How to Become a Respiratory Therapist in Kentucky

The Kentucky Board of Respiratory Care (KBRC) regulates the respiratory therapy profession in the state and provides licensure for its professionals. Here are the steps you need to take to become a respiratory therapist in Kentucky:

Enroll in an Accredited Respiratory Therapy Degree Program
Consider Applying for Your Student Permit
Pass Your NBRC CRT Exam
Apply for Your Kentucky Respiratory Therapist’s License
Maintain Your Kentucky Respiratory Therapist’s License Through Professional Development

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Kentucky has the highest concentration of respiratory therapists of any state in the country. In addition, Kentucky’s Statewide Occupational Growth Outlook for 2010 to 2020 projects a 27% increase in the number of respiratory therapy jobs. This field is the eighth fastest growing in Kentucky among fields that generally require an associate’s degree.

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The BLS indicated that 2,530 respiratory therapists were employed in Kentucky in 2013. Their average wage was $46,140. Many of Kentucky’s respiratory therapy jobs are located outside of major cities.

Three non-metropolitan areas of the state were among the top four such areas with the highest concentration of jobs in the country. Twenty two percent of Kentucky’s respiratory therapists were employed in the non-metropolitan areas of west central and south central Kentucky in 2013.



Step 1. Enroll in an Accredited Respiratory Therapy Degree Program

Your first step to becoming a respiratory therapist in Kentucky is to get a college edcation in the field. Thirteen accredited Kentucky schools offer training programs in respiratory care.

According to the Commission on the Accreditation of Respiratory Care (CoARC), 89.3% of Kentucky’s respiratory therapy graduates found jobs in 2013.

You have the choice of obtaining a respiratory therapy associate’s or bachelor’s degree in Kentucky. Of the 236 students who enrolled in Kentucky respiratory care programs in 2012, over 91% chose to work towards an associate’s degree.

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All of these programs combine coursework with clinical experience in respiratory therapy. The respiratory care programs are highly selective, and you must apply after you have completed you prerequisites. Typical requirements include:

  • College algebra
  • Psychology
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Chemistry
  • Microbiology

Once in the respiratory care program, you will take respiratory therapy courses such as:

  • Respiratory therapy lectures and labs
  • Cardiopulmonary pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathophsyiology

You will spend a substantial amount of time obtaining clinical experience. The clinical affiliates require that you undergo a criminal background check and blood screening. You will have to pass a physical and provide proof that you are up to date on your vaccinations. In addition to the traditional MMR and Tdap vaccinations, you are strongly advised to get a Hepatitis B vaccination.

Respiratory Therapy Associate’s Degrees

Twelve of the Kentucky schools accredited to train students in respiratory therapy provide associate’s degrees. They all provide RRT level training, so you are qualified to take the advanced respiratory therapy exam.

Respiratory Therapy Bachelor’s Degree

One university in Kentucky offers a respiratory therapy bachelor’s degree. You can either take part in a four year program or you can transfer into the program with an associate’s degree. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you can take part in an accelerated program.



Step 2. Consider Applying for Your Student Permit

You have the option of getting licensed to work while you are a Kentucky respiratory therapy student. You do not need this permit to carry out the clinical activities required by your program.

The state offers a Limited Mandatory or Student license that is good for three years or until you graduate. As soon as you graduate, your license will expire, and you need to apply for a temporary license.

A respiratory therapist who has a Mandatory License will supervise your work. You are not allowed to perform these types of procedures:

  • Providing ventilatory support (continuous or mechanical)
  • Puncturing arteries
  • Analyzing blood gas



Step 3. Pass Your NBRC CRT Exam

The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) administers the respiratory therapy exams required for licensure in Kentucky. Once you have completed your respiratory care program, you must take the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) Examination to earn the entry-level Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential. You cannot become a licensed  respiratory therapist in Kentucky without passing this exam earning this credential.

After passing this exam, you have the option of pursuing the advanced-level Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential. All of the approved respiratory therapy programs in Kentucky are RRT level, so you should be well prepared to pass the exams required to qualify for this credential.

Having RRT certification enables you to specialize in areas such as:

  • Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist (CPFT)
  • Neonatal Pediatric Respiratory Care Specialist
  • Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist (RPFT)



Step 4. Apply for Your Kentucky Respiratory Therapist’s License

Once you have a respiratory therapy degree, you have two options to apply for Kentucky licensure in this field. You will apply for a different license depending on where you are in the licensing process. You can find the forms for all of the licenses on the KBRC website.

Temporary License

While you are waiting to take your exam, you can apply for your Temporary License. This is good for six months after your graduation or until you pass the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) Examination. As soon as you pass the exam, you must apply for a Mandatory License.

Mandatory License

A Mandatory License will make you a fully licensed respiratory therapist in Kentucky. You will need to submit a copy of your Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) Examination score along with your application and payment.

If you are licensed as a respiratory therapist in another state, you will also apply for a Mandatory License. You must send proof that you are licensed in another state, along with proof of your NBRC credential(s).



Step 5. Maintain Your Kentucky Respiratory Therapist’s License Through Professional Development

Continuing Education Requirements to Renew Your License

Your Kentucky respiratory therapy license will be good for two years. It will expire on January 30 of your second year. It is critical that you renew your license promptly, because Kentucky state law prohibits you from practicing if your certification has expired. You should receive renewal forms in late October. If you have not received them by the middle of November, you should contact the KBRC.

This agency has strict requirements for continuing education credits for license renewal. You must obtain 24 of these credits in the two-year period that runs from January 1 of your first certification year through December 31 of your second year.

Your credits must be in respiratory care or a related field. You can find a list of approved credits on the KBRC website. Some of them include:

  • Asthma Educator’s Course approved by the AARC (13.5 CEUs)
  • Certain academic courses related to respiratory care practice (15 CEUs per credit hour)
  • Advanced NBRC certifications:
    • Neonatal/pediatric exam (4 CEUs for first time takers)
    • Adult critical care specialty exam (10 CEUs)

The KBRC allows all AARC approved courses to count for continuing education credit. Some of the courses you can take for free as an AARC member include:

  • Taking a quiz on the latest issue of Respiratory Care (1 CEU)
  • A Guide to Portable Oxygen Concentrators (1 CEU)
  • Clinician’s Guide to PAP Adherence (4 CEUs)
  • Clinician’s Guide to Treating Tobacco Dependency (3 CEUs)

Respiratory Care Professional Societies

One way to stay abreast of professional developments in the field is to join the Kentucky Society for Respiratory Care (KSRC). It is a chartered affiliate of the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC). When you are an AARC member, you have free access to continuing education that counts towards your Kentucky requirements.

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