The Respiratory Therapy (RT) profession was first born in 1947 in Chicago, USA. The seed was planted by a number of registered nurses, veterans, paramedics, handymen and others with on-the-job training. North American countries, the United States, Canada, and to a lesser extent Mexico, have begun efforts to create the inhalation therapy (IT) profession. Technological advancements in healthcare have favored the survival of the IT industry and ensured that it is firmly rooted. Over the years, the industry has grown to its current size. The profession was named the American IT Association, later renamed the American RT Association, and then the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC).
Today, there are more than 150,000 credentialed respiratory therapists working in a variety of jobs in the United States. It took years of hard work by thousands of dedicated volunteers to grow RT to its current size. Occasional failures have not stopped them from their goal of strengthening the professional association. Currently, in the United States, almost all states require state licensure for respiratory therapists working in their state.
The support of medical organizations has also provided a strong foundation for AARC. The American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), and the American Thoracic Society (ATS) are strong supporters of AARC. To this day, these three medical organizations are represented on AARC's Board of Medical Advisors (BOMA).
AARC recognizes the need to promote the specialty globally to improve patient care worldwide.AARC's international efforts have led to respiratory therapy becoming a specialty outside of the United States. Some countries and regions such as Canada and Taiwan, China have achieved the same success as the United States.
The success of the current globalization of RT is evidenced by the following data: more than 50 countries are aware of the RT specialty. There are currently 70 formal RT programs in 8 countries outside the US. Some countries like India have begun to pursue master's degrees in RT. Using reliable standards through the Latin American Board for Professional Certification (LABPCRT), job-related exams are being utilized in 11 countries. Canada, Taiwan, Panama and the Philippines are legally recognized by their governments and require mandatory certification for their respiratory therapists (RTs). India, China, Peru and the United Arab Emirates are in the process of legalizing the profession. Ten countries have professional RT organizations. Physical respiratory therapist groups have established associations in Europe and South America. Italy, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates are in compliance with AARC's international cohort (Hiser J. We are on Mission. AARC Times 2010; 34:39-42).
In an effort to increase the visibility of the RT profession in the global community, in 1990 the AARC established an international fellowship program that allowed individuals selected from an international pool of applicants to visit a number of respiratory therapy centers in the United States to observe various aspects of RT therapy practice. These individuals also attend the AARC convention, where approximately 5,000- 6,000 respiratory therapists from the U.S. attend this annual educational conference.
Since the inception of the international fellowship program, approximately 135 respiratory care professionals from 54 countries have visited the United States. This includes 68 physicians, 29 physical therapists, 21 respiratory therapists, 11 nurses, and 6 nurses with a variety of other medical backgrounds. More than 1,250 applicants from 130 countries attest to the popularity of the program. Many of the "Fellows" share information on a daily basis. Past Fellows are working to translate educational materials into their country's language.The AARC Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG) have been translated into Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish. The Aerosol Delivery Device Guidelines have been translated into Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish and are currently being translated into French, Italian, and Turkish. The Clinician's Guide to Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) Adherence is being translated into Arabic. Articles from the AARC Times and Respiratory Therapy appear regularly in publications in Italy and Japan.
The International Council for Respiratory Care (ICRC), which first proposed a fellowship program to the AARC, currently has 22 board members from 25 countries. More than 50% of the board members are former fellows.
This demonstrates the role AARC has played in globalizing respiratory care over the past 20 years. These efforts have been a great success. Currently, respiratory therapy is a unique profession requiring credentialing, education, and government recognition in nine countries.