Purpose and Mission
Respiratory therapists diagnose and treat patients with a variety of breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders. These healthcare professionals typically work with lung cancer patients, premature babies and heart attack or stroke sufferers. Respiratory therapists perform a broad range of diagnostic procedures, including evaluating lung capacity, undertaking chest physiotherapy and testing the function of cardiopulmonary systems. They work with patients of all ages and backgrounds, and liaise frequently with doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.
The majority of respiratory therapists work as employees at hospitals, clinics, and schools, and report to a department head or service chief, but a small percentage practice as self-employed individuals who work on a contract basis (typically report to a supervising pulmonologist).
Although most respiratory therapists do not have a great deal of supervisory responsibilities (except for training new colleagues), they work as a part of a multidisciplinary team, which means they need strong interpersonal skills so they can communicate effectively with hospital/clinic staff, patients, caregivers and students.
To work as a respiratory therapist, you must have at least an associate degree, and many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree. You must also hold a current credential as a Registered Respiratory Therapist from the National Board of Respiratory Care, and have a current license from your state licensure agency.
Responsibilities of a Respiratory Therapist
A respiratory therapist is a health care professional who works with doctors and other healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat patients with respiratory conditions. They sometimes plan a treatment course for cardiopulmonary patients. One of their primary responsibilities is management of inhalers, keeping up with patient status, and adjusting the treatment as required based on the guidance of doctors.
These healthcare professionals are usually employed in medical clinics, hospitals or other medical facilities, and work under the supervision of a pulmonologist. They are trained to treat a variety of respiratory conditions including obstructive and restrictive lung diseases. Respiratory therapists work with patients presenting breathing difficulties, including cardiopulmonary diseases, and chronic respiratory conditions such as emphysema or asthma. They also advise the patients regarding the use of inhalers and how to prevent more serious respiratory conditions. Respiratory therapists are generally supervised by one or more pulmonologists, who instruct them regarding the most effective therapeutic techniques for the specific condition.