A respiratory therapist works with patients who need treatment for cardiopulmonary and breathing conditions. This can include patient evaluation in order to gather information on what form of therapy will provide the best results for the condition. Physicians employ respiratory therapists to help diagnose and treat breathing and other pulmonary problems. This may include monitoring patients who are placed on life support systems or making independent judgment decisions on the best course of action.
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Respiratory Therapist Job Description
During evaluations and testing, a respiratory therapist may use equipment in order to test a patient’s respiratory capacity such as lung function. Blood samples may also be drawn to check for various levels that may indicate a problem or rule out a condition for the patient. These samples may be checked frequently depending upon the needs of the patient in order to monitor their condition. Adjustments to the equipment such as ventilators must be made to better meet the needs of the patient and a respiratory therapist must be able to make these changes quickly.
Chest physiotherapy is also utilized by respiratory therapists to help patients recover and regain lung function. This is often used after the patient has suffered an injury or undergone surgery that may impact their ability to breathe or compressed the lungs. These techniques may also be used to assist patients who have cystic fibrosis or other lung damaging conditions that cause them to have difficulty breathing.
The work environment for a respiratory therapist is often a clinic or office setting though some may find employment within a larger facility such as a hospital. Respiratory therapists must be able to use the equipment necessary for testing, diagnosis and treatment of patients who have respiratory problems. Respiratory therapists may be required to be on their feet for long periods at a time as well as lift equipment or bend and stood as needed to help patients.
Respiratory therapists have clients that range from infants to senior citizens and must be able to adapt to the needs of their patients easily. For those who work in hospitals, the work environment may rapidly change as there are frequently more patients and the needs of those patients can vary greatly when compared to those who work in private practice.
Computers are frequently used in order to keep patient records up to date and respiratory therapists should be capable of using these computers on a daily basis. Specific software may be utilized in order to keep track of patient notes, progress and any treatments that have been performed. This allows respiratory therapists to quickly check a patient’s records and share them with other health care professionals.
Education and Certification
With the exception of only a few states, respiratory therapists in the United States are required to be licensed and certified in order to practice. In addition to a license to practice, many states and employers require respiratory therapists to maintain a cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification.
Education requirements for respiratory therapists can vary, with a bachelor’s degree considered the minimum in education. For many advanced positions a master’s degree or higher is often considered necessary in addition to relevant experience. Additional training may also help with advancing a career in this field as it demonstrates knowledge of techniques and patient care. Keeping up to date with new advances in patient care and respiratory techniques can help set a respiratory therapist apart, which can lead to advancement within the field.
Those interested in a career as a respiratory therapist often find that courses in science, health and mathematics will help them to advance during their career. These courses may be studied during high school or during college to help students prepare for the certification and licensing exams. Some may find employment as respiratory therapist assistants and work closely with certified therapists in order to better learn the demands and nature of a career in this field.
Entry level respiratory therapists make an average of $37,000 per year. This amount often increases as more experience and education is earned, with some respiratory therapists earning up to $62,000 annually. This income is often determined by factors such as state, employer and relevant job experience or education.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job growth in this field is expected to continue to rise steadily as more patients are seeking cardiopulmonary therapy. This is due to a number of factors such as an increase in rates of asthma, respiratory ailments and other diseases. This has led to an increase in job opportunities for those who are capable of providing respiratory therapy and assisting in respiratory rehabilitation for patients.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Positions may include work with private practice physicians or through a physical rehabilitation facility where patients will come for regular treatments. Hospitals often employ respiratory therapists in order to treat patients who may have breathing difficulties due to medical complications. Other employment options for respiratory therapists include positions with cardiologists, sports medicine clinics and other establishments that help patients to recover or maintain lung function.
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