Respiratory care is the health care specialty involved in the diagnosis, treatment and preventive care of patients with disorders of the heart and lungs. The professionals who provide this care are called Respiratory therapists (RT). Respiratory therapists give medical gases, administer aerosolized drugs, deliver bronchial hygiene therapy, and assist with resuscitation and other medical emergencies. Respiratory therapists are responsible for inserting and maintaining artificial airways and overseeing the management of critically ill patients in need of artificial life support. RTs also provide pulmonary rehabilitation and help educate patients, family members and the public at large regarding the treatment and prevention of lung diseases.
To learn more about this exciting field, click the links below to view two videos that show real-life therapists in various work settings (require the Windows Media Player).
AARC Life and Breath video
SHRP Interdisciplinary Rounds video
Click here to download the latest Windows media player
Frequently Asked Questions
Where Do Respiratory Therapists Work?
Most RTs work in hospitals. In this setting they care for patients on medical and surgical wards, and in emergency rooms, neonatal, adult and cardiac intensive care units, operating rooms and outpatient departments.
RTs can also be found in
sleep laboratories helping to diagnose disorders like sleep apnea,
in skilled nursing facilities and pulmonary rehabilitation programs helping older people breath easier and get more out of life and
in doctor’s offices conducting pulmonary function tests and providing patient education.
RTs play an important role
in asthma education programs helping kids and adults alike learn how to cope with the condition,
in smoking cessation programs assisting those who want to kick the habit for good and
in air transport and ambulance programs rushing to rescue people in need of immediate medical attention.
For experienced therapists with advanced education, jobs also exist in areas such as supervision and management, education, and equipment sales and marketing.
Is The Job Outlook Good for Respiratory Therapists?
There are over 130,000 respiratory care personnel working throughout the US. Job opportunities are expected to be very good, especially for those with a bachelor's degree and those with advanced cardiopulomonary care skills or experience working with infants and pediatric patients. In New Jersey, most graduates secure gainful employment within 30-60 days of program completion.
According the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for respiratory care professionals is expected to grow in the coming years.
Employment of RTs is expected to grow by 21% from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. The increasing demand will come from substantial growth in the middle-aged and elderly population with cardiopulmonary diseases. Growth in demand also will result from the expanding role of RTs in case management, disease prevention, emergency care, and the early detection of pulmonary disorders.
How Much Can I Earn as a Respiratory Therapist?
How hard are you willing to work? On average, new graduates can expect to earn $24-28 per hour (equivalent to $45,000-$62,000/year full-time)*. Experienced therapists generally make $30-35 per hour. It is common for therapists holding down multiple jobs to earn $75,000-$100,000 annually. For experienced therapists in managerial, educational or sales/marketing positions, salaries can exceed $100,000 per year. *http://stats.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291126.htm
What Makes a Good Respiratory Therapist?
Technical knowledge and critical thinking skills are essential to the safe and effective delivery of respiratory care. The skilled RT must be able to apply scientific knowledge and theory to practical problems at the bedside or in the laboratory. Command of basic mathematics, physics and chemistry and effective interpersonal communications skills are a must.
Just as important, however, are your personal attributes. The successful RT is people-oriented, dependable, flexible, conscientious, honest, compassionate, caring, courteous and self-directed. In addition, the successful RT must be able to handle the physical and emotional rigors of what can be very stressful work situations. Last, the successful RTs must always be willing to learn new things and strive to meet the highest standards of the profession of which he or she is a part.
Candidates must be able to meet the Essential Technical and Professional Standards as described in the School's Respiratory Therapy Program Policies and Procedure manual.
How Do I Become a Respiratory Therapist?
To become a RT, you must first graduate from an accredited college program in respiratory care. Accredited respiratory care programs are offered by about 400 colleges and universities throughout the country. In most states (including New Jersey), you then must take and pass an entry-level licensure/certification examination. This qualifies you for entry into practice. Then you must go on and complete the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) advanced practitioner examinations. Only after completion of your education, licensure and advanced practitioner exams do you become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).
For more Information on the Career:
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Last update: 01/31/2011