Respiratory therapy is a relatively new profession whose origins date back to the mid-1940s. A respiratory therapist (RT) is a certified medical professional that assists in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiopulmonary issues, which are conditions affecting the heart and lungs. Examples of such conditions include asthma, emphysema, collapsed lungs, pneumonia and more. RTs provide care to patients of all ages, from infants to elderly individuals.
Respiratory therapists are often part of a multidisciplinary team and work alongside doctors and nurses to take care of a patient’s breathing.
What Are the Duties and Responsibilities of a Respiratory Therapist?
Day-to-day tasks performed by RTs usually involve the following:
- Interviewing and examining patients with breathing problems
- Consulting with doctors to develop treatment plans
- Performing and evaluating diagnostic tests, like measuring lung capacity
- Performing and supervising chest physiotherapy
- Administering medications
- Using a variety of machines, like ventilators or BiPAP machines
- Teaching patients how to use treatments
What Are the Different Types of Respiratory Therapy?
There are several types of respiratory therapies, and an RT can have more than one specialty.
Emergency Respiratory Therapy
This type of respiratory therapy involves working in a fast-paced hospital environment, such as an emergency room or intensive care unit. RTs who work in emergency settings use ventilators to treat patients on life support or those with pneumonia.
Pediatric Respiratory Therapy
This form of therapy focuses on treating infants and children with cardiopulmonary problems. Pediatric RTs can work in inpatient and outpatient environments.
Adult Respiratory Therapy
As the name implies, adult respiratory therapy involves treating adult patients affected by chronic cardiopulmonary diseases, like emphysema or cystic fibrosis. Adult RTs also help those trying to quit smoking and can work in hospitals, outpatient facilities or a patient’s homes.
Geriatric Respiratory Therapy
Geriatric RTs work with elderly patients to increase their breathing efficiency and treat a variety of breathing problems, like respiratory tract infections or pneumonia. Geriatric RTs usually work in hospitals and outpatient facilities, but they may also perform in-home services or work for assisted living, nursing or memory care facilities.
Additional Skills and Competencies
Other than performing a variety of respiratory therapy-related tasks, RTs must possess additional qualities to perform their jobs successfully:
- Ability to work under immense stress and pressure
- A desire to help people and the ability empathize with their suffering
- Ability to work long hours and a variety of shifts, including nights and weekends
- Attention to details
- Excellent communication skills
Respiratory Therapist Education Requirements
To become an RT, you will need to obtain at least an associate degree in respiratory therapy. While an associate degree may be enough to help you get your foot in the door, many employers may give preference to candidates with a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy. If you’re determined to build a long-term career in the RT field, it may be in your best interests to invest in a bachelor’s degree.
Apart from obtaining a degree, you will also need to get a respiratory therapy state license and pass a national or state examination, such as the Registered Respiratory Therapist Exam administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care.
Respiratory Therapist Pay and Job Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for respiratory therapists is $62,810. This number is expected to grow along with RT employment opportunities, which are projected to increase by a whopping 23 percent by 2030.
Explore Accredited RT Programs at the St. Louis College of Health Careers in Missouri
If you’re considering becoming a respiratory therapist, a degree from the St. Louis College of Health Careers may help you pursue the career of your dreams.
Whether you’re just beginning your educational journey or wish to further develop your skills, we offer both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in respiratory therapy to help you reach your professional goals.
Our St. Louis and Fenton campuses provide boundless opportunities for students to gain academic knowledge and the hands-on skills they will need to perform their jobs successfully.
You can learn more about our programs by calling us at 866-529-2070 or by filling out the form on our website.