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Becoming a Respiratory Therapist: What to Expect 

Treyvon Kurr
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Are you interested in a healthcare career that allows you to help people breathe easier and improve their quality of life? If so, becoming a respiratory therapist might be the perfect path for you. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at what respiratory therapists do, the education and training required to become one, the job outlook and salary expectations, what a typical day on the job might look like, and the challenges of being a respiratory therapist. 

What is a Respiratory Therapist? 

Respiratory therapists are healthcare professionals who specialize in treating patients with respiratory illnesses or disorders. They work with patients of all ages, from premature infants to elderly adults, to help them breathe more easily and improve their lung function. 

Respiratory therapists play a crucial role in treating patients with a wide range of conditions, including asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, and sleep apnea. They work closely with other members of the healthcare team, such as physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapy assistants, to develop treatment plans that are tailored to each patient’s individual needs. 

Education and Training 

To become a respiratory therapist, you will need to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy from an accredited program. These programs typically take 2-4 years to complete, depending on the level of degree you pursue. During your education, you will learn about anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, patient assessment, mechanical ventilation, and other topics related to respiratory therapy. 

After completing your degree program, you will need to pass the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) credentialing exam to become a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) or a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). Some states also require respiratory therapists to obtain a state license before they can practice. 

Job Outlook and Salary 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of respiratory therapists is projected to grow 19% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is due in part to the aging baby boomer population, who are more likely to develop respiratory conditions as they age. 

The BLS also reports that the median annual wage for respiratory therapists was $63,690 as of May 2020. Salaries can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and level of education and certification. 

A Day in the Life of a Respiratory Therapist 

The daily life of a respiratory therapist can be challenging and rewarding. Respiratory therapists work with patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. They work in various healthcare settings and are responsible for treating patients with respiratory disorders. 

A respiratory therapist’s day might start by checking on their patients, reviewing their medical charts, and performing breathing treatments or administering medications as prescribed by a physician. They might also work with patients who require mechanical ventilation or oxygen therapy. 

Throughout the day, respiratory therapists might help patients with mobility issues move around, provide education and support to patients and their families on how to manage their respiratory conditions at home, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to develop treatment plans for their patients. 

Challenges of Being a Respiratory Therapist 

Like any healthcare job, respiratory therapy can be challenging. Respiratory therapists work long hours, often on their feet, and must be available to work weekends, holidays, and nights. They also work with critically ill patients, which can be emotionally and physically draining. 

Respiratory therapists must be skilled at managing stress and have excellent communication skills. They must also stay up to date on new respiratory care techniques, equipment, and medications. 

Bottom Line

Becoming a respiratory therapist can be a rewarding and fulfilling career choice for those who are passionate about helping others breathe easier. With a growing demand for respiratory therapists and a competitive salary, it’s a career path that offers plenty of opportunities for professional growth and development. If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a respiratory therapist, contact us today! 

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