This November, Respiratory Therapy will have been regulated in Ontario for 20 years. In that time, as well as all the years before the CRTO came into being, we have witnessed tremendous growth in our profession.  The most dramatic changes have occurred in the acute care setting, where RTs are now performing procedures and fulfilling roles that weren’t even conceived of 20 years ago.  We know that medical advances will continue, with every reason to believe that the RT role in acute care will evolve along with them.  There are many other ways RTs can make significant differences in the lives of their patients, however most opportunities to grow as a profession now exist outside the walls of a hospital.

Demographic and financial realities will cause a dramatic shift in how health care services are delivered in this province over the next several years. One of the principal goals in the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care’s (MOHLTC) Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care is to find cost effective ways to provide timely and high quality health care closer to home. The “Right Care, Right Time, Right Place” initiative is aimed at expanding practitioners’ scope of practice so that patients can receive the care they need in the place they choose.  As patients with increasing complex respiratory needs are being discharged from hospitals, RTs are being asked to apply a broader range of acute care skills in a community setting. This presents a unique opportunity for RTs to use their specialized knowledge and have a tremendous impact by fulfilling a very real need.  But for many of us, it will require a significant shift in how we practice individually, as well as how we see ourselves as a profession collectively.

Traditionally we’ve tended to view respiratory therapy as technology-focused and acute care-centred. However, as the population ages and more Family Health Teams (FHTs), community-based specialty clinics and long-term care facilities require RT services, we must be willing to work and (to borrow from Apple’s advertising slogan…) “think differently”. For some RTs already out in practice, it may mean learning a new skill…or dusting off an old one.  For new grads, it means considering a much broader range of practice setting options than ever before.  For example, the trach we previously changed in the ICU will now, more than likely, be changed in the person’s home. 

No matter where we work – or how long we have been working – RTs need to be ready for what may be the biggest evolution in our profession yet. 

COMMENTS | Are We Ready for What’s Going to Happen Next?

  1. This is exctly the reason the program should be changed to a University Degree instead of a College Diploma. We must leave the 70’s behind and look to the future so the new graduates will be prepared for all the changes that will be expected of them.
    Hopefully with a degree, we will be instituting these changes ourselves and not just being told what to do by a nurse co-ordinator.

    • Lee, thanks for your comment.
      You raise a great point – the importance of gaining additional training in areas like risk, quality and patient safety. A longer and/or enhanced program curriculum would certainly be one avenue for obtaining that training. The CRTO had spent several years advocating for a shift to degree entry but, in the end, were unable to convince government to support that shift. The issue remains alive in several other provinces and we continue to support activities at the national level advocating for this shift. Still, we need to be realistic and recognize that this will take some time and even when it does finally occur, the training alone will not result in the change in outlook or approach that we need. What we’re talking about here is a fundamental change in how RTs see their role and in how we approach patient care – a cultural change, if you will – and whether it’s the College, the professional associations, employers, or individual RTs, we all have a role to play in making this change happen. The CRTO released GROW last year, which includes topics like this as part of a professional development framework. Formally recognizing these topics as important for RTs is an important first step, but it’s not enough on its own. Raising it in something like a Practice Blog is another way to engage RTs in the conversation, but again, that alone won’t be enough. It will ultimately require action on an individual level. We need RTs like you who feel passionate about this topic to take up this cause, step forward and become leaders in the profession to start the change. We’ll continue to work on it from our end…I hope others like you will do the same. Our patients are depending on us to do just that.
      Thanks again for raising the topic.

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