A respiratory therapist helps patients who are having trouble breathing. Respiratory therapists work under the direction of doctors and treat a range of patients, from premature infants whose lungs are not fully developed to elderly people with lung disease. They give patients oxygen, manage ventilators, and administer drugs to the lungs.
Scope of practice
Respiratory therapists work with doctors and nurses to treat patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. In a typical day, respiratory therapists may:
- Assist with diagnosing lung or breathing disorders
- Evaluate patients and performing tests and studies
- Determine appropriate therapy and treatment options with physicians
- Analyze blood and sputum in the lab
- Manage equipment and devices needed to help people that can’t breathe normally on their own
- Educate patients and families about lung diseases and breathing disorders
There are many different areas that respiratory therapists can specialize in. Some areas require extra certification or experience.
Respiratory therapists work in hospitals, cardiopulmonary diagnostic labs, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and home health agencies; however, about 75% of respiratory therapists are employed by hospitals. They typically work 35-40 hour weeks. Depending on where they work, they may work nights, weekends, and holidays, especially if they do direct patient care in hospitals or nursing homes. Shifts can be long, and respiratory therapists typically spend most of their shift on their feet.
Becoming a respiratory therapist
Individuals interested in becoming a respiratory therapist, should be detail oriented and well organized. It’s important to have strong problem solving and interpersonal skills, and the ability to work well under pressure. High school students can prepare for the role by taking advantage of science, math, and health courses.
Higher education requirements
Respiratory therapists can choose to get a two-year associate degree. Mandl School’s Respiratory Therapist degree program is one of the only programs of its kind in the New York Metro area. Contact us to learn more!