The Board for Respiratory Care is the department within the Missouri Division of Professional Regulation that issues respiratory therapist licenses and regulates the profession. They indicate that you need to take these steps to become a respiratory therapist in Missouri:
The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center projected the demand for respiratory therapists in the state to increase 10.99% between 2012 and 2022. Of the 745 respiratory therapy jobs expected to become available during this time, 43% are projected to be the result of new jobs being created.
Four of Missouri’s WIA (Workforce Investment Areas) are expected to see job growth in the RT field in excess of 15% during this ten year period: Central, Northeast, Northwest and West Central.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2,800 respiratory therapists were practicing in Missouri as of 2013. That year, two Missouri cities were among the top 10 metropolitan areas in the country in terms of RT employment: the Cape Giradeau-Jackson area was number two, while Joplin was number nine.
Step 1. Enroll in an Accredited Respiratory Therapy Degree Program
Your first step to becoming a respiratory therapy is to enroll in an RT program that has been accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Respiratory Care (CoACR). The CoACR has approved 12 RT training programs in Missouri.
These programs are very effective in preparing students for employment in the respiratory therapy field. More than 87% of Missouri’s 2013 respiratory therapy graduates found jobs.
You have the choice of pursuing either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy. According to a CoACR report, over 92% of the 189 students who enrolled in Missouri’s respiratory care programs in 2012 chose associate’s degree programs.
Space in these programs is limited, so it is important that you do well in your prerequisite courses. One of the bachelor’s programs uses these criteria to evaluate candidates for its respiratory care program:
- At least a 2.5 GPA
- Experience volunteering or observing
- Evidence of interest and knowledge of the field
- Two letters of recommendation
Respiratory Therapy Program Coursework and Clinical Practice
Once you have been accepted into your respiratory care program, you will take specific courses such as these:
- Respiratory pharmacology
- Arterial blood gases
- Pulmonary pathophysiology
- Cardiopulmonary physiology
After you have mastered your coursework, you will gain clinical experience and work on site under the guidance of respiratory therapy instructors. You will generally need to submit to a background check before being able work in the clinical setting. You will also need to be up to date on your vaccinations. Your clinical phase will prepare you to work independently as a respiratory therapist.
Associate’s Degrees in Respiratory Therapy
Nine of the accredited respiratory therapy schools offer you the opportunity to get an associate’s degree in the field. Some of these Missouri degrees that you can get include:
- Associate of Applied Science in Respiratory Therapy
- Respiratory Care Associate of Applied Science
- Associate of Science in Medical Technology
- Associate of Science in Respiratory Care
All of these programs combine coursework with clinical experience. In addition, one community college also emphasizes student research.
Bachelor’s Degrees in Respiratory Therapy
Three of Missouri’s accredited schools offer you the opportunity to get a Bachelor of Health Science in Respiratory Therapy (BHS-RT). You will receive more in depth clinical training in these programs, since you will be able to practice in clinical settings for a longer period of time than in the associate’s programs.
Obtaining a bachelor’s degree will give you the opportunity to specialize in respiratory therapy fields and obtain higher level jobs. For instance, one of the programs exposes its students to areas outside of traditional hospital respiratory care such as:
- Air transport
- Asthma education
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
- Smoking cessation
Step 2. Consider Applying for Your Education Permit
While you are obtaining your education, you may want to apply for an Educational Permit so you can work as an RT on a temporary basis. You will have to go through a background check before you can get this permit.
You can find detailed instructions and the application form for your permit on the application forms page of the Board for Respiratory Care’s website. You will need to include several forms with your application:
- Verification of Education
- Registration of Supervision
Your license will be good for up to six months after your graduation date.
Step 3. Pass Your NBRC Exam(s)
After you finish your education, you will need to take at least one of the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) respiratory therapy certification exams. You will be qualified to be a licensed Missouri respiratory therapist once you pass the entry-level CRT (Certified Respiratory Therapist) exam.
However, you will have more job opportunities if you obtain the advanced RRT (Registered Respiratory Therapist) certification. All of the approved Missouri respiratory therapy programs are RRT level, so you should be well trained to obtain RRT certification.
The initial passing rates for these exams vary depending on which school you attended. The high level training you will receive from a BHS-RT program will serve you well when you go to take your certification exams.
You will register to take each exam online and take it at one of the exam centers within Missouri. The exams are offered at AMP (Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc.) testing locations within these cities:
- Jefferson City
- St. Louis
Step 4. Get Fingerprinted for Your Background Check
When you apply for your Respiratory Care Practitioner’s License, you will need to provide proof that you have submitted your fingerprints for a background check. The Missouri Board for Respiratory Care contracts with 3M/Cogent services for fingerprinting services.
You can find detailed instructions here on how to submit your fingerprints. Your first step will be to register with the Missouri Automated Criminal History Site. You must keep a copy of your Cogent receipt to submit with your license application.
Step 5. Apply for Your Missouri Respiratory Therapist’s License
Once you have graduated from your respiratory therapy program and obtained your NCRB certification, you can get several different types of respiratory therapy licenses. Two of them are temporary. One is for recent college graduates while the other is for applicants who are waiting to get the results of their background checks. You can find instructions and applications for all of these permits and licenses online.
If you did not get an educational permit while you were a student, you can apply for a six month Temporary Permit after your graduation. You will have to undergo a background check to get this permit. It will automatically expire in six months or when you are issued or denied a Respiratory Care Practitioner License.
You can also apply for a Temporary Permit if you are a veteran with at least six months of respiratory care experience during your previous 18 months of service or if you have a license from another state or the D.C.
While you are waiting for the results of your background check, you can apply for a Conditional Permit. You will have to show that you meet all of the requirements for an Educational or Temporary Permit. A Conditional Permit is good for a year at the most.
Respiratory Care Practitioner’s License
Once you have passed your background check, you can apply for your Respiratory Care Practitioner’s License. It will be good for two years. You will need to request that the NBRC send verification of your respiratory therapy credentials directly to the Missouri Board for Respiratory Care. If you have ever been licensed as a respiratory care practitioner in another state or country, you will need to submit an original Verification of Licensure form.
Step 6. Professional Development to Maintain Your Missouri Respiratory Care Practitioner’s License
Online Bachelor’s Program for RRTs with Associate’s Degrees
If you obtained your RRT certification after getting an associate’s degree, you can enhance your job skills through online training and earn a Bachelor’s of Health Science in Respiratory Therapy.
Respiratory Therapy Work in Missouri Hospitals
Although respiratory therapists have many avenues for employment, your chances are good that you will end up working for a hospital. Missouri has nearly 160 hospitals with a number that are nationally ranked:
- St. Louis
- Barnes-Jewish Hospital
- Missouri Baptist Medical Center
- Mercy Hospital
- Kansas City Metro Area
- St. Luke’s Hospital
- North Kansas City Hospital
- Boone Hospital Center
- University of Missouri Health Care
Respiratory Care Professional Societies in Missouri
You can join respiratory care professional societies to keep up to date in the field. You can also get continuing education credits to renew your Missouri Respiratory Care Practitioner’s License from both the Missouri Society for Respiratory Care (MSRC) and the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC).
Continuing Education Requirements to Renew Your License
Your license renewal period will start and end on even numbered years. It will run from August 1 of one year to July 31 of the next even numbered year. You will need to get 24 hours of approved respiratory care continuing education credits during this period to renew your Respiratory Care Practitioner’s License.
You must obtain 12 of these credits from approved, traditional programs. Such programs are comprised of live presentations where you can ask questions either in person or remotely. You can also complete college level coursework in respiratory care to get your continuing education credits. One credit hour equals 12 continuing education hours.
Programs approved by the AARC and the MSCR are automatically approved (except for CPR or Basic Cardiac Life Support). You can also get six hours for completing an advanced course relating to:
- ACLS: Advanced Cardiac Life Support
- NALS: Neonatal Advanced Life Support
- NRP: Neonatal Resuscitation Program
- PALS: Pediatric Advanced Life Support
However, you are limited to getting 12 hours of your credits from such courses over your two-year renewal period.
You must maintain records of all of your continuing education activities, and the board may ask you to provide them at some point.