RTSO Interim Project Advisor: Nancy Garvey, RRT CRE MASc

Since our humble beginnings as hospital-based inhalation technicians in the 1940s, the profession of Respiratory Therapy has evolved to encompass an ever-expanding skillset across the continuum of patient care. From “tank jockeys” to therapists who specialize in cardiorespiratory care and management, the scope of respiratory care has become much more complex as patients of all ages’ cardiorespiratory needs have been recognized in hospital and other practice settings. As a result, Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRTs) have significant impacts on patients’ health and health care utilization outcomes.

As the health care system in Ontario transforms, the RTSO is pursuing a workforce planning initiative that should:

  • help non-RRT and RRT Managers realize and utilize RRTs to our full potential, and
  • identify gaps in access to RRTs in various practice settings across Ontario.

The RTSO aims to accomplish these objectives through two key elements of the Workforce Planning initiative:

  1. An integrated role profile including a bibliography, reiterating the positive effects of the RRT role in various practice settings, and
  2. An Applied Health Research Question (AHRQ) study being conducted at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) that will map RRT practice by LHIN sub-region across Ontario and correlate access to RRTs and health care utilization by COPD patient prevalence.

Integrated Role Profile

At the 2018 RTSO Leadership Summit, the need for a hospital-based role description was identified in order to provide non-RRT managers with a comprehensive reference as to the broad scope of our profession. The RTSO’s Leadership Committee took on that responsibility in the Fall, eliciting input from RRTs across the province relative to acute, inpatient and ambulatory care as well as anaesthesia and pulmonary diagnostics for adults, pediatric and neonatal patients. With health care system change progressing, it became evident that RRTs’ role descriptions in other practice settings was also relevant. The Community RT Committee was engaged to broaden the role description, integrating primary, home, palliative, long-term and complex care settings. Transitions in care and ending hallway medicine have become Ministry priorities, and we believe RRTs can play key roles in achieving these goals.

The RTSO Board of Directors has recently approved the RRT Integrated Role Profile including a bibliography of over 60 articles that support the role of the RRT’s positive impact on patient outcomes and system efficiency. This document will be posted to our website by month’s end. It will also be distributed broadly, with plans to review it on an annual basis. If you have any comments or feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact office@rtso.ca

RRT Mapping and Correlation to COPD Patients

In order to begin to address RRT access relative to patients’ needs, the RTSO envisioned mapping out where RRTs work by practice setting across Ontario. With the support of key partners, the RTSO submitted an applied health research question to ICES which was accepted and is currently underway. The main question is: What are health equity and health care utilization characteristics for adults over 35 years of age with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by Local Health Integration Network Sub-regions across Ontario and is there correlation with availability of practicing Registered Respiratory Therapists?

The College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario (CRTO) has entered a data sharing agreement with ICES for de-identified, anonymized RRT information on role, practice setting and job status (full time, part-time, casual). Dr. Nicholas Vozoris, Respirologist on staff at ICES and St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Nancy Garvey representing the RTSO, and Refik Saskin, ICES Scientist Lead are key members of the project team. Recently, Daniel Chen RRT BSc has joined the team for additional RRT perspective and to navigate the complex ICES scientific process. We anticipate this study to be completed by the summer and to be reviewed by the RTSO Executive and Board of Directors before distribution/publication.

The RTSO Board is excited about this Workforce Planning initiative, realizing that one of the key aims of Ontario Health’s new CEO, Matt Anderson is to “meet the health care needs of local communities through digital health and virtual care platforms, quality improvement initiatives as well as workforce planning and support… and engage with professional stakeholders…”. We look forward to working collegially with all Respiratory Therapists across Ontario to transform the health care system and achieve the best outcomes for our patients, knowing that RRTs make a significant difference!

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