Respiratory therapists, or RTs, work with people who are experiencing issues with breathing and, often, cardiopulmonary issues. In many cases, their patients include premature infants born without fully developed lungs, as well as children and adults who suffer from problems such as cystic fibrosis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Generally, a respiratory therapist meets with a patient and examines them; after discussing the results of the exam with a physician, they then put together a plan of treatment for the patient. Often, the plan involves removing mucous from a patient’s lungs, as well as inserting a ventilation tube down the patient’s throat in order to connect it to an oxygen-delivering machine. Respiratory therapists working in emergency rooms also often provide care to heart attack, drowning, and shock victims. Respiratory therapists working in home health care often set up ventilators and other life-supporting equipment, as well as providing care takers with direction on the equipment’s use.
Respiratory therapists need at minimum an associate’s degree, though many respiratory therapists have bachelor’s degrees. Many RTs have graduated from programs that focus on specifically on respiratory therapist training. Students hoping to one day enter the field of respiratory therapy need to successfully complete classes including human anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and other science-related courses. They can also expect to be complete studies in therapeutic and diagnostic techniques, medical terminology, and patient assessment.
Respiratory Therapist Tasks
- Maintain patient charts with therapy information.
- Inspect, clean, and test respiratory therapy equipment.
- Monitor patient's physiological responses to therapy; vital signs, arterial blood gases and blood chemistry changes and consult with physician if adverse reactions occur.
- Determine requirements for treatment; type, method and duration of therapy based on physicians' orders.
- Set up and operate mechanical and therapeutic devices following specified parameters of treatment.