While a career in Respiratory is fulfilling in and of itself, it doesn’t come without its share of challenges. Respiratory Therapists in all locations face a multitude of ethical dilemmas each and every day.

Let’s take a closer look at what ethics mean for today’s healthcare professionals and some of the best practices to implement to become an ethical Respiratory Therapist, according to standards set by the AARC

How to be an Ethical Respiratory Therapist:

1. Always aim to demonstrate a behavior that supports objectivity, reflects integrity, and fosters trust in the Respiratory profession.

Be honest. That’s what it all boils down to, basically. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles in everything you do. Trust your co-workers to fulfill their job duties competently and you do the same. 

2. Always aim to seek educational opportunities to improve and maintain your professional competence and document your participation accurately.

This is required so you might as well embrace it. Life-long education is important in all aspects of life. We should always strive to be gaining knowledge and learning new skills. This applies to our job as well.

Depending on the state of your licensure, you will be required to obtain a certain amount of CEUs, or continuing education units, each year. This not only something everyone should do, we must do it if we want to keep our licenses. 

Also, seek out inspiration. Read books on the subject that will motivate you to be better in your career and life. We put together a list of the best books for medical professionals.

3. Perform only those procedures or functions in which they are individually competent and which are within their scope of accepted and responsible practice.

Basically, stay in your lane. You wouldn’t want a nurse to stick an ABG for you, so you shouldn’t be trying to start an IV for them. You get the idea.

Even if it’s something small, if it’s not within your scope of practice, don’t do it. 

4. Always protect and respect the legal and personal rights of the patient. This includes the right to privacy, informed consent, and any refusal of treatment.

This goes without saying but always keeps the patient’s information private. Employees disclosing patient information happens far too often, unfortunately. 

Also, patients do have the right to refuse a treatment. If they really, like really need care, you may have to work to get consent from them. Sometimes you really have to explain how important it is for them. But if they absolutely refuse, you can’t do it. 

You can check out the article we wrote on how to deal with difficult patients for more information.

5. You must divulge no protected information regarding any patient or family unless disclosure is required for the responsible performance of duty authorized by the patient or family, or required by law.

This one is similar to the last one. Don’t share any patient information, without consent, unless it’s required by law. 

6. You should provide care without discriminating on any basis, with respect for the rights and dignity of all individuals.

You should treat all your patients as equals and provide necessary care to each. A rule of thumb I always go by is this: treat the patient as if it were your family member lying there. Provide care as you would if it were your parent or grandparent. Because they are someone’s family member. 

7. Always promote disease prevention and wellness.

Just do your part for disease prevention. It’s not hard. Wash your hands when you’re supposed to. Scrub in, scrub out. Wear proper PPE as necessary. 

8. Refuse to participate in all illegal or unethical acts.

I mean… yeah. Don’t go off doing illegal stuff at work. Got it?

Seriously, though. Don’t steal from your employer. Don’t take meds (i.e. don’t give yourself breathing treatments at work). Don’t show up to work under the influence. Use common sense and you’ll be fine. 

9. Refuse to conceal the illegal, unethical, fraudulent, or incompetent acts of others. Report these actions to your superiors. 

This one is probably hard, especially if it is a co-worker who is also a friend. But if you catch them slippin’, especially if their actions can bring harm to the patient, it is our duty to report these actions. 

10. Always follow sound scientific procedures and ethical principles in research.

Are you performing any sort of Respiratory Therapy research on the job? Well then make sure you are following the proper scientific processes when doing so. Don’t cut corners. Do it the right way. 

11. Always comply with your state or federal laws that govern and relate to their practice.

No matter what state you’re in, we all pretty much will be following the same set of rules referring to how to do our jobs. Some state may differ some. In general, do what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it and you will be fine. 

12. Always avoid any form of conduct that is fraudulent or creates a conflict of interest. Strive to always follow the principles of ethical business behavior.

This one is similar to a few of the others on the list. Just don’t lie, cheat, and steal.

As far as business ethics go, this one can be tricky for us as Respiratory Therapists, because we generally carry out the orders of others (doctors, nurse practitioners, etc.).

For instance, the doctor orders breathing treatments every four hours on a patient who doesn’t need them and doesn’t even take the treatments at home. Why? Is it to make money? Do we give the treatments anyway? It’s a slippery slope. Always try to do the right thing. 

13. Always promote health care delivery through improvement of the access, efficacy, and cost of patient care.

Do your part to make your organization (hospital or healthcare facility) run as smoothly as possible. And never charge a patient for care that wasn’t given. 

14. Encourage and promote appropriate stewardship of resources.

Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources, and our job is to be a steward. We must look out for our patients. We must manage resources properly, which means keeping track of our equipment.

Always make sure everything is stocked properly. Make sure there are plenty of mechanical ventilators and BiPAPs available. It’s part of the job.


Ethics are extremely important in healthcare, especially in the field of Respiratory Therapy. Now, hopefully, you are more equipped to do your job in an ethical manner.

Each of our jobs is different, but its safe to say that if we follow the tips from this list, we will have no trouble being an ethical Respiratory Therapist, now and forever.