How to Become a Respiratory Therapist in Rhode Island

In just a one-year period between 2011 and 2012, Rhode Island saw an increase of 67% in the number of applicants to respiratory therapy programs. Due to a smaller population, there are only about 350 respiratory therapists licensed throughout Rhode Island, but the state maintains an excellent ratio of .77 RTs to every one thousand residents.

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The average salary among licensed RTs in Rhode Island is currently $60,160.

The Board of Respiratory Care, a branch of the Rhode Island Department of Health, is made up of four members, three of whom are licensed respiratory therapists and one of which in an MD. The board is responsible for licensing, regulating, and maintaining the standards of practice for respiratory therapists throughout Rhode Island.

In order to become a respiratory therapist in Rhode Island, you’ll need to complete the following steps:

Complete an Approved Respiratory Therapy Program
Complete NBRC Licensure Examination
Apply for Your Initial Respiratory Therapy License
Maintain Your License and Pursue More Education



Step 1. Complete an Approved Respiratory Therapy Program

The initial step towards becoming a licensed respiratory therapist is to complete a respiratory therapy program named among those recognized by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoArc). Earning an Associate in Applied Science will prepare you to pass the entry-level respiratory therapy examination and become eligible for licensure in Rhode Island.

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An example of the courses included in an associate’s-level RT program include:

  • Human Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Cardiopulmonary Disease
  • Respiratory Care

The degree program will include a clinical experience requirement that consists of four components:

  • First clinical – 8 hours per week for 15 weeks
  • Second clinical – 24 hours per week for 6 weeks
  • Third clinical – 24 hours per week for 14 weeks
  • Fourth Clinical – 16 hours per week for 14 weeks

Clinical experience will allow you to practice respiratory therapists in a controlled, yet hands on way.

In 2013, Rhode Island RT program graduates experienced a nearly 91% pass rate on the initial qualification exam, while the job placement rate that year was 80%.



Step 2. Complete NBRC Licensure Examination

After completing your degree, it is time to complete National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) licensure examinations.

The entry-level exam is the certified respiratory therapist (CRT) exam. You must pass this exam in order to be licensed as a respiratory therapist in Rhode Island.

The advanced level exam is the registered respiratory therapist (RRT) exam. This exam is not required, but passing it will allow you to increase your career opportunities and work in more advanced respiratory therapy positions.

The CRT tests the basic knowledge required of every respiratory therapist, while the RRT tests advanced respiratory therapy methods and practices.

The National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) administers and regulates both exams.

One NBRC exam center is located in Warwick.



Step 3. Apply for Your Initial Respiratory Therapy License

Once you have passed at least the CRT, you will be qualified to apply for initial licensure as a respiratory therapist in Rhode Island. In order to do so, follow these steps:

  • Submit an application for licensure

    • This must include a recent, passport sized photograph
    • You must submit an original or notarized copy of your birth certificate with your application
    • Pay the $60 application fee, made payable to the Rhode Island General Treasurer
  • You must have your official transcripts sent to the board directly from the college or university you earned your degree at
  • Request that the NBRC send your test score and certification to the board
  • You must have two letters of reference sent directly to the board

All materials can be submitted to:

Rhode Island Board of Respiratory Care
Room 104, 3 Capitol Hill
Providence, RI 02908-5097

There are sixteen hospitals in the state of Rhode Island, all of which would be a good place to start a career. Some of the hospitals in the state with respiratory therapists on staff include:

  • Miriam Hospital – Providence
  • Newport hospital – Newport
  • Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island – Providence



Step 4. Maintain Your License and Pursue More Education

Respiratory therapist licenses in Rhode Island are valid for two years, starting on September 1st.

You will be sent an application for renewal one month before your license will expire. You must complete this application, attach the $60 renewal fee, and send it back to the board before your license expires on September 1st.

During this two-year period, you must also complete at least 12 hours of continuing education.

An option that you may wish to consider while completing your continuing education requirements is pursuing a higher degree. You may work towards earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in respiratory therapy, depending on the degree that you currently hold.

Along with fulfilling your continuing education requirement, earning a higher degree will allow you to increase both career opportunities and salary, while also teaching you to better care for your patients.

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