Florida ranks third in the nation for its employment level of respiratory therapists, with 7,470 RTs employed in the state as of May 2013 according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
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Respiratory therapists in Florida earned a mean, annual salary of $53,380 during this time.
The Florida Board of Respiratory Care is responsible for ensuring that all respiratory therapists in the state meet minimum requirements for safe practice through regulation and licensure.
If you want to learn how to become a respiratory therapist in Florida, you can expect to complete the following steps:
Step 1. Complete an Approved Respiratory Therapist Degree Program
The first step to becoming a respiratory therapist in Florida is completing a respiratory therapy degree program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation or Respiratory Care (CoARC).
There are 25 CoARC-accredited programs in Florida: 24 associate degree programs and 1 bachelor’s degree program. In 2012, some 1,437 individuals applied for respiratory therapy degree programs in Florida.
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Although an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy is the minimum requirement for licensure in Florida, many students pursue a bachelor’s degree program as a way to meet the demands of today’s employers.
CoARC-accredited programs provides training in direct patient care related to inhalation therapies, as well as training in critical care and advanced life support. Respiratory therapy programs will provide you with the knowledge necessary to provide respiratory care in all capacities, including newborn, emergency, diagnostics, and chronic rehabilitative therapies. Programs culminate with a clinical program that will allow you to apply your knowledge in a clinical facility.
Coursework in a respiratory therapy degree program often includes:
- Respiratory care theory laboratory
- Respiratory care pathophysiology
- Critical thinking/ethics
- Respiratory care pharmacology
- Respiratory care pathophysiology
Step 2. Take the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) Examination
To achieve licensure as a respiratory therapist in Florida, you must take and pass the National Board for Respiratory Care’s (NBRC) entry-level examination, known as the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) exam. The exam comes after the completion of a CoARC-accredited educational program.
The CRT, a computer-based examination that takes about three hours to complete, is administered at AMP testing centers throughout the United States. In Florida, you may take the CRT exam at one of the AMP testing centers located in:
- West Palm Beach
- Fort Lauderdale
You can register and schedule to take the CRT examination through the AMP website.
The Florida Board of Respiratory Care also recognizes the NBRC’s advanced-level respiratory therapist designation, the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential.
You must possess a CoARC-accredited respiratory therapist degree and a current CRT credential to qualify to take the RRT examination, a two-part examination that consists of a clinical simulation portion in addition to the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) Examination. You must pass both parts of the exam to achieve the RRT credential.
The clinical simulation consists of patient management problems.
Like the CRT examination, you must schedule and take the RRT examination through AMP.
Step 3. Complete the Required Training in the Prevention of Medical Errors
All applicants for respiratory therapy licensure in Florida must complete at least 2 hours of study in the Prevention of Medical Errors.
You can find approved courses through CE Broker.
Courses may be home study or computer-based.
Step 4. Apply for your License to Become a Respiratory Therapist in Florida
Upon completion of all requirements, you may apply online through the Florida Health Medical Quality Assurance (MQA) Services website. You can also pay the application and licensure fee of $165 online.
In addition, you must contact the NBRC and request that they send an official letter from the NBRC verifying that you passed the CRT exam (You can contact the NBRC at 913-599-4200.)
Step 5. Keep your Respiratory Therapist License Current
All respiratory therapist licenses in Florida expire on May 31 of odd-numbered years. You can expect to receive a renewal notice from the Department of Health, Division of Medical Quality Assurance 90 days prior to your respiratory therapist license expiration.
The Department will renew your license upon receipt of:
- A completed renewal application
- Payment of the renewal fee of $126
You can renew your respiratory therapist license online by clicking on the “Renew Online” button, entering a user name and password, and choosing “Renew License” on the column on the left hand side. You can pay the renewal fee online using a credit card.
To qualify for renewal, you must complete at least 24 continuing education hours during the preceding licensure period. Of the 24 required CE hours, you must complete at least 16 hours directly related to respiratory care services, at least 2 hours in laws and rules related to respiratory care services, and at least 2 hours related to medical error in respiratory care services.
The Department of Health, Division of Medical Quality Assurance reviews all continuing education records via the electronic tracking system through CE Broker.
Respiratory therapists in Florida may work for hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and nursing care facilities, among others. Many of these allied healthcare professionals are found working in major hospitals throughout Florida, such as:
- Florida Hospital Orlando, Orlando
- Tampa General Hospital, Tampa
- UF Health Shands Hospital, Gainesville
- Baptist Medical Center, Jacksonville
- Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Sarasota
- Baptist Hospital of Miami, Miami
- Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville