Respiratory Therapist

Pros


  • You will be helping patients primarily to help them breathe better.
  • Job prospects for respiratory therapists are very good.
  • This is a good occupation for someone who is interested in science, especially anatomy, physiology and biology.

Cons

  • Some work will be in emergency situations, so you must be able to remain calm under pressure.
  • This work requires a lot of walking from patient to patient, as well as a good amount of time standing on your feet.
  • A job in this field may require hours that are outside of a normal workday.

Overview

Respiratory therapists are medical professionals that care for patients who have breathing or cardiopulmonary problems. They work as a team with nurses and doctors as the specialists for respiratory care. Their main duties include performing diagnostic testing, conducting therapeutic treatments and supervising respiratory therapy technicians. They also will sometimes have to work in emergency situations when patients are having trouble breathing or need assistance from machinery in order to allow their respiratory system to properly function.

There are a lot of routine tasks that respiratory therapists perform for patients. To properly evaluate a patient’s capacity to properly breathe, they will test a person’s capacity by having them breathe into a special instrument. They will analyze data based on age and other physical factors to determine the best treatment options. Sometimes to clear out mucus in the lungs which opens the airways of patients they will perform a procedure called chest physiotherapy using gravity and a machine that vibrates the chest. They will often help their patients with breathing troubles by administering oxygen directly or in a mixture form. Because they work with potentially dangerous gases, they must pay attention to detail.

A respiratory therapist will usually be found working in a hospital, but they can also work as home health care specialists traveling from house to house or they can be employed by a private clinic. They also increasingly spend their time educating patients on preventive health methods such as smoking cessation and breathing techniques in order to avoid more serious health problems down the road.

Education

Although the minimum requirement for an entry level position as a respiratory therapist is an associate’s degree, many opportunities to move further within the profession require a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree. Some may even find it difficult with just an associate’s degree to get work, and they may need to settle for a job as a respiratory therapist aide. Almost every state requires respiratory therapists to become licensed.

Job Prospects

The prospects for those in this field are very good and it is expected that there will be excellent job growth. The population is getting older, and many of these people will have respiratory or cardiopulmonary problems that will require the expertise of a respiratory therapist. This will lead many respiratory therapists to work in home health care settings. Also, in the past decade there have been major advances in inhalable medications which usually are administered by specialists in respiratory therapy.

Advancement Opportunities

Advancement is this type of work is possible for those who are ambitious. Within a hospital environment, many respiratory therapists will move from general care to critical care once they have gained enough experience. They may also manage respiratory aides and if they prove to be proficient in doing so they can expect to move into higher levels of responsibility. Some of the other avenues they may take in order to advance themselves include teaching, working as a home health care aide or taking their expertise into the pharmaceutical industry.