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How to Become a Respiratory Therapist in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is home to the sixth most respiratory therapists of any state in the US, with 5,090 licensed throughout the state as of 2013. The popularity of the profession has also grown in recent years, with nearly 1,141 students applying for spots in respiratory therapy programs in 2012, as compared to 973 applicants in 2009.

The average salary for respiratory therapists in Pennsylvania was $56,190 in 2013.

The state of Pennsylvania is unique because it has two separate licensing bodies that license respiratory therapists: the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine and the Pennsylvania Board of Osteopathic Medicine. The Pennsylvania Board of Medicine licenses most respiratory therapists in the state. Both boards are responsible for ensuring the highest practice standards among RTs in the state.

To learn how to become a respiratory therapist in the state of Pennsylvania, review the steps detailed in this guide

Complete an Accredited Respiratory Therapy Program
Pass NBRC Licensure Examination
Apply for Respiratory Therapist Licensure in Pennsylvania
Maintain Your Licensure and Complete Further Education

 


 

Step 1. Complete an Accredited Respiratory Therapy Program

The first step towards becoming a respiratory therapist in Pennsylvania is earning a degree through arespiratory therapy program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoArc). The minimum degree level required for licensure is an associate’s degree.

There are 21 programs in Pennsylvania that offer degrees in respiratory therapy, six of which offer bachelor’s of science degrees.

These programs have an aggregate entry-level examination pass rate of nearly 93%, and a career placement rate of around 91%.

The different degrees offered by schools in Pennsylvania are:

  • Associate of Science in Respiratory Therapy
  • Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care
  • Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Care with a biology major

Some examples of classes that you will be enrolled in during your time as a student are:

  • Human Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Respiratory Care Equipment

The clinical component of your degree is designed to allow you to experience first hand the daily work and routine of respiratory therapists in hospitals and clinics. In most cases, clinical rotations will last for at least two semester’s.

 


 

Step 2. Pass NBRC Licensure Examination

The second step you must take in pursuing licensure as a respiratory therapist in Pennsylvania is to pass at least one qualifying examination.

The entry-level exam is referred to as the certified respiratory therapist (CRT) exam. This exam is the baseline requirement for all respiratory therapists throughout the country.

There is also an advanced respiratory therapy exam called the registered respiratory therapist (RRT) exam.

The CRT will test the minimum knowledge required of any respiratory therapist, while the RRT will test the advanced stages of respiratory therapy care. The National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) administers both the CRT and RRT exams.

There are four testing sites located throughout Pennsylvania:

  • Harrisburg
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Wyoming

 


 

Step 3. Apply for Respiratory Therapist Licensure in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has two separate licensing bodies, both of which are able to license respiratory therapists. You may apply to either the State Board of Medicine or the State Board of Osteopathic Medicine. However, the application process and paperwork is the same.

  • Include a $30 fee with your application
  • Submit a verification of education form, found at the end of the application packet
    • This form must be sent to the program you completed your licensure from and they must submit it to the licensing board

  • You must have the NBRC submit your credential verification directly to the board you are seeking licensure from
  • You must complete the self query procedure from the National Practitioner Data Bank/Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank
    • There is an $8 fee for this procedure

  • Submit a CV that includes all instances of employment and unemployment since graduation from your respiratory therapy program

Temporary Permits

You may apply for a temporary permit if you are a new graduate from a respiratory therapy program and have not yet taken or received the results from your qualifying NBRC examination(s). You may apply for a temporary permit up to thirty days before you graduate from your respiratory therapy program.

  • Complete a verification of education form
  • Arrange for your credentials to be sent directly from the NBRC to the board you are applying for licensure from
  • Submit a CV that includes all instances of employment and unemployment since graduation from your respiratory therapy program

You may submit materials to either of these addresses:

State Board of Medicine
P.O. Box 2649
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649

State Board of Osteopathic Medicine
P.O. Box 2649
Harrisburg, PA 17105-2649

There are more than 250 hospitals in Pennsylvania, including 12 nationally ranked hospitals and 34 strongly ranked hospitals. Any of these hospitals would be an excellent place to pursue a career:

  • UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center – Pittsburgh
  • Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian – Philadelphia
  • Lehigh Valley Hospital – Allentown
  • Lancaster General Hospital – Lancaster

 


 

Step 4. Maintain Your Licensure and Complete Further Education

Once you are practicing as a respiratory therapist in Pennsylvania, it is important that you maintain your licensure. Respiratory therapist licenses are valid for two years and must be renewed by December 31st on every even numbered year.

  • You must pay a $25 renewal fee
  • You must complete at least 30 hours of continuing education during the renewal period
    • A minimum of one hour must be completed in patient safety
    • A minimum of one hour must be completed in ethics

  • You will not be required to complete any continuing education during the renewal period in which you receive your license

An excellent way to complete your continuing education requirements is to pursue further education, either through a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree program depending on your initial level of education.

In addition to fulfilling your continuing education requirements, you will be able to increase your salary, bolster your career opportunities, and improve the care that you are able to provide your patients.

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