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For some people, breathing is a struggle. Fortunately, a Respiratory Therapist can help.

respiratory therapist

Job Tasks:

  • Provide emergency care, such as artificial respiration, external cardiac massage or assistance with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

  • Monitor patient’s physiological responses to therapy such as vital signs, arterial blood gases or blood chemistry changes and consult with physician if adverse reactions occur.

  • Set up and operate devices such as mechanical ventilators therapeutic gas administration apparatus, environmental control systems or aerosol generators, following specified parameters of treatment.

  • Work as part of a team of physicians, nurses, or other healthcare professionals to manage patient care by assisting with medical procedures or related duties.

  • Maintain charts that contain patients’ pertinent identification and therapy information.

  • Read prescription, measure arterial blood gases and review patient information to assess patient condition.

  • Relay blood analysis results to a physician.

  • Inspect, clean, test and maintain respiratory therapy equipment to ensure equipment is functioning safely and efficiently, ordering repairs when necessary.

  • Explain treatment procedures to patients to gain cooperation and allay fears.

Skills and Abilities Needed to Perform Job:


Knowledge and use of:

  • Medical software (MEDITECH, pharmaceutical, patient record maintenance, etc.).

  • Data base user interface and query software (drug compatibility).

  • Apnea, and arterial blood gas monitors and accessories, flow sensors or regulators or components.

  • Medical aerosol tents, medical gas cylinders or related devices, medical nasal cannulas and nebulizer and accessories.

  • Microsoft software (Office, Excel, Work Outlook).

  • Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services.

  • Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases and deformities.

  • Knowledge of psychology – Human behavior and performance.

  • Inductive Reasoning – Ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions.

  • Oral Expression – Ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.

  • Oral Comprehension – Ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented in writing.

  • Information Ordering – Ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules.

  • Problem Sensitivity – Ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong.

  • Near Vision – Ability to see details at close range.

  • Speech Clarity – Ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.

  • Deductive Reasoning – Ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.

Desired Work Style Attributes:

  • Attention to details

  • Integrity – Honest and ethical

  • Dependability – Reliable and responsible

  • Independence – Job requires developing one’s own way of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision and depending on oneself to get things done.

  • Cooperation – Pleasant with others

  • Stress Tolerance – Accepting criticism and dealing calmly in stressful situations

  • Self-Control – Maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check

  • Concern for Others – Sensitive to needs of others

  • Independence – Guiding oneself

  • Adaptability/Flexibility – Open to change

Education Requirements:

If you want to be a respiratory therapist, you will need some formal training. An associate degree is generally the minimum level of education for a respiratory therapist. The first step is to earn a high school diploma. While in high school, you should take courses in math, chemistry, and biology. English and physics classes are also helpful.

Technical colleges and universities offer programs in respiratory therapy. An associate degree takes two years and a bachelor's degree will take four years of education. In these programs, you'll take courses in anatomy and physiology. Professional courses may also include cardiopulmonary physiology, airway management, cardiopulmonary pharmacology and perinatal care. You'll also study arterial blood gases and anesthesia. You will need to get practical experience in a clinical setting as well. There, you'll learn how to test heart and lung functions and do mechanical ventilation.

When you finish your training, it's a good idea to become certified. Most employers prefer to hire certified therapists. To acquire this certification, you must pass an exam. This is administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care. When you pass the exam, you will be a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT).

As a CRT, you can take two more exams to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). One exam is a written test. The other is a clinical simulation exam. It's not necessary to become an RRT, but it will help you in certain jobs. For example, if you want to work in intensive care units or become a supervisor, you should become an RRT.

Most states also require people in this field to be licensed. Requirements vary slightly by state. But usually you need to graduate from an accredited respiratory therapist program and pass the CRT exam as well.

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