CHEST Makes Workforce Article Available to RT Community

 Published: February 5, 2020

By: Heather Willden


photo of female medical professional with stethescope holding clipboard

Last fall, CHEST posted online an accepted paper that examined the cardiopulmonary workforce in the U.S., with special emphasis on the need for advanced practice providers (APPs) such as the advanced practice respiratory therapist (APRT) to meet ongoing needs.

In response to a request from the AARC, the full text of that paper has now been made available to the RT community.

“To understand our future, you have to understand what data is available and how that data is driving decisions,” said study author Robert L. Joyner, Jr., PhD, RRT, RRT-ACCS, FAARC. “I hope that all respiratory therapists take the time to read this important article, and I would like to thank the editors of CHEST, Karen Schell, AARC president, and Tom Kallstrom, Executive Director of the AARC, for their efforts to make this article open source and available to the entire respiratory care community.”

Take-home messages

Dr. Joyner served as lead author on the paper, with coauthors reading like a “who’s who list” in respiratory care: Shawna L. Strickland, PhD, RRT, RRT-NPS, RRT-ACCS, AE-C, FAARC; Ellen A. Becker, PhD, RRT, RRT-NPS, RPFT, AE-C, FAARC; Shane Keene, DHSc, RRT, RRT-NPS, CPFT, RPSGT, FAARC; Kathy Rye, EdD, RRT, FAARC; and Carl F. Haas, MLS, RRT, RRT-ACCS, CPFT, FAARC, all took part in the project. Emily Ginier, MLIS, from the Taubman Health Sciences Library at the University of Michigan, was a coauthor as well.

According to Dr. Joyner, he and his fellow investigators decided to study the cardiopulmonary workforce because it has been two decades since the last systematic evaluation.

“A current understanding of the workforce is necessary to make decisions about where to target resources for the care of patients with cardiopulmonary disease,” he said. “Our effort in this study was to provide a current understanding of the status of the cardiopulmonary workforce and identify any current provider gaps negatively affecting the patients we care for daily.”

Their systematic review of the medical literature revealed current and projected shortages of providers across all clinical settings and examined the role APPs could play in alleviating those shortages.

Dr. Joyner shares these key take-home messages for respiratory therapists —

  • By 2030, the United States is predicted to have a shortfall of 1,300 to 12,000 cardiologists and pulmonologists. Three of the top five leading causes of death are diseases of the cardiopulmonary system, and the population of the United States is aging. Leaders of the health care system, including the AARC, NBRC, and CoARC, need to identify and participate in, the development of new and innovative solutions for the care of patients in the future.
  • Our study identified gaps across all clinical settings between the accessibility of providers and the needs of persons with cardiopulmonary disease. Advanced practice providers are frequently used to fill these gaps, but current providers lack specialty education in the care of patients with cardiopulmonary disease. Commonly, advanced practice providers caring for patients with cardiopulmonary disease are trained on the job without an organized curriculum — a history that the respiratory care profession left behind a long time ago.
  • We concluded that expanding the advanced practice workforce to include a specifically trained advanced practice provider with expertise in cardiopulmonary care is a solution to alleviate the identified workforce gap. Importantly, respiratory therapists with graduate level/advanced practice provider education and training are a natural solution to this problem.

Read it today

Publication of the study in the prestigious CHEST journal speaks volumes about the importance of this issue and the value being placed on it not just by RTs but by other providers in the cardiopulmonary sector as well.

“CHEST has an audience that includes respiratory therapists, but also has a significant number of physicians and others who would have a tremendous interest in the status of the workforce caring for patients with cardiopulmonary disease,” emphasized Dr. Joyner. “All respiratory therapists should be interested in this article and others that will follow in CHEST, Respiratory Care, and potentially other journals.”

The future of the respiratory care profession may very well lie in a new level of practitioner called the APRT. Read the CHEST paper in its entirety to gain a fuller understanding of the concept.

Email with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Heather Willden

Heather Willden is the Director of Governance and Strategic Initiatives for the AARC where she works with state affiliates as the HOD liaison. She also manages DEI efforts and strategic initiatives. Connect with her about these topics by email, AARConnect or LinkedIn. When she's not working, you can find her podcasting with her husband, exploring new hiking trails, photographing, and spending time with her family.

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