Respiratory therapists

Respiratory therapists work primarily in hospitals and nursing homes; they work with patients of all ages.

Duties of respiratory therapists:

Duties of respiratory therapists include completing evaluations determining a patient’s respiratory abilities and weaknesses, starting or adjusting levels on oxygen tanks for those patients who need them, monitoring settings for patients who are on a ventilator (a machine which assists a person in breathing), assisting ventilator patients in gaining the strength to breathe on their own, if able, and taking measurements and ordering equipment for home use, if needed.

Respiratory therapist education:

The minimum requirement to practice respiratory therapy is a certification. Licensure can be obtained by taking additional tests, with no further training needed.

Respiratory therapists can choose to receive an Associate’s degree in Respiratory Therapy in 2 years if enrolled full-time.

An Associate’s degree is the minimum requirement to work as a respiratory therapist; however, some choose to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Respiratory Therapy.

This can be completed in 4 years if enrolled full-time. Courses may include cardiac and pulmonary anatomy, emergency care, microbiology, cardiopulmonary diagnostics, and advanced mechanical ventilation.

Three practicum are required of most Associate’s and Bachelor’s programs. Those part of the Associate’s degree program consist of less hours and are integrated with other coursework. Those associated with Bachelor’s degree programs are stand-alone requirements with more hours involved.

Respiratory therapists can receive specialties by taking exams after graduating from their core programs. These specialties include:

  • Pediatrics/neonatal care
  • Geriatrics
  • Critical care
  • Pulmonary and cardio-respiratory rehabilitation
  • Diagnostics
  • Sleep disorders

Respiratory therapist salary:

Estimated yearly salary is $58,000 depending on the setting and geographic location.

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