A Respiratory Therapist is someone who cares for patients that have trouble breathing; for example, from a chronic
respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart
attacks, stroke, drowning, or shock.
Respiratory Therapists use various tests to evaluate patients. For example, they test lung capacity by having patients
breathe into an instrument that measures the volume and flow of oxygen when they inhale and exhale. They may also
take blood samples and use a blood gas analyzer to test the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels present.
Respiratory Therapists perform chest physiotherapy on patients to remove mucus from their lungs and make it easier
for them to breathe. Removing mucus is necessary for patients suffering from lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis,
and involves the therapist vibrating the patient’s rib cage, often by tapping the patient’s chest and encouraging him
or her to cough. Respiratory therapists may connect patients who cannot breathe on their own to ventilators to deliver
oxygen to the lungs. They insert a tube into the patient’s windpipe (trachea) and connect the tube to ventilator
equipment. They set and monitor the equipment to ensure that the patient is receiving the correct amount of oxygen
at the correct rate.
Respiratory Therapists who work in home care teach patients and their families to use ventilators and other lifesupport
systems in their homes. During these visits, they may inspect and clean equipment, check the home for
environmental hazards, and ensure that patients know how to use their medications. Therapists also make emergency
home visits when necessary.
The duties of Respiratory Therapist includes to diagnosing lung and breathing disorders and recommending treatment
methods and to interviewing patients and doing chest physical exams to determine what kind of therapy is best for
their condition. They should also do consulting with physicians to recommend a change in therapy, based on an
evaluation of the patient and to analyzing breath, tissue, and blood specimens to determine levels of oxygen and
other gases. Managing ventilators and artificial airway devices for patients who can’t breathe normally on their own
and educating patients and families about lung disease so they can maximize their recovery.
Most Respiratory Therapists work in hospitals. Others may work in nursing care facilities or travel to patients’ homes.
They are on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn disabled patients. Most respiratory therapists work
full time. Because they may work in medical facilities such as hospitals that are always open, some work evening, night,
or weekend hours. Interested persons can make their career in medical equipment sales and marketing in consumergoods
rental firms that supply respiratory equipment for home use.
Entry Level Education
Bachelor’s / Master’s Degree in Respiratory Therapy.