Since 1982, the last week in October has been Respiratory Therapists Week. But the history of respiratory therapy began long before that.
In 1943, Dr. Edwin R. Levine of Chicago been training technicians in what he called “inhalation therapy.” Within three years, Dr. Levine and his colleagues formed the Inhalation Therapy Association (ITA).
Based at the University of Chicago Hospital, the ITA had 59 members when it became an official nonprofit organization in 1947. In the same year, Dr. Albert Andrews published the Manual of Oxygen Therapy Techniques, which included ways to organize a hospital respiratory therapy department.
Sister Mary Yvonne Jenn became the first Registered Respiratory Therapist in 1961.
In 1986 the organization became the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC). Now AARC takes the last week of October to shine a spotlight on debilitating lung diseases like COPD and asthma.
All year long, respiratory therapists work to help people with breathing problems. They monitor and test lung function, provide patient education about lung health, and treat lung conditions like emphysema or bronchitis.
Respiratory therapists must earn a degree in respiratory therapy and to pass exams for their credentials. The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) and state licensing boards oversee the preparation of licensed respiratory therapists.
There are more than 265,000 certified respiratory therapists in the United States, and there are still about 9,400 openings for respiratory therapists each year. COVID-19 increased the demand for these important healthcare professionals.
This is a great week to thank your respiratory therapist. It’s also a great time to think about your lung health.