New Continuing Education Rules Become Effective on November 26, 2015


The Tennessee Board of Respiratory Care has revised the rules governing continuing education (CE). The new rules take effect on November 26, 2015.

The CE hours obtained by respiratory therapists must meet the following requirements:

  1. Each respiratory therapist who holds a Tennessee license must get 12 hours of CE every calendar year. The previous requirement was 10 hours.
  2. At least 5 of the 12 hours must pertain to the clinical practice of respiratory care or to research related to the cardio-pulmonary system.
  3. At least 1 of the 12 hours must pertain to “patient safety” (as that term is defined by the Joint Commission).
  4. At least 1 of the 12 hours must be a course focused on the professional or ethical standards required of respiratory therapists.
  5. The remaining 5 hours may pertain to other topics, such as education or management.

The list of organizations whose CE activities and programs are considered pre-approved has been revised and expanded. This is the new list:

  1. All hospitals or institutions belonging to the Tennessee Hospital Association, or which are accredited by Joint Commission or by other accrediting hospital bodies with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “deemed” status;
  2. American Association for Respiratory Care and any of its chartered affiliates (such as TSRC);
  3. American Association of Critical Care Nurses;
  4. American Association of Pediatric Physicians;
  5. American Cancer Society;
  6. American College of Chest Physicians;
  7. American College of Emergency Physicians;
  8. American College of Physicians;
  9. American Heart Association;
  10. American Lung Association;
  11. American Medical Association
  12. American Nurses Association;
  13. American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation;
  14. American Society of Anesthesiologists;
  15. American Society of Cardiovascular Professionals;
  16. American Thoracic Society;
  17. Association of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists;
  18. Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care;
  19. Society of Critical Care Medicine;
  20. Tennessee Association for Home Care;
  21. Tennessee Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation;
  22. Tennessee Medical Association;
  23. American Academy of Sleep Medicine;
  24. American Association of Sleep Technologists; and
  25. Society of Anesthesia & Sleep Medicine.

Organizations which are not on the above list must request and receive prior approval of course content in order for their courses to be considered valid for meeting the CE requirements. An application for approval of a CE course must be submitted to the Board of Respiratory Care at least 30 calendar days prior to a scheduled Board meeting taking place before the course is offered. The decision of the Board as to course approval is final.

There are other options that a therapist may utilize to fulfill the CE requirements:

  1. Taking and passing a college or university course focused on the clinical practice of respiratory care or on education, management, or research related to the cardiopulmonary system. The number of CE hours for completing such a course shall be 3 times the number of hours for which the course is accredited by the college or university.
  2. Taking and passing advanced training courses (initial, renewal, or instructor courses) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), pediatric advanced life support (PALS), or neonatal resuscitation programs (NRP). The number of CE hours for one of these courses shall be the number of hours attended by the licensee (up to 10 hours).
  3. Taking and passing a NBRC re-credentialing exam or a NBRC specialty exam (such as the Sleep Disorder Specialty exam or the Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist exam). The number of CE hours for passing the exam shall be 10 hours (but does not count toward the 1 hour in patient safety or 1 hour in ethics).
  4. Presenting or instructing a pre-approved course. The number of CE hours shall be twice the number of hours of the presentation. Credit cannot be given for the same presentation more than once in a calendar year.
  5. Independent unstructured or self-structured learning. However, each therapist must obtain a minimum of 5 hours of “live, real time” CE “with interactive opportunity” each year.

The revised rules also address the number of CE hours required of a therapist whose license was retired, revoked, or expired:

  1. Retired license. A therapist who properly retired his or her license and now seeks to reinstate the license must submit evidence of having obtained 12 hours of CE per year for each year in which the license was retired. However, there is a cap of 24 hours on the number of required CE hours.
  2. Revoked license. A therapist whose license was revoked for non-compliance with the CE requirements and is now seeking reinstatement of the license must submit evidence of having obtained 12 hours of CE for each year in which the license was revoked.
  3. Expired license. A therapist who allowed his or her Tennessee license to expire while practicing in another state and now seeks reinstatement of his Tennessee license must submit evidence of having obtained 12 hours of CE for each year in which the license was expired, capped at 60 hours.
Addendum: November 14, 2015

Since the revised continuing education (CE) rules become effective on November 26, 2015, many therapists have asked whether those who renew their licenses in 2016 must have obtained the additional two CE hours (one on ethics and one on patient safety) prior to their license renewal.

The answer is No. The Board of Respiratory Care discussed this question at its November 12 meeting and decided that therapists must obtain the additional hours in 2016, but therapists will not be expected to have obtained the additional hours prior to 2016.

Thus, a therapist who renews his or her license on January 2, 2016 (or any time later in 2016) must have only the traditional 10 hours. A therapist who renews his or her license on January 2, 2017 (or any time thereafter) must have 12 hours, including 1 hour on ethics and 1 hour on patient safety.