Respiratory emergencies can come in many forms like asthma attacks, drowning, collapsed lungs, and more. Emergency medical teams and CPR certified service workers can help in the short term, but for thorough treatment, most patients will require the assistance of a respiratory therapist (RT). Respiratory therapists provide care to patients of all ages and are the experts in treating more severe breathing conditions like pneumonia, bronchitis, and lung cancer.
Depending on the school, respiratory therapy-focused programs that include biology, anatomy, chemistry, and physiology courses can lead to a bachelor’s or master’s degrees upon completion. It is possible to find work with an associate’s degree, but the payment for such positions falls below average. Many RT programs will often require classes that consist of on-site clinical experience under licensed therapist supervision. The Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs can recommend accredited programs considered the best fit for aspiring RT students.
While not every state has licensing requirements, a standard prerequisite for acquiring a respiratory therapist license is certification from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). The NBRC offers two certifications: the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential and the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential. To apply for the RRT, one must have already acquired the CRT. The exams normally include topics like equipment handling, quality control, and how to take care of patients. The RRT includes written exams and live clinical simulations.
On a typical day, a respiratory therapist may implement treatments like measuring lung capacity or oxygen levels in blood samples to help diagnose and consult patients. Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals and often coordinate with physicians to develop the best treatment plans for individual patients. Because most respiratory conditions are due to high mucus levels, many treatments like chest physiotherapy and aerosol medications revolve around cleaning mucus out of the system. Some RTs prefer working in home care where they consult patients and their families on how to use life-support systems on their own. Regular visits from the therapist ensure the equipment is clean and calibrated.
With advancements in respiratory treatments and a growing elderly population, the need for respiratory therapists is expected to grow by 12% until 2024. RTs are also finding work outside of hospitals and homecare environments, indicating that the position is growing with more flexible career opportunities. If you are looking for job opportunities as a registered respiratory therapist, Ardor Health assists healthcare professionals around the country in finding the best fit for their career goals. View our online respiratory therapist job listing today, or speak with a representative by calling 855-GO-ARDOR.