Respiratory Therapist - How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory Therapist

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Respiratory Therapist Job Description

 

Respiratory therapists work with patients suffering from chronic respiratory diseases, such as emphysema, bronchitis, COPD and asthma. They also provide emergency care to people suffering heart attacks, drowning or shock. Those recovering from heart attacks or who suffer from sleep disorders, as well as premature infants may benefit from the services of a respiratory therapist to help them breathe more easily.

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Responsibilities

 

A Respiratory Therapist must rely on the knowledge of scientific principles of cardiopulmonary physiology and pathophysiology, in conjunction with biomedical engineering and technology, to effectively evaluate, educate, and treat patients with cardiopulmonary disorders. Respiratory Therapists practice under medical direction and as an integral part of the medical team.

Those with advanced level training take part in clinical decision-making and patient education. They devise and implement treatment plans and protocols, participate in health and wellness education programs, devise, and implement disease-prevention programs and work with patients to manage disease processes.

Adequate assessment skills and clinical practice guidelines based on evidence-based research enable Respiratory Therapists to devise and implement comprehensive care plans, therapy delivery protocols, and effective disease management programs.

Common responsibilities that fall to the Respiratory Therapist may include:

  • Diagnosing breathing and lung disorders, then recommending appropriate treatment methods

  • Interviewing patients and performing physical examinations of the chest to recommend the best therapy for the patient’s condition

  • Consulting with physicians to adjust or change a patient’s therapy based on the patient evaluation

  • Analyzing samples of tissue, breath and blood specimens to determine levels of oxygen and other gases

  • Ventilator and artificial airway device management for patients who need mechanical assistance to breathe

  • Responding to emergency, “Code Blue” or urgent calls for care

  • Education of patients and their families about lung diseases and how to maximize recovery

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Skills

 

While respiratory therapists practice under the supervision of physician, they can exercise a large degree of independent judgment when providing respiratory therapy to their patients, so they must call on a litany of skills. Respiratory therapists are required to utilize critical thinking skills, among others, to evaluate their patients and the environment in which their patients live.

Since their environment and field is constantly changing, Respiratory therapists must be able to adapt and change with the technology and times. They must call on their patience and empathy to deal with frustrated, sick patients who may be challenging to work with and might take a while to see results.

They must also be able to work independently and be good at calling the shots, organization, planning, management, and scheduling, because they can work alone at the patients' houses. Similarly, they must be good at working on a team because many practice on teams in hospital environments. A Respiratory Therapist must also have an impeccable attention to detail to enable them to assess patients needs, administer correct treatment, and be in-tune with their ever changing environments. 

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Working Conditions

 

A respiratory therapist with an experienced resume may find their career options opening to wider opportunities, especially if they are employed by a hospital. Exceptional respiratory therapists can move up the ladder from Staff Therapist to a Shift Supervisor, or higher to Respiratory Therapy Department Manager. Some Respiratory Therapists even move into the ranks of hospital administration and other high levels of management.

Respiratory therapists are an active part of home health care industry, and many have moved on to open their own respiratory home healthcare companies. These businesses provide respiratory diagnostic services, including education on patient care, instruction on in-home use of respiratory equipment and other services related to the field. Many work in close conjunction with home health nursing care services.

In the corporate world, respiratory therapists are finding employment in the fields of equipment manufacture and marketing specialists. These companies are seeking employees with the technical knowledge and patient care experience that respiratory therapists bring to the table.

The most common venues where respiratory therapy services are offered include:

  • Acute care hospitals, where the majority of respiratory therapists are employed

  • Diagnostic laboratories

  • Rehabilitation centers, long-term acute care facilities and skilled nursing centers

  • Sleep disorder and study centers

  • Patients’ personal homes

  • Patient transport systems

  • In physician offices

  • Retirement, convalescent and swing-bed centers

  • Wellness centers

  • Educational institutions

  • Medical device manufacturers

 


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How to Become a Respiratory Therapist:

 

The minimum educational requirement for a respiratory therapist is an associate's degree from an Accredited Respiratory Therapy Education Program. But, many people, who pursue Respiratory Therapist Certification, go on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree before earning a Graduate Degree. Graduates can voluntarily earn the Certified Respiratory Therapist credential by taking a certification exam. They can then take a National Voluntary Clinical Simulation Examination to earn the Registered Respiratory Therapist Credential. All credentials are administered by the National Board for Respiratory Care.

 

1. Earn an Associates Degree (2 Years)

 

You can find a respiratory therapy program at many community colleges. Just make sure your school is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) so you can practice once you get your certification. Some programs require you to undertake volunteer work, or hours of experience in a healthcare setting. Associates Degree coursework exposes students to theories and science behind Respiratory Therapy and teaches certain techniques to use with adults and kids. You will get your foundation in these courses and be introduced to many specialty areas where you will begin to understand how to adapt and relate your knowledge to the field. 

 

2. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (Optional)

 

A bachelor's degree is not necessary for you to practice and excel in respiratory sherapy. Many RTs say that there isn't a big pay difference (if any) for those with bachelor's and those with associate's. If you want to go into management or other administration positions, you can get a Bachelor's Degree in Respiratory Therapy or Health Management Administration. It's ultimately up to you to decide if the extra money and two years is worth it for your goals. 

 

3. Take the Certified Respiratory Therapist Exam

 

The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) administers the CRT exam across the country. The name of the exam changed in January 2015 from the Entry Level CRT Examination to the Therapist Multiple-Choice Examination (TMC). The test measures all the skills and abilities you learned through education to see if you're ready for the field and eligible for the Clinical Simulation Examination.

 

4. Earn the Required License

 

If you don't live in Alaska, you have to get a license for your state. Alaska is the only state that doesn't regulate licensure. First you have to take the NBRC exam, stated above, and become certified, then you can be considered for licensure. Some states require higher level certification like the Registered Respiratory Therapy (RRT) certification. Check with your state to see requirements.  

 

5.  Consider Additional Certifications

 

Those wanting to work with children and infants need to obtain Pediatric Advanced Life Support certification and take a Neonatal Resuscitation Program. Among these certifications, all CRTs should consider Basic Life Support and Advanced Cardiac Life Support certifications since you work with people who have issues with one of the main functions of living (breathing). 

You could consider becoming a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) once you get your CRT certifications. Becoming a RRT makes you more competitive in the job field and some jobs demand it. To become a RRT you must pass written and clinical exams and in some cases obtain it within 3 years of graduating from college. 

 

6. Maintain Certification Through Continuing Education

 

As a CRT or a RRT, you must renew your credentials through continuing education or testing. You can also submit a document showing that you are actively practicing Respiratory Therapy. Some state require additional education classes and you must keep your Life Support certifications up-to-date as well. 

 

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Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
11.28.2016
Registered Respiratory Therapist with current MS license required. Must have excellent communication skills. (132)
11.28.2016
Registered Respiratory Therapist with current MS license required. Must have excellent communication skills. (132)
12.02.2016
RESPIRATORY THERAPIST-REGISTERED
11.28.2016
The registered respiratory therapist is responsible for providing basic and advanced Respiratory Care services to neonatal, pediatric, adult, and geriatric patients in a manner that is consistent with the philosophy, objectives, standards of...
11.28.2016
VCU Health System's Respiratory Therapy CHoR is seeking a PRN Respiratory Therapist to provide safe and effective care as an advanced Respiratory Therapist to pediatric and adolescent populations in accordance wiht discipline training. Clinical...
11.28.2016
This position is responsible for providing professional respiratory care through assessment, clinical judgement, treatment and instruction to any population group in need. The position is also responsible for providing certain cardiac and...
12.02.2016
DescriptionWill administer prescribed respiratory therapeutic services across allSASH campuses to include specialized critical care areas. QualificationsHigh school diploma/GED or higher level of education required. Must provide evidence of...
11.28.2016
This position is responsible for providing professional respiratory care through assessment, clinical judgement, treatment and instruction to any population group in need. The position is also responsible for providing certain cardiac and...
12.04.2016
DescriptionAdminister prescribed modalities primarily in the specialized, critical care areas but also inclusive of general respiratory care at the St. Michael campus. Hours and days of work will be determined by the needs of the department....
12.04.2016
DescriptionAdminister prescribed modalities primarily in the specialized, critical care areas but also inclusive of general respiratory care at the St. Michael campus. Hours and days of work will be determined by the needs of the department....
11.28.2016
Associate's Degree RRT - Registered Respiratory Therapist 2 Years Experience Required If you are an energetic Respiratory Therapist who enjoys being part of a collaborative and talented team then a rewarding career with Northeast Georgia...
11.28.2016
Associate's Degree BCLS - Basic Cardiac Life Support RRT - Registered Respiratory Therapist 2 Years Experience Required If you are an energetic Respiratory Therapist who enjoys being part of a collaborative and talented team then a rewarding...
11.28.2016
Associate's Degree BCLS - Basic Cardiac Life Support RRT - Registered Respiratory Therapist 2 Years Experience Required If you are an energetic Respiratory Therapist who enjoys being part of a collaborative and talented team then a rewarding...
11.28.2016
- Associates degree required - Experience is required Essential Duties and Responsibilities: Performs assessment, diagnostic testing, prescribed treatment and care of the respiratory therapy patient. Evaluates effectiveness of treatment...
11.30.2016
*This position includes working one in every four weekends and two holidays per year. *Shifts include 12 hour days & nights, 8 hour days & evenings, 4 hour evenings. Provides services to patients ranging in age from the very young...
  1. RESPIRATORY THERAPIST Tupelo, MS North MS Medical Center
    Registered Respiratory Therapist with current MS license required. Must have excellent communication skills. (132)
  2. RESPIRATORY THERAPIST Tupelo, MS North MS Medical Center
    Registered Respiratory Therapist with current MS license required. Must have excellent communication skills. (132)
  3. RESPIRATORY THERAPIST-REGISTERED Cincinnati, OH TriHealth
    RESPIRATORY THERAPIST-REGISTERED
  4. Respiratory Therapist Dubuque, IA Mercy Medical Center - Dubuque/Dyersville
    The registered respiratory therapist is responsible for providing basic and advanced Respiratory Care services to neonatal, pediatric, adult, and geriatric patients in a manner that is consistent with the philosophy, objectives, standards of...
  5. Respiratory Therapist Richmond, VA VCU Health System
    VCU Health System's Respiratory Therapy CHoR is seeking a PRN Respiratory Therapist to provide safe and effective care as an advanced Respiratory Therapist to pediatric and adolescent populations in accordance wiht discipline training. Clinical...
  6. Respiratory Therapist Cookeville, TN Cookeville Regional Medical Center
    This position is responsible for providing professional respiratory care through assessment, clinical judgement, treatment and instruction to any population group in need. The position is also responsible for providing certain cardiac and...
  7. Respiratory Therapist Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionWill administer prescribed respiratory therapeutic services across allSASH campuses to include specialized critical care areas. QualificationsHigh school diploma/GED or higher level of education required. Must provide evidence of...
  8. Respiratory Therapist Cookeville, TN Cookeville Regional Medical Center
    This position is responsible for providing professional respiratory care through assessment, clinical judgement, treatment and instruction to any population group in need. The position is also responsible for providing certain cardiac and...
  9. Respiratory Therapist Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionAdminister prescribed modalities primarily in the specialized, critical care areas but also inclusive of general respiratory care at the St. Michael campus. Hours and days of work will be determined by the needs of the department....
  10. Respiratory Therapist Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionAdminister prescribed modalities primarily in the specialized, critical care areas but also inclusive of general respiratory care at the St. Michael campus. Hours and days of work will be determined by the needs of the department....
  11. Respiratory Therapist Gainesville, GA Northeast Georgia Health System
    Associate's Degree RRT - Registered Respiratory Therapist 2 Years Experience Required If you are an energetic Respiratory Therapist who enjoys being part of a collaborative and talented team then a rewarding career with Northeast Georgia...
  12. Respiratory Therapist Gainesville, GA Northeast Georgia Health System
    Associate's Degree BCLS - Basic Cardiac Life Support RRT - Registered Respiratory Therapist 2 Years Experience Required If you are an energetic Respiratory Therapist who enjoys being part of a collaborative and talented team then a rewarding...
  13. Respiratory Therapist Gainesville, GA Northeast Georgia Health System
    Associate's Degree BCLS - Basic Cardiac Life Support RRT - Registered Respiratory Therapist 2 Years Experience Required If you are an energetic Respiratory Therapist who enjoys being part of a collaborative and talented team then a rewarding...
  14. Respiratory Therapist Plymouth, MA Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital - Plymouth
    - Associates degree required - Experience is required Essential Duties and Responsibilities: Performs assessment, diagnostic testing, prescribed treatment and care of the respiratory therapy patient. Evaluates effectiveness of treatment...
  15. Respiratory Therapist St. Cloud, MN CentraCare Health
    *This position includes working one in every four weekends and two holidays per year. *Shifts include 12 hour days & nights, 8 hour days & evenings, 4 hour evenings. Provides services to patients ranging in age from the very young...