What Is a Respiratory Therapist
A respiratory therapist assesses and treats patients with chronic and acute cardiopulmonary system dysfunction. They must have excellent knowledge regarding the cardiopulmonary system’s pathophysiology, and the complex procedures necessary for the treatment and diagnosis of patients of all ages. Their responsibilities are demanding, and they are vital to the healthcare team.
What Does a Respiratory Therapist Do
The job description of a respiratory therapist is the diagnosis and treatment of lung disorders. They then make recommendations regarding the most effective treatment. Their jobs include performing chest examinations, examining patients and analyzing tissue specimens. A respiratory therapist must have the expertise for the devices and machines used in the administration of respiratory care treatments. This includes managing patients on artificial airway devices, ventilators, and assessing a patient’s blood-oxygen level. The work involves assessment skills, critical thinking and advanced knowledge regarding the guidelines of evidence-based practice.
How Much Does a Respiratory Therapist Make
There are variations in the earnings of a respiratory therapist based on the level of experience, the geographic location, and the employer. In 2016, the average annual salary was $57,790, or $27.78 per hour.
How to Become a Respiratory Therapist
To become a respiratory therapist, an associate’s degree is the minimum required. Most therapists have a higher degree because this enables a higher pay structure and more opportunities. A bachelor’s or Master’s degree in respiratory care provides additional respiratory care techniques and more clinical experience. There are numerous colleges, and universities offering programs to obtain these degrees. The school must be accredited to ensure the student is eligible for a state license. The only exception is the state of Alaska. The accreditation must come from CoARC, or the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care.
The Licensing for a Respiratory Therapist
To obtain a respiratory therapist, a respiratory therapy education program must be completed at the bachelor’s or associate’s level. All states require either an RRT, or Registered Respiratory Therapist credential from the NBRC, or National Board for Respiratory Care, or the CRT or Certified Respiratory Therapist. A state license will not be granted without this entry-level credential.
A license must be applied for by the respiratory therapists and maintained according to the requirements of their states respiratory board. This generally requires specific continuing education courses.
The Workplace for a Respiratory Therapist
Respiratory therapists are usually located in various areas of the hospital including the intensive care unit, emergency room, the pediatric care unit and the lab for pulmonary diagnostics. The patients they treat begin with premature infants and finish with the elderly. Some respiratory therapists work in pulmonary rehabilitation clinics, and counsel patients on disease prevention and quitting smoking. They may additionally teach patients how to use devices for assisted breathing in home care settings, or work at a sleep disorder center, physician’s office or skilled nursing facility.
The Responsibilities of a Respiratory Therapist
Respiratory therapists always practice with medical direction, so their duties are performed as a part of a medical team. They additionally have a lot of responsibilities including:
- Managing ventilation and life support systems
- Managing artificial airways
- Conducting rehabilitation activities
- Disease management
- Disease prevention
- Administering aerosol-based medications
- Determining levels of oxygen and gases by analyzing blood samples
- Assessing vital signs
- Patient education
- Clinical decision-making
- Determining impairment by assessing lung capacity
- Analyzing sputum specimens and chest x-rays
- Monitoring cardiopulmonary therapy equipment
- The implementation and development of treatment protocols and plans
- Performing cardiopulmonary system studies
- Counseling patients regarding cardiopulmonary health including asthma
- Performing studies and tests in relation to the cardiopulmonary system
- Health promotion programs and activities
- Consulting with medical teams and physicians when a change of therapy is indicated