Respiratory Therapy

Fall 2017 start: applications open on Oct. 19, 2016.

  • Three-year diploma
  • Fall start
  • Includes first-year, second-year and third-year practice
  • Graduates in high demand

Program description

Watch a video about Respiratory Therapy studies at SAIT PolytechnicRespiratory Therapy is a diverse and specialized profession that assists physicians in diagnosing, treating, and managing patients by providing such services as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, ventilator management, oxygen and aerosol therapy, patient assessment and evaluation, and diagnostic services including pulmonary function testing and blood analysis. Since 1970, SAIT has been providing students with the right combination of leading-edge theory and hands-on practice needed to succeed.

At SAIT, respiratory therapy students participate in a comprehensive three-year diploma program featuring two years of classroom, lab study, clinical simulation and practica followed by one year of clinical education in an acute and community care facility. Students complete practicum rotations such as adult, pediatric and neonatal intensive care units, the emergency department, anesthesia, wards, homecare pulmonary function and blood gas labs. The first two years each consist of eight months study at SAIT with some clinical practica. The third year is a 12-month clinical placement at an affiliated health care facility.

The program will strive to give students their location preference for practica, but as each hospital has limited seats available, placement at preferred sites is not guaranteed; students may have to relocate to complete their clinical year at their own expense.

SAIT instructors, as respiratory therapy professionals, are equipped to offer the latest insights into new technology and best practices in the field including SAIT's Centre for Advanced Patient Care Simulation - a simulation education facility that uses high fidelity human patient simulators which physiologically respond to medical treatment.

Online elements require that students have a personal computer and access to the Internet. The Respiratory Therapy clinical practicum experience includes rotations through adult intensive care, neonatal intensive care, pediatric intensive care, home care, surgical suite and wards. Students will be evaluated on competency and performance in all rotations using a competency tracking system called Comp Tracker. 

Students are required to have an iPad or iPad mini to support the Comp Tracker system while at practicum sites. To learn more about the respiratory therapy profession visit the Government of Alberta website to obtain an Occupational Profile.

Your Career

Graduates find employment as respiratory therapists in acute care hospitals, community and home care programs, diagnostic laboratories, educational institutions, research facilities, pharmaceutical companies, medical sales and services, and private companies. Future career opportunities may also exist in research, education, administration, and management.

SAIT Stories: SAIT student Deasy Ardini hopes her research will help future respiratory therapists feel more comfortable making difficult moral decisions. Student Success

  • Students with higher secondary or post-secondary marks usually experience greater success in SAIT programs.
  • The program delivery is very intensive. To be successful students must be prepared to attend 30 hours per week of classroom activities and spend approximately 30 hours per week outside of class studying.
  • During the Respiratory Therapy program you will participate in learning a number of skills that are usually practiced on other students. All skills are performed in a safe setting and supervised. Typically, students take turns acting as patient and Respiratory Therapist when practicing these exercises. The students have the option to opt out of role-playing as the patient, however the student may still be required to perform the skill on a classmate.
  • Students who experience success in this program have the following characteristics:
    • Strong command of the English language
    • Strong communication and interpersonal skills as these are paramount given the vast amount of patient interaction required on the job
    • Compassion and an interest in caring for others
    • Good organizational and problem solving skills with an ability to think and act in crisis situations
    • The ability to work effectively, independently and as a member of a team
    • Professional, flexible, and enjoy working in diverse settings
    • Value helping others and working in a high-energy, challenging environment
    • The ability to spend the majority of their working hours on their feet and may be required to help lift immobile patients.