsible for administering therapeutic gases, aerosols and medications using
highly technical, industry standard equipment.
In emergency and critical care settings, the RCP provides basic
and advanced life support for critically ill patients. These RCPs must be skilled in
ventilator and airway management, arterial blood gas sampling and analysis, hemodynamic
monitoring, and assisting with special procedures such as bronchoscopy.
Today's health care is rapidly changing and evolving. Areas such
as home care, rehabilitation, long-term extended care and wellness education are steadily
growing. RCPs are in an excellent position to move into opportunities offered in these
nontraditional health care settings.
What personal qualities should I possess to be a successful RCP?
The best RCPs are sensitive to the needs of patients who have serious physical impairments. They are energetic, have a
strong sense of responsibility, as well as good communication skills--both written and oral.
As an RCP, you will be expected to work well as a team member
with physicians, nurses and other health care professionals. To be able to advance with
the changes in the profession, you must be able to communicate the needs of your patients
while employing independent judgement, knowledge and assessment skills.
Since much of your work involves the use of high-tech medical equipment,
you should have an interest in learning proper handling and operational procedures.
Most shifts are now 12.5 hours, 3 days per week.
How do I become an RCP?
To practice as an RCP, you must graduate from an accredited two-year respiratory care program and pass a
Therapist Multiple Choice (TMC) exam to become a licensed as a RCP (Respiratory Care Practitioner).
This exam, offered in all 50 states, can be taken in June following graduation. Those who pass will meet
requirements for state licensure.
Following certification, you are encouraged to take advanced practitioner exams to become a registered
respiratory therapist (RRT). Specialties such as pulmonary diagnostics and perinatal respiratory care
offer their own credentialing systems. All exams, currently administered in the Seattle area, are
computerized with instant results.
What makes the program at Spokane Community College stand out?
SCC's respiratory care program is unique in that it offers a strong emphasis in pulmonary diagnostics,
basic life support instruction, advanced cardiac life support, and long-term and home care. Also, because
it is articulated with the SCC cardiovascular programs, students gain additional training that enhances
One-hundred percent of the graduates of this program have passed the entry-level certified respiratory
therapist exam and have found employment in this field. Our graduates' pass rate for advanced practitioner
exams equals or exceeds national averages from similar programs across the country.
Starting in the fall of 2001, students from outside the Spokane area may enroll in the distance learning
option through the following community colleges: Columbia Basin, Yakima Valley and Wenatchee Valley.
Students wishing to pursue this option must first successfully pass appropriate support courses.
What classes will I take?
The two-year respiratory therapy program begins each fall quarter and leads to an associate in applied
science (A.A.S.) degree.
Courses in biology, anatomy and physiology, physical science, microbiology, electro-physiology,
interpersonal communications, and specialty courses in respiratory care and pulmonary diagnostics are
required. The curriculum incorporates classroom, laboratory and clinical courses in order to prepare
students to function as RCPs after graduation. All courses must be completed with a grade point of 2.5 or
better to continue in the program.
The two-year respiratory care program begins each fall quarter, and leads to an associate in applied
science (A.A.S.) degree.
Tentatively in Fall 2017 we will move from a 2-year to a 4-year Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) program.
How much will the program cost?
| Application fee:
| Test (ASSET):
| Physical exam:
| National certification:
| WA state licensure:
| State seminar:
|Approx. quarterly cost*
|Resident tuition/registration fees:
|Nonres. tuition w/waiver/reg. fees:
|Books (est. for 7 quarters):
|Supplies and equip. (est. for 7 quarters):
|WA State Licensure:
- All costs are subject to change without notice.
- Students must have reliable transportation for clinical travel at students own expense.
- Distance learning option requires computer access, Internet account and various hardware.
Where can I get a job?
Employment opportunities in respiratory care are available in acute care facilities (hospitals), subacute
and long-term care facilities, medical equipment supply companies, home health agencies and physicians'
offices. According to the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), this profession is expected
to grow 46 percent by the year 2005. Approximately 120,000 RCPs are practicing in the U.S. and overseas.
The AARC website offers a six-minute video, "Life and Breath
2000," which may be helpful to anyone interested in learning more about a career in respiratory care.
How much will I earn?
In 2014, Respiratory Care was placed in the top 100 jobs, with average pay at $28.12/hour.
Locally, entry level is $24 - $25/hour; with additional credentials and experience you can earn up to $38/hour.
This career field offers a high degree of mobility. Trained therapists may relocate to other areas of the
country and branch into management, sales, education and cardiopulmonary diagnostics. They may also
pursue additional education including internships, baccalaureate degrees and master's degrees.