Career Development

What Does a Respiratory Therapist Do?

Find out what a respiratory therapist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a respiratory therapist.

Respiratory therapists are responsible for providing critical care to patients who have difficulty breathing on their own. They use a variety of equipment and techniques to help these individuals breathe more easily, including ventilators, chest seals, oxygen masks, and other devices.

Respiratory therapists work closely with doctors and nurses to provide this care. They may also be involved in the development of treatment plans or protocols for respiratory conditions such as asthma, COPD, pneumonia, etc.

Respiratory Therapist Job Duties

Respiratory therapists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Providing emergency care to patients in order to stabilize their conditions until they can be transferred to another facility for further treatment
  • Observing patients for signs of pain, fatigue, anxiety, or other indicators that they are becoming overwhelmed by the treatment process
  • Maintaining equipment used in the treatment of patients, such as breathing machines and humidifiers
  • Administering medications or performing other tasks in accordance with the physician’s orders
  • Preparing and administering breathing treatments such as aerosolized medications or oxygen through masks or face cones
  • Recording patients’ progress during treatment sessions and updating medical records accordingly
  • Educating patients about their condition and how to manage it at home
  • Demonstrating proper use of equipment such as inhalers or nebulizers to patients or their caregivers
  • Recommending changes in patient’s medication dosages based on observations of their response to treatment

Respiratory Therapist Salary & Outlook

Respiratory therapists’ salaries vary depending on their level of education and experience, the company size and geographic location.

  • Median Annual Salary: $66,500 ($31.97/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $89,500 ($43.03/hour)

The employment of respiratory therapists is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade.

An aging population will require more respiratory therapists to care for patients with conditions such as emphysema and pneumonia. In addition, an increase in the number of people with chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, may lead to an increase in the incidence of respiratory disorders.

Related: In-Depth Respiratory Therapist Salary Guide

Respiratory Therapist Job Requirements

A respiratory therapist typically needs to have the following:

Education: Respiratory therapists need at minimum an associate degree. They can earn their associate degree in respiratory therapy or a related field, such as biology or health science. These programs typically take two years to complete and include courses in anatomy, physiology, biology, chemistry and math.

Training & Experience: Most training for this role happens through formal education and on-the-job training. Respiratory therapists who work in hospitals or other health care facilities may receive on-the-job training to learn the specific procedures and equipment used in the facility.

Certifications & Licenses: Respiratory therapists must be licensed before practicing in the field. To qualify for a license, you will need to graduate from an accredited program and pass an exam.

Respiratory Therapist Skills

Respiratory therapists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Communication skills are necessary for a successful career as a respiratory therapist. You may be required to explain medical information to patients, so it’s important to be able to do so in a clear and concise manner. You may also be required to explain procedures to patients, so it’s important to be able to do so in a way that is easy to understand.

Technical knowledge: Respiratory therapists need to have a basic understanding of anatomy, physiology and other medical sciences to understand the conditions their patients have and how to treat them. They also need to understand the equipment they use to treat patients and how to operate it properly.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Respiratory therapists use empathy to help patients feel comfortable and safe during treatment. They also use empathy to understand patients’ needs and concerns and to explain treatment options.

Time management: Respiratory therapists often work with a schedule and may need to prioritize their tasks. They may also need to work overtime or during holidays if their hospital has a high patient demand.

Physical stamina: Physical stamina refers to the ability to sustain prolonged periods of physical activity. Respiratory therapists often need to move patients, lift equipment and perform other physically demanding tasks. Physical stamina can help a therapist complete their job duties and avoid injury.

Respiratory Therapist Work Environment

Respiratory therapists work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home health care agencies. They may also work in industrial settings, such as factories or chemical plants, where they provide respiratory therapy to workers who are exposed to hazardous materials. Respiratory therapists typically work full time, and some may work evenings or weekends. They may also be on call, which means they must be available to work at any time. Some respiratory therapists may be required to work overtime to meet the needs of their patients.

Respiratory Therapist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how respiratory therapists work. Respiratory therapists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Registered Respiratory Therapists

The need for more registered respiratory therapists (RRTs) is a trend that is quickly gaining traction in the healthcare industry. This is due to the increasing demand for respiratory care services, which is being driven by the aging population and the growing number of people with chronic lung conditions.

As RRTs are in high demand, respiratory therapists will need to be prepared to adapt and develop new skills in order to stay competitive. This may include becoming certified in new areas of respiratory care, such as sleep apnea or critical care.

More Focus on Patient Care

Respiratory therapists are increasingly being asked to focus on patient care rather than just providing technical support. This shift is leading to an increased demand for professionals who have strong interpersonal skills and can work well with other members of the healthcare team.

As respiratory therapists become more involved in patient care, they will need to be able to communicate effectively with patients and their families, as well as other members of the healthcare team. They will also need to be able to manage their time effectively in order to provide the best possible care for patients.

Greater Use of Technology in Healthcare

The use of technology in healthcare is becoming increasingly common, as hospitals and clinics look for ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs. This trend is having a significant impact on the profession of respiratory therapy, as respiratory therapists are now using technology to help them diagnose and treat patients.

As technology becomes more prevalent in healthcare, respiratory therapists will need to learn how to use it effectively in order to provide the best possible care for their patients.

How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

A respiratory therapist career offers many opportunities for growth. You can specialize in one area of respiratory care, such as critical care or pulmonary care, or you can choose to become a generalist. You can also move into management or teaching roles.

No matter what direction you choose, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest treatments and technologies in your field. This can be done by attending continuing education courses and workshops, reading professional journals and articles, and networking with other professionals.

Related: How to Write a Respiratory Therapist Resume

Advancement Prospects

Respiratory therapists can find advancement opportunities in a number of ways. Many respiratory therapists start their careers in entry-level positions and then move up to positions with more responsibility as they gain experience. Some respiratory therapists may advance to supervisory or managerial positions, or they may become instructors or educators. Some respiratory therapists may also choose to open their own private practices.

In addition to on-the-job experience, respiratory therapists can advance their careers by obtaining additional education and training. Many respiratory therapists choose to obtain a bachelor’s or master’s degree in respiratory therapy or a related field such as pulmonary science. Some respiratory therapists also choose to become certified in a specialty area such as neonatal/pediatric respiratory care or sleep disorders.

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