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NOC Code: NOC Code: 3214 Occupation: Respiratory Therapists
Occupation Description: Occupation Description:
Respiratory therapists assist physicians in the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with respiratory and cardiopulmonary disorders. They are employed in hospitals, medical clinics, health units, extended care facilities, public health centres and respiratory home care companies Supervisors and instructors of respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists are included in this unit group. Respiratory therapists assist physicians in the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with respiratory and cardiopulmonary disorders. They are employed in hospitals, medical clinics, health units, extended care facilities, public health centres and respiratory home care companies Supervisors and instructors of respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists are included in this unit group.

  • Click on any of the Essential Skills to view sample workplace tasks for this occupation.
  • Skill levels are assigned to tasks: Level 1 tasks are the least complex and level 4 or 5 tasks (depending upon the specific skill) are the most complex. Skill levels are associated with workplace tasks and not the workers performing these tasks.
  • Scroll down the page to get information on career planning, education and training, and employment and volunteer opportunities.

Table will display the Skill Level for the Noc specified
Essential Skills Essential Skills Levels
Reading Text Reading Text 1 2 3 4
Writing Writing 1 2 3
Document Use Document Use 1 2 3
Computer Use Computer Use 1 2
Oral Communication Oral Communication 1 2 3
Money Math Money Math 1 2 3
Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting 1 2 3
Measurement and Calculation Measurement and Calculation 1 2 3
Data Analysis Data Analysis 1 2 3
Numerical Estimation Numerical Estimation 1 2 3
Job Task Planning and Organizing Job Task Planning and Organizing 1 2 3
Decision Making Decision Making 1 2 3
Problem Solving Problem Solving 1 2
Finding Information Finding Information 1 2
Critical Thinking Critical Thinking 1 2 3


  • The skill levels represented in the above chart illustrate the full range of sample tasks performed by experienced workers and not individuals preparing for or entering this occupation for the first time.
  • Note that some occupational profiles do not include all Numeracy and Thinking Essential Skills.

If you would like to print a copy of the chart and sample tasks, click on the "Print Occupational Profile" button at the top of the page.


Reading Text
  • Read memos, letters and email. For example, read memos from co-workers in your own organization on topics such as policy changes, safety and medical procedures. Read letters from referring physicians which identify patients' medical conditions and prescribe treatments and therapies. Read email from colleagues who describe problems encountered in areas such as cardiovascular care and request possible resolutions for the problems. Clinical perfusionists read email which describe special techniques surgeons intend to use for upcoming surgical procedures and messages from anaesthesiologists about the equipment they require. Respiratory therapists read email about difficulties home oxygen equipment and symptoms patients are experiencing. (2)
  • Read entries in communication logbooks. For example, read about changes to schedules, times and topics for in-service meetings, new equipment and changes to procedures. (2)
  • Read reminder notes and text entries in forms. For example, read physicians' entries in patients' records to become familiar with diagnoses and treatment recommendations, and to learn about unusual conditions that may affect treatment plans. (2)
  • Read legislation. For example, read the Compressed Gas Association's standards for air quality and Transportation of Dangerous Goods regulations. Read provincial health ministries' qualification criteria and funding application procedures for home oxygen therapies. (3)
  • Read equipment, policy and procedure manuals. For example, read manuals for new equipment to understand operating and troubleshooting procedures. Use this information to prepare learning guides and training materials for the equipment as necessary. Read the organization's policies on topics such as contagious infection control, use of personal protective equipment and cleaning and disinfecting equipment. Read the Pulmonary Function Laboratory Management and Procedure Manual outlining standard North American procedures for all cardiopulmonary testing. (3)
  • Read journal articles and research studies. For example, read articles in the Canadian Respiratory Journal, Canadian Perfusion and Chest to become familiar with new treatments for respiratory conditions, diagnostic methodologies, medical breakthroughs and new equipment. Read research studies to remain knowledgeable of advancements in the field. (4)
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Writing
  • Write short notes and reminders. For example, write notes in communication logbooks to report malfunctioning equipment, request the use of shared resources and describe changes in procedures and staffing schedules. (1)
  • Write email, memos and letters. For example, write email to ask co-workers to set up meetings and inform them of safety and equipment concerns and to suppliers to request product information. Write letters to physicians and palliative care nurses to provide test updates and ask them to reassess patients. Write memos to instruct patients about medications and use of oxygen equipment as necessary. (2)
  • Write short reports. For example, clinical supervisors may write short reports on policy standards for care in respiratory therapies and cardiology technologies. They include recommendations for review by regional committees. (3)
  • Write procedural summaries and instruction sheets for co-workers. For example, write summaries of procedures for new testing and treatment methods and instruction sheets for operating and disinfecting new equipment. (3)
  • Write entries in patients' charts. For example, comment on symptoms, test results, treatments administered, patients' responses and ventilator weaning measurements. Perfusionists and anaesthesia assistants record exceptional reactions that occurred during surgery. (3)
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Document Use
  • Scan equipment gauges. For example, respiratory therapists scan equipment gauges to record readings when conducting cardiopulmonary function tests. Perfusionists and anaesthetic assistants view gauges to check flows of air, paralytics, relaxants and anaesthesia during operations. (1)
  • Scan product, equipment and identification labels for dates, concentrations and other data. For example, scan labels on inhalers and gas and oxygen canisters to locate expiry dates. Anaesthetic assistants scan coloured labels to identify paralytics, relaxants and anaesthesia. They then verify trade names and required concentration levels. They match information on patients' wrist identification labels to requisition forms. (2)
  • Locate data in lists and tables. For example, scan various lists to locate co-workers' contact numbers, review appointments and confirm supply and equipment inventories. Locate acceptable ranges of blood gases in specification tables and side effects of medications which patients are using on asthma medications charts, and identify brands. Confirm shift times and operating room assignments on staffing schedules. (2)
  • Interpret test results displayed in graph formats. For example, view patients' sleep and breathing graphs to determine when and what stages apnoeas and hypopnoea occur. View results of patients' pulmonary function tests to determine lung volumes and flows. Clinical perfusionists and anaesthetic assistants monitor heart and breathing patterns to ensure patients' safety and comfort. (2)
  • Refer to a variety of diagrams and drawings. For example, respiratory therapists refer to assembly drawings to identify parts, switches and connections on cardiopulmonary testing equipment. Perfusionists and anaesthetic assistants verify cable and tubing connections on basic schematic drawings when troubleshooting malfunctioning heart lung bypass machines and ventilators. (2)
  • Complete a variety of checklists and forms. For example, enter observations of students' capabilities and progress in performance evaluation forms, note strengths and weaknesses, and make training recommendations. Clinical perfusionists complete pre-bypass checklists. Respiratory therapists complete scheduled maintenance checklists, ventilator flow sheets, blood gas summary forms and instruction checklists for new clients. Anaesthetic assistants complete detailed anaesthetic records prior to and during surgery. (3)
  • Locate data in entry forms. For example, scan forms in patients' charts to verify dates and test results and review requisition forms to confirm patients' identities and tests ordered. View testing equipment printouts such as displays of patients' blood gas levels, Holter reports and pulmonary function analyses. Respiratory therapists confirm equipment rental and consent forms are properly completed and signed by patients. They also review patients' responses to questionnaires such as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure Follow-up forms. Clinical perfusionists review pre-anaesthetic forms to determine anaesthesia plans and operating room set-ups. (3)
  • Interpret radiographs. For example, view chest radiographs to identify spots and lesions on patients' lungs, potential pulmonary oedema, lung collapse and positions of catheters and breathing tubes. (3)
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Computer Use
  • Use spreadsheets. For example, supervisors use programs such as Excel to create shift schedules, and record and track data on equipment, inventory and patients. (2)
  • Use databases. For example, search the organization's databases to access patient information and review test results. Enter patients' demographic data, test results and treatment information. (2)
  • Use graphic software. For example, supervisors may use presentation programs such as PowerPoint to create slide presentations for use in training sessions. (2)
  • Use word processing. For example, supervisors use word processing software to prepare memos for co-workers, letters to physicians, training materials and patient handouts. (2)
  • Use programs such as Outlook to exchange email with co-workers, colleagues and patients. Clinical supervisors may use Outlook's calendar functions to record appointments and project timelines. (2)
  • Use computer and software applications. For example, use various functions on medical testing equipment to view, print and download patients' test results. Anaesthesia assistants monitor, adjust and record levels of anaesthesia and drugs using specialized software programs. (2)
  • Use Internet search engines to locate professional association websites, journals, medical reference pages and information about medical equipment. (2)
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Oral Communication
  • Listen to hospital paging systems. For example, listen to emergency code calls to determine the nature of emergencies. (1)
  • Receive instructions and directions from supervisors and managers. For example, observe demonstrations of equipment and new procedures such as properly ventilating newborns and ask supervisors for clarification. Respiratory therapists receive their work assignments and care instructions for specific patients from their supervisors. (2)
  • Discuss ongoing work with co-workers. For example, provide shift replacements with updates on patients and their care plans. Inform co-workers of malfunctioning equipment and possible resolutions. Discuss shift and appointment coverage and general work schedules. (2)
  • Speak to patients' families. For example, respiratory therapists in hospitals may speak to family members during cessation of life support. They reassure family members and confirm that their loved ones are not experiencing discomfort. (3)
  • Discuss medical conditions with patients and provide them with instructions. For example, interview patients to gather health histories and understand their symptoms. Provide patients with pre-test instructions and inquire about their comfort levels during cardiopulmonary function tests. Respiratory therapists provide instructions on safe use of home oxygen equipment and explain medical disorders for which patients are receiving treatment. (3)
  • Discuss medical diagnoses and patient care with other health professionals. For example, respiratory therapists speak to other medical practitioners about patients' assessments, test requisitions and results, and treatment protocols. They seek clarification of treatment orders such as care for patients who have 'do not resuscitate' orders. Clinical perfusionists receive directions from surgeons and anaesthesiologists before and during surgical procedures and inform them of vital sign readings and flow rates. They speak to department heads of care units to resolve conflicts involving patient care and service. (3)
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Money Math
  • Collect payment from clients as required. For example, respiratory therapists employed by oxygen supply companies may collect payment and provide change for deliveries of oxygen therapy equipment and supplies. (1)
  • Prepare invoices. For example, respiratory therapists employed by oxygen supply companies may calculate prices of therapy equipment and supplies and apply client-specific mark-ups and taxes. (3)
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Scheduling or Budgeting and Accounting
  • Establish schedules for patients' appointments. For example, supervisors allocate appointment times for initial and follow-up consultations and procedures such as conducting cardiopulmonary function tests and instructing patients in the use of ventilators. (2)
  • Create staff assignment schedules. For example, when developing work schedules, supervisors consider numbers of respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists available, the lengths of shifts and the need for continuous care coverage. They make adjustments to cover vacation, sick and personal leaves. (3)
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Measurement and Calculation
  • Measure vital signs and blood gas test levels at specified intervals. (2)
  • Take a variety of measurements using specialized tools. For example, measure oxygen and carbon dioxide gas exchanges, blood temperatures, blood and intrapulmonary pressures, and lung capacities using a variety of medical and diagnostic equipment. (2)
  • Calculate medication dosages and delivery rates. For example, calculate dosages to be administered based on manufacturers' specifications such as 5 millilitres of medication per one hundred pounds of patients' weight. Calculate oxygen flow rates and lung volumes using patients' heights, weights and lung pressures. (3)
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Data Analysis
  • Compare equipment readings to specified values. For example, clinical perfusionists compare patients' blood temperature readings, and monitor and adjust gas flows and pressure settings to levels specified by surgeons. Anaesthetic assistants monitor and compare patients' pre and post-operation vital sign readings and fluid levels. (1)
  • Monitor inventory levels for their work units to ensure that sufficient supplies are available at all times. (1)
  • Compare patient response rates to standards for their genders and ages. For example, cardiopulmonary technologists monitor patients' heart rates, blood pressures, breathing patterns and colouring during stress tests to ensure that they stay in normal ranges. (2)
  • Analyze data to determine patterns. For example, analyze oxygen moderator readings to determine numbers of apnoeas and hypopnoeas occurring during various stages of sleep. (3)
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Numerical Estimation
  • Estimate oxygen flow requirements by comparing pressures and flows of gases in patients' bloodstreams. (2)
  • Estimate oxygen supply requirements of patients. For example, estimate oxygen requirements of patients travelling by air. Consider combined ground and air travel times, patients' typical usage patterns, contingencies for travel delays and time required to access oxygen supplies at their destinations. (3)
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Job Task Planning and Organizing
  • Respiratory therapists working with home care companies plan their days and tasks to complete pre-scheduled appointments. Emergency calls may require them to reschedule previously set appointments. Respiratory therapists and cardiopulmonary technologists working in hospitals perform set duties as assigned by their supervisors. They are provided with a list of patients to see each day. Their tasks vary from out-patient testing through intensive care and emergency room demands. They may need to adjust their schedules to accommodate newly-admitted patients requiring diagnoses before returning to their scheduled appointments. Clinical perfusionists' tasks and duties are determined by the daily operating room schedules and vary according to the types of surgeries. They order their tasks in accordance with their profession's standards and the anaesthesiologists they assist. Surgical schedules and critical care patients are first priority. They coordinate their work plans with those of surgical teams. Supervisors of respiratory therapists are responsible for planning and organizing their daily schedules which include providing their departments with medical round updates. When short-staffed, they work with patients. They may need to re-prioritize their schedules to complete their administrative duties and be required to implement new procedures and protocols within set timelines. Supervisors of respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists create shift schedules and assign specific tasks to team members. (3)
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Decision Making
  • Choose equipment and medication for various surgeries. For example, anaesthetic assistants choose equipment and medication to suit the types of surgeries being conducted, pre-operation anaesthetic plans and known preferences of anaesthesiologists. (2)
  • Choose the content and format for a variety of instructional materials. For example, when conducting in-service sessions on new equipment, procedures and testing methods, supervisors and instructors decide what is critical content for inclusion in instructional handouts, equipment reference sheets and presentation materials. (2)
  • Make decisions about the type, intensity and timing of patient care within the scope of the practice. For example, respiratory therapists choose methods for weaning patients from ventilators. They review gas and pressure readings, metabolic conditions such as kidney functioning and types of ventilation before deciding how to proceed. (3)
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Problem Solving
  • Encounter uncooperative patients. For example, respiratory therapists encounter patients who refuse to wear equipment required to gather data on sleep patterns. They explain the function of the equipment and suggest adjustments that can be made to make wearing equipment such as masks more comfortable. (1)
  • Experience equipment malfunctions. For example, when ventilators and blood gas machines fail to work properly, check power supplies, equipment connections and read troubleshooting suggestions in manufacturers' manuals. When unable to repair equipment, borrow from other care units while waiting for service technicians. (2)
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Finding Information
  • Find information about surgery preparations by reading anaesthetic plans and patients' files and speaking to surgical team members as required. (2)
  • Find information about patients by reading charts and medical files and speaking to them, their families and attending medical staff. (2)
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Critical Thinking
  • Judge the health of patients. For example, clinical perfusionists and anaesthetic assistants assess patients' vital signs including heart rates, body temperatures, blood pressures and oxygen saturation levels. They monitor types of medications and anaesthetics being administered and remaining operating times. They also constantly evaluate monitor readings and respond to any changes to ensure that they sustain patients' lives. (3)
  • Judge the appropriateness of therapies and equipment for particular patients. For example, respiratory therapists consider patients' ages, activity levels, airway obstruction, lung capacities and available medications when evaluating therapy possibilities. They determine which therapies and equipment will allow patients to lead relatively normal lives with minimal discomfort. They consider patients' psychological capabilities, support systems and living arrangements when evaluating oxygen equipment needs and supply formats. (3)
  • Assess strengths and weaknesses of new therapists and students. For example, supervisors consider the work performance of therapists and students in the various wards they have been assigned and listen to criticism from patients and co-workers. They observe new respiratory therapists and students interacting with patients, practising their assessment skills and using medical equipment. (3)
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