Respiratory Therapists, Clinical Perfusionists, and Cardiopulmonary Technologists

Occupation:Respiratory Therapists, Clinical Perfusionists, and Cardiopulmonary Technologists

About the job

Nature of work:

Respiratory therapists assist physicians in the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients with respiratory and cardiopulmonary disorders. They are employed in hospitals, extended care facilities, public health centres and respiratory home care companies.

Clinical perfusionists provide technical support to patients undergoing cardiac surgery and patients requiring cardio-respiratory support. Cardiopulmonary technologists assist physicians in the technical aspects of diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease. Clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists are primarily employed in hospitals.

Respiratory therapists, clinical perfusionists and cardiopulmonary technologists who are supervisors or instructors are included in this group.

Job duties:
Respiratory therapists perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Perform diagnostic tests, such as arterial blood gas analysis and cardiopulmonary functions tests.
  • Operate and monitor respiratory equipment to administer treatments such as oxygen, oxygen-air mixtures, humidified air or medications.
  • Operate, monitor, maintain and test a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic equipment.
  • Assess patients and perform or assist with interventions such as airway maintenance, line insertions, inductions and intubations.
  • Perform artificial respiration and external cardiac massage.
  • Assist with transport of high-risk patients.
  • Supervise and train students and other respiratory therapists.
  • Participate in home care programs for chronic respiratory patients and provide patient and family education.
  • Participate in research related to cardiac and pulmonary disorders.
Clinical perfusionists perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Assemble, maintain and operate extracorporeal circulation equipment, intra-aortic balloon pumps and other heart assist devices to support or temporarily replace patients' cardiopulmonary functions during open-heart surgery.
  • Administer blood products, drugs and other substances through heart-lung machines and other devices as directed by cardiac surgeons and anesthetists to maintain adequate flow of oxygenated blood to all organs of the body.
  • Monitor vital signs to support and maintain patients' physiological functions and metabolic needs during cardiopulmonary surgery.
  • Participate in routine maintenance, calibration and inspection of all perfusion related equipment.
  • Supervise and train student clinical perfusionists and other clinical perfusionists.
Cardiopulmonary technologists perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Perform diagnostic tests, such as pulmonary function and asthma stress, or assist physicians with cardiac and cardiopulmonary stress tests and bronchoscopies.
  • Determine patients' blood characteristics such as activated clotting time and oxygen saturation.
  • Operate, monitor, maintain, calibrate and test diagnostic and therapeutic equipment.
  • Monitor patients and advise physician of any changes in patients' condition.
  • Prepare medications and administer inhaler and other treatments under supervision of cardiologist.
  • Provide information and care for patients during tests.
  • Assist with the preparation of cardiac catheterization room, prepare specialized catheters and assist cardiologists during catheterization.
  • Perform analysis, programming and monitoring of implanted devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators during surgery.
  • Supervise and train students and other cardiopulmonary technologists.
  • Provide technical support for research.

Respiratory therapists may specialize in areas such as anesthesia, critical care, pediatrics, cardiopulmonary diagnostics and respiratory home care.

Sample job titles:
  • anesthesia technologist
  • cardiopulmonary technician
  • certified clinical perfusionist (CCP)
  • perfusionist
  • pulmonary function technologist
  • registered respiratory therapist (RRT)
  • respiratory care practitioner
  • respiratory technician
  • respiratory technologist
  • respiratory therapy clinical instructor

To work in these fields, you should be interested in medicine and health. Manual dexterity and good coordination are necessary. You must be able to deal with people in a mature, tactful, and professional way. You should also be comfortable working with instruments, apparatus, and technology. A background in science would be helpful.

Job requirements:
  • Respiratory therapists require the completion of a three-year college, hospital or university degree program in respiratory therapy, including clinical training.
  • Registration with a provincial regulatory body is required for respiratory therapists.
  • Clinical perfusionists require the completion of a respiratory therapy or registered nursing program with a minimum of one year of work experience as a respiratory therapist or registered nurse and completion of a college or university program in clinical perfusion, including clinical training.
  • Certification with the Canadian Society of Clinical Perfusion is required for clinical perfusionists.
  • Cardiopulmonary technologists require a two-year college diploma in an allied health discipline such as respiratory therapy, nursing diploma, or a university degree in a related science and completion of a college post-diploma program in cardiovascular technology and additional training in pulmonary technology through courses or supervised on-the-job clinical training.
  • Registration with the Canadian Association of Cardio-pulmonary Technologists (CACPT) may be required.
Other considerations:

Although the majority of people in these jobs are employed full-time, part-time and casual work arrangements are common. Shift-work is common in these jobs. Supervisory and instructor positions in this group require experience in their respective fields as a respiratory therapist, clinical perfusionist or cardiopulmonary technologist.

Labour Market Information

Work Prospects:Fair

The employment outlook over the next few years for this occupational group is “average”, which indicates the chances of a qualified individual finding work is comparable to the average for all occupations in Nova Scotia. This is not a large occupation in Nova Scotia, with employment around 275. The number employed in this occupation is expected to grow slightly over the next few years, which should provide some additional opportunities for employment. With a large percent of workers being 55 years of age and older, retirements are expected to be a key contributor to employment opportunities over the coming years. Respiratory Therapists, Clinical Perfusionists, and Cardiopulmonary Technologists most commonly work full-time hours. Furthermore, the jobs are typically permanent positions. Also, a large percentage of the workforce is self-employed which should be an important consideration for those thinking about employment in the occupation.

The median employment income for 59% of Respiratory Therapists, Clinical Perfusionists, and Cardiopulmonary Technologists who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $68,939. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, 59% of those who worked full-time year round had a median employment income of $43,600.
(Source: 2016 Census)

OccupationEstimated employment in 2018Estimated change in employment between 2017 and 2019Estimated openings due to growth and retirements, 2017-2019Estimated rate of unemployment in 2018 Estimated hourly earnings in 2015 (learn more)Estimated annual earnings in 2015
Respiratory Therapists, Clinical Perfusionists, and Cardiopulmonary Technologists260Weak growth20Low
Minimum: $24.04
Median: $31.75
Maximum: $37.00
Minimum: $17,805
Median: $58,457
Maximum: $78,937
Occupations in Health36,515Strong growth4,385Low
Minimum: $16.38
Median: $25.50
Maximum: $41.00
Minimum: $10,740
Median: $43,853
Maximum: $88,944
Respiratory Therapists, Clinical Perfusionists, and Cardiopulmonary TechnologistsCompared to: Occupations in Health
Percent employed full-time71%77%
Percent self-employed100%10%
Where will I likely work?
Area of EmploymentRespiratory Therapists, Clinical Perfusionists, and Cardiopulmonary TechnologistsCompared to: All NS Occupations
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Cape Breton11%x13%$32,974
Annapolis Valley11%x13%$32,958
What are the workers like?
AgeRespiratory Therapists, Clinical Perfusionists, and Cardiopulmonary TechnologistsCompared to: All Health
% Employed% Employed
Median Age4144
GenderRespiratory Therapists, Clinical Perfusionists, and Cardiopulmonary TechnologistsCompared to: Occupations in Health
% Employed% Employed
EducationRespiratory Therapists, Clinical Perfusionists, and Cardiopulmonary TechnologistsCompared to: All Health
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Less than high schoolxx1.1%$27,581
High school5.3%x6.9%$24,119
Trades certificatexx5.0%$31,728
College certificate or diploma21.1%$28,28339.4%$36,693
University certificate or diploma8.8%$15,8474.8%$50,769
Bachelor's degree49.1%$25,90727.6%$57,186
University advanced certificate or diploma10.5%x2.3%$61,833
Master's degreexx5.1%$87,808
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary, optometryxx7.2%$83,000
Wage Disclaimer

Hourly earnings data are from the Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada. Data are not available for all occupations. Hourly earnings are calculated based on usual hours worked per week. This is how an annual salary, for instance, gets converted to an hourly rate. The data include full and part-time workers along with new and experienced workers. Self-employed workers are excluded.

Annual employment income data reported in the Work Prospects section, are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. Much of the data (around 70%) came directly from tax records. The data relates to the year 2010 and includes total wages and salaries and net income from self-employment.


Employment Requirements & Contacts

Respiratory Therapist
Right to Title and Practice:This job is regulated and the job title is protected in Nova Scotia (you may not use this job title without holding a provincial licence). A licence shows that the holder has met provincial requirements and is required to work in this job.
Regulating body:
Nova Scotia College of Respiratory Therapists
1959 Upper Water Street, Suite 1301
Halifax, NS B3J 3N2
(902) 423-3229
(902) 422-2388
Useful contacts:
National Alliance of Respiratory Therapy Regulatory Bodies
1440, rue Ste-Catherine Ouest, bureau 721
Montreal, QC H3G 1R8
Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists
201-2460 Lancaster Road
Ottawa, ON K1B 4S5
Tel: (800) 267-3422
Fax: (613) 521-4314
Health Care Human Resource Sector Council
380 Bedford Highway
Halifax, NS B3M 2L4
Tel: (902) 461-0871
Fax: (902) 461-9572

Training Paths & Education

Program Name:Respiratory care therapy/therapist
Education Level:This program may be offered at the college, trades, or university level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that prepares individuals, under the supervision of physicians, to assist in developing respiratory care plans, administer respiratory care procedures, supervise personnel and equipment operation, maintain records, and consult with other health care team members. These programs include courses in the applied basic biomedical sciences; anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the respiratory system; clinical medicine; therapeutic procedures; clinical expressions; data collection and record-keeping; patient communication; equipment operation and maintenance; personnel supervision; and procedures for special population groups.
See all institutions providing this program+
Dalhousie University
Office of the Registrar
Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
(902) 494-2450
Additional resources: