Nurses and respiratory therapists work together in critical care. Both professionals must be capable of rapid and informed decision-making, as they need to respond quickly to emergencies and make crucial decisions regarding the best course of action for the patient’s health. While they have similarities, nursing and respiratory therapy ultimately offer starkly different paths for prospective students, especially in their educational requirements.
Education options for nurses, which range from Diploma and Associate programs to Master degrees, prepare individuals to provide holistic patient care in a variety of healthcare settings. In contrast, a respiratory therapy degree – which can be an Associate degree or a Bachelor degree – equips individuals with the skills to diagnose, treat and manage patients with respiratory conditions or those in active respiratory distress.
Ultimately, both programs will be rigorous – with one offering a broad medical education and the other focused on a specific subset of patient care.
Nursing Degree Curriculum
- Anatomy and Physiology: Understanding the human body’s structure and its function.
- Pharmacology: Learning about medications, their actions, interactions and administration methods.
- Pathophysiology: Studying how diseases impact the human body.
- Medical-Surgical Nursing: Learning about pre-operative and post-operative care for patients with a wide variety of conditions.
- Maternal and Obstetric Nursing: Covering care during pregnancy, labor, delivery and postpartum periods.
- Psychiatric Nursing: Understanding mental health conditions and how to support patients’ emotional well-being.
- Community Health Nursing: Learning to provide care within the community, including health promotion and disease prevention.
- Nursing Ethics and Legal Issues: Exploring ethical dilemmas, legal standards and professional responsibilities.
- Clinical Practicum: Gaining hands-on experience in healthcare settings under the guidance of clinical instructors and registered nurses.
- Patient Assessment and Care Planning: Developing skills in assessing patients’ health status and creating individualized care plans.
- Leadership and Management: Acquiring skills to lead teams, manage patient care units and make informed decisions.
Respiratory Therapy Degree Curriculum
- System Physiology: Understanding the structure and function of the lungs and respiratory system.
- Respiratory Pharmacology: Memorizing the medications used to treat respiratory disorders and their effects.
- Respiratory Pathophysiology: Studying how various diseases affect the respiratory system.
- Diagnostic Testing: Learning to conduct and interpret tests such as pulmonary function tests, arterial blood gas tests and sleep studies.
- Mechanical Ventilation: Understanding the principles of mechanical ventilation and managing ventilator settings.
- Airway Management: Developing skills in airway assessment, clearance techniques and intubation.
- Emergency Respiratory Care: Providing specialized care to critically ill patients with respiratory issues.
- Neonatal and Pediatric Respiratory Care: Learning to care for infants and children with respiratory conditions.
- Patient Education: Educating patients on self-management, lifestyle changes and proper inhaler techniques.
- Clinical Practicum: Gaining hands-on experience in clinical settings, working with patients under the guidance of experienced respiratory therapists.
- Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation: Understanding how to assist patients in regaining lung function and improving their quality of life.
Challenges in Nursing
Because many nurses care for a more general population of patients, they need to have a deep understanding of multiple medical specialties, be capable of filling a variety of roles in healthcare settings and be able to adapt quickly to changing situations. A patient’s life may depend on their nurse’s critical thinking skills, as nurses are relied upon to assess patients, identify any number of potential complications and implement appropriate interventions on a case-by-case basis.
Challenges in Respiratory Therapy
Many of the challenges of being a nurse also apply to respiratory therapists, but while nurses need to be knowledgeable of countless conditions, the latter needs to be an expert specifically in cardiopulmonary issues, particularly lung function. Respiratory therapists need to possess in-depth knowledge of the respiratory system, lung diseases and various treatment modalities. Understanding complex pulmonary conditions and staying updated on advancements in respiratory care is crucial to helping patients breathe.
Respiratory therapists often work with critically ill patients who may require life-saving interventions, such as mechanical ventilation. The responsibility of managing ventilators and adjusting settings to optimize patient outcomes is a significant challenge because, if not done correctly, patients could easily lose their lives.
Find Your Ideal Career Path and Hone Your Skills With a Rigorous Medical Education
A thorough education will prepare you for whichever medical career you choose. Start your educational journey today with a school that understands the necessity of a comprehensive yet flexible education. St. Louis College of Health Careers’ nursing and respiratory therapy degrees are tailored to give students the expertise they need to diagnose a patient’s condition, plan and implement a treatment plan and evaluate the results. We’ll teach the skills and knowledge you need to pass relevant certification exams and enter your chosen profession.
Call 866-529-2070 today to learn more about our course offerings and start your application.