What is a respiratory therapist? Naturally, one of the first questions when it comes to respiratory therapy is what does a respiratory therapist do?
The basic job description is that a respiratory therapist is someone who assesses and treats patients with chronic and acute respiratory challenges. The age of their patients is not limited. Today, they serve as vital members of various health care teams. They are required to have extensive knowledge of the cardiopulmonary system and to be able to diagnose and treat the various cardio-related health challenges.
How to become a respiratory therapist – Education necessary
The required degree in respiratory therapy is an Associate’s. An Associate’s in Respiratory Therapy is available in many technical and community colleges. However, some programs demonstrate that you show a passionate commitment to the field by requiring volunteer work or experience working in a respiratory healthcare setting. Then the school coursework teaches the students the ins and outs of the various clinical techniques for working with children versus adults. Students also complete rotations in clinical settings in order to figure out where their specialty lies.
After they complete the coursework and clinical rotations, students then take the CRT (Certified Respiratory Therapist) exam with the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). In order to acquaint students with the exam, there is usually an online practice test. Once students pass the NBRC exam, they must then apply for state licensure. Currently, every state except Alaska requires a license. Some states require higher level licensure, such as the RRT (Registered Respiratory Therapy) in order to be able to officially practice.
Then depending on where their specialty lies, respiratory therapists should also consider obtaining further licensure in that field. For example, those who want to work in pediatrics should consider applying for the Pediatric Advanced Life Support. All novice respiratory therapists are highly encouraged to consider becoming certified in Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support.
Since respiratory techniques are continually updated, respiratory therapists are required to go back to school and/or renew their licenses about every five years. Some states require submission of a specific document stating that they’re still practicing as respiratory therapists. Others also require re-certification in life support.
Finally, those who have been on board as respiratory therapists for years whose state does not require it upfront, are highly encouraged to apply for licensure as RRT’s.
Respiratory therapist jobs
Respiratory therapists work in various settings from neonatal to geriatric units. They are also often found in emergency rooms and intensive care units. They can especially be found performing pulmonary rehabilitation in pulmonary rehabilitation clinics. They also sometimes make house calls in order to educate patients on healthier cardio-related habits such as smoking cessation, disease prevention and to teach patients and their families how to use breathing devices.
Respiratory therapists are not limited to educating patients on disease prevention or performing cardio-related rehabilitation. Their duties also include managing airways, analyzing blood samples to determine the level of gas and/or oxygen, analyzing chest x-rays, assisting in the performance of stress tests, and assessing vital signs, just to name a few.
How much does a respiratory therapist make?
Average respiratory therapist salary: approximately 57,000, as of 2015