Respiratory Therapist Job Description

Respiratory Therapists are primarily responsible for overseeing the therapeutic care of patients with various types of cardiopulmonary diseases and disorders. They generally administer tests such as stress tests, assess lung capacity and monitor cardiopulmonary and ventilation systems. Respiratory Therapists also examine chest x-rays, analyze blood and tissue samples and administer medications. Also, Respiratory Therapists educate patients on lung care, the damages of smoking, the symptoms and care of asthma and related topics.

Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers are among the most common employment sites for Respiratory Therapists, though they might also work in private physicians’ offices that specialize in pulmonary care. A projected employment growth rate of 12 percent for this occupation is reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Treatment advancements, a rise in pulmonary conditions in the general population and the need for pulmonary therapy for a growing aged population are among the main reasons cited for this expected job growth rate.


Respiratory Therapist Duties and Responsibilities

A Respiratory Therapist is responsible for completing several tasks to satisfy all job demands. We have analyzed several job listings for Respiratory Therapists and found the following to be among the most commonly listed duties relating to this occupation.

Monitor Pulmonary Equipment

Respiratory Therapists are responsible for operating and monitoring ventilators and other oxygen machines for cardiopulmonary patients. This includes maintaining and order supplies for these machines as needed.

Provide Respiratory Care and Therapies

From arterial blood gas sampling to administering medications, Respiratory Therapists are involved daily in overseeing respiratory therapies. They record and chart the progress of treatment plans and review these plans for any needed adjustments to facilitate the care of individual patients.

Analyze Diagnostic Tests

To create effective treatment plans and therapies, Respiratory Therapists typically analyze chest x-rays and other test results. They might collaborate with physicians to discuss patient diagnoses and get help to formulate specific therapies needed for each patient.

Educate Patients

Respiratory Therapists are generally responsible for explaining vital information to patients about cardiopulmonary issues and care. They might educate patients about the effects of smoking and smoking cessation plans or provide details about asthma and medication treatments. They also teach patients how to use inhalers and other devices.


Respiratory Therapist Skills

Relevant skills demonstrated by successful Respiratory Therapists include analytical, problem-solving and motivational skills. They should be comfortable working with diverse patients and have strong interpersonal and verbal communication skills. Respiratory Therapists should be organized, possess the desire to help people and have the ability to work in a collaborative environment, as they must often work closely with physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Along with these crucial abilities, Respiratory Therapists should possess the following skills:

  • Assess patient lung capacity and severity of lung conditions.
  • Administer various types of respiratory therapies and medications.
  • Operate and monitor respiratory equipment.
  • Provide education about pulmonary care and diseases.


Respiratory Therapist Tools of the Trade

Knowledge of various tools and equipment is essential for successful Respiratory Therapists. If you wish to pursue a career in this field, you should have a strong understanding of the following:

Invasive and non-invasive ventilation systems – from intubations to oxygen masks, Respiratory Therapists should be thoroughly knowledgeable in all areas of ventilation equipment.

CPR – most employers seek Respiratory Therapist candidates who are CPR certified.

Federal healthcare regulations – it is important for Respiratory Therapists to have knowledge of laws and regulations pertaining to the care of patients.


Respiratory Therapist Education and Training

Many employers seem to prefer Respiratory Therapist job candidates to hold at least an associate’s degree from an accredited program. Programs in respiratory care typically include clinical practice wherein students serve internships in hospitals or other healthcare settings. Licensing for Respiratory Therapists is required in all states except Alaska. Candidates should hold Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) or Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credentials.


Respiratory Therapist Salary

The BLS reports that the median annual salary of Respiratory Therapists is $58,670. Those earning at the lowest ten percentile realize a median annual wage of $42,490 and top earners make as much as $81,550. Those in specialty hospitals and nursing home facilities tend to make slightly more than those employed in hospitals or physicians’ practices. States in the west and the northeast are where Respiratory Therapists can earn the highest mean annual wages, led by California ($78,820), Nevada ($72,630) and New Jersey ($71,940).


Respiratory Therapist Resources

Below you will find additional resources to help you better understand what being a Respiratory Therapist entails. Access links to books, blogs and other resources to get more details to help you decide about becoming a Respiratory Therapist.

American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) – From online training courses and webcasts to advocacy and publications, AARC has been a source of support and education for Respiratory Therapists and related professionals since 1947.

International Association of Respiratory Therapists (IART) – The benefits of being a member of IART includes professional networking, a mentor program and latest news articles.

Respiratory Therapy Cave – A blog offering a look at practices, details about the respiratory therapy career and more.

Respiratory Care – An online journal providing articles about career challenges, respiratory equipment, patient care practices and more. Also provides a link to recent podcasts.

RT Magazine – This online publication offers clinical and research articles as well as product reviews. Find articles with news about asthma, COPD, bronchiolitis and other relevant topics.

Wilkins’ Clinical Assessment in Respiratory Care, 8th Edition by Al Heuer and Craig L. Scanlan This book reveals how Respiratory Therapists assist physicians in patient care, evaluate treatment plans and make changes to treatments as needed. Includes real-life scenarios and credentialing information.

Mosby’s Respiratory Care Equipment 10th Edition by J.M. Cairo – This book provides the most updated information about respiratory equipment and devices. Get details about various types of ventilators and their applications.


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