Respiratory Therapist Career Guide

Respiratory Therapist Career
Median Salary $54,280/year or $26.10/hour
Education Requirements Associate’s degree
Professionals Employed 112,700
10 Years Job Outlook 28%
10 Years Job Growth 31,200

A respiratory therapist, under the supervision of a physician, takes fundamental role for all pulmonary care treatments, its diagnostic tests, evaluation of the treatment regimen and manages pulmonary technicians. In a clinical setting, respiratory therapy technicians and respiratory therapists collaborate and follow a certain standard procedure for the diagnosis and care of cardiopulmonary patients. But, therapists have extended accountability than technicians because they are able to develop care plans requiring independent judgment.

What do Respiratory Therapists do?

Respiratory therapists assess patients in all ages from premature infants with underdeveloped lungs to geriatric patients with diseased lungs. They can provide aid during emergencies to victims of stroke, shock or heart attack and may also provide alternative solutions for asthmatic and emphysemic patients.

Interview is usually the first step to assess patients executed by respiratory therapists. Physical examination and diagnostic procedures are the next steps for patients’ evaluation. Assessment may include enabling the patient to breathe in a special instrument to determine the volume of oxygen flow, performing background check while comparing the readings with the norms, drawing blood samples and informing the attending physician to create a diagnosis and start curing the illness. Treatment processes performed by respiratory therapists may include chest physiotherapy, aerosol medications, and suspension of liquid medications, consumption of oxygen mixtures and all other respiratory procedures prescribed by the doctor. When patients need ventilators, therapists place a tube into the patient’s windpipe and control the delivery of pressurized oxygen entering the patient’s lungs. They also change the setting of the ventilator, as directed by the physician, if there are still abnormal levels in the blood ph.

Respiratory therapists are not only confined in hospitals but also in places such as hospices or the home. They are more involved in special areas such as case management and collaboration, smoking cessation, respiratory rehabilitation, disease prevention and polysomnography which are used to diagnose sleep apnea and other breathing disorders.

Respiratory Therapist Average Salary

In 2009, the median annual wage of respiratory therapists was above $52,000. It increased at $54,280 a year after. It is expected that the employment rate will be faster and higher on the following years by 28 percent since the population is on larger demands for respiratory care services and treatments.

How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

To work as a respiratory therapist, one must at least earn an associate degree. Certification programs vary within colleges, vocational schools and medical schools. One must enroll in a reputable institution to have strong theoretical foundation. Other educational institutions also offers bachelor’s degree and master’s degree which involve additional science oriented courses in microbiology, human anatomy, physiology, patient assessment and respiratory procedures or techniques.

After formal education, one must pass a licensure exam. In the U.S., it is conducted by the National Board for Respiratory Care. Furthermore, some employers may include a CPR certificate as part of the qualifications.

Career Opportunities

Gaining experience in a clinical setting is the road to advancement for respiratory therapists. As an entry level therapist, he or she can be assigned to general care of patients with less serious problems and with simple respiratory procedures. With more experience, a respiratory therapist can be assigned in critical areas to patients with complex breathing problems. Those with a higher degree may be promoted to respiratory care managers, supervisors or administrators. Still, there are some therapists that choose to teach in the course.