By the time the 1970s rolled around, the AARC’s efforts to foster two key components of a true profession had come to fruition. Respiratory care now had both an accreditation and a credentialing system. Early in the ‘70s, these entities would coalesce under new names as well.
The Board of Schools of Inhalation Therapy Technicians became the Joint Review Committee for Respiratory Therapy Education (which we know today as CoARC), and the profession’s two credentialing programs (one for the RRT and one for the CRT) merged to form the National Board for Respiratory Therapy (today the NBRC).
In 1974 the Association took the final step in its journey to establish the components needed for a profession with the creation of the American Respiratory Therapy Foundation, the precursor to today’s ARCF. The key goals of the new foundation were much the same as they are today — to support research, education, and charitable activities in the profession.
But many RTs who remember the 1970s will remember the decade as one in which their professional organization really went to bat for their survival for the first time.
It began with a conference convened by the National Heart and Lung Institute and the American Thoracic Society in May of 1974 to review the scientific basis of respiratory care. The conclusion? A mainstay treatment in the field at the time, known as intermittent positive pressure breathing (IPPB), was of questionable value.
The AARC responded with efforts to scientifically examine the treatments being used by RTs on the job.
The issue really came to a head in 1977, though, when Department of Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph A. Califano cited limited professional evidence for inhalation therapy services in testimony before Congress. Once again, the AARC went on the offensive, writing letters to government officials and others explaining the vital nature of RT services.
The letters generated support from leading physicians, and that quickly led to a reply from Secretary Califano acknowledging that “it is a well-documented fact that respiratory therapy is an essential life-saving method of treatment” and “respiratory therapists are dedicated, responsible professionals.”
With the crisis behind them, Association leaders turned their attention to the day-to-day needs of members with the launch of a monthly news and features magazine called AARC Times and the formation of the first Specialty Sections.
Coupled with the AARC’s commitment to ensure the profession would be based on the scientific evidence, these new benefits set the Association up with the tools it would need to continue to support respiratory therapists in the 1980s and beyond.