Exploring the professionalization of respiratory therapy in Canada

Can J Respir Ther. 2021 Oct 8;57:129-137. doi: 10.29390/cjrt-2021-046. eCollection 2021.


INTRODUCTION: A recurrent challenge facing respiratory therapists (RTs) is their legitimacy as professionals. RTs are often referred to as technologists, vocationalists, or technicians and must often justify their status as full professionals rather than “professional technicians”. There is currently little exploration of what it means to be a profession and the process of professionalization in respiratory therapy.

APPROACH: Drawing from sociological theory, the purpose of this paper is to discuss the professionalization of respiratory therapy in Canada using Andrew Abbott’s theory, the “system of professions”. We will use this theory as a lens to propose areas of consideration for professional development regarding two pervasive themes in the respiratory therapy community, RTs’ specialized body of knowledge and professional autonomy.

FINDINGS: Abstract knowledge is believed to be essential in the evolution from occupation to profession and is valuable to a profession in three ways: it can influence the profession’s legitimacy, it can be used for conducting research, and it promotes higher education. RTs possess jurisdictional professional autonomy within Canada. The privilege of self-regulation allows RTs to act according to their knowledge and judgement without direct oversight from other professions.

CONCLUSION: Based on Abbott’s theoretical position, RTs can rightly justify their position as professionals. However, RTs need to acknowledge that professionalization is a dynamic and continuous process that requires creative changes to innovate within the profession and support future efforts to reinforce their position as professionals. Throughout this paper, we offer suggestions for how RTs can contribute to the ongoing professionalization of respiratory therapy.

PMID:34703877 | PMC:PMC8500402 | DOI:10.29390/cjrt-2021-046

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