Respiratory Therapists: Their Roles, Training, and Advancement

Respiratory Therapists: Their Roles, Training, and Advancement

Respiratory Therapists: Their Roles, Training, and Advancement

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If you’re currently looking for a career in healthcare, you may want to consider respiratory therapy. This profession involves the assessment, treatment, and management of patients with respiratory and breathing issues. It requires compassion, patience, and a deep understanding of the science behind breathing. In this article, we’ll discuss the roles of respiratory therapists, how to get into the field, and how to advance your career in respiratory therapy.

What Do Respiratory Therapists Do?

Respiratory therapists are healthcare professionals who work with patients experiencing breathing difficulties caused by chronic conditions like asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis, as well as acute conditions such as pneumonia and a collapsed lung.

Respiratory therapists administer diagnostic tests, such as measuring lung function and blood gas levels, and interpret the results to diagnose respiratory issues. They also develop a treatment plan and educate patients on how to manage their conditions. They may provide patients with medications, oxygen, and other breathing treatments. Respiratory therapists also manage patients on mechanical ventilators or other breathing devices. They monitor and adjust equipment to ensure that patients are receiving the right amount of oxygen.

What Are Some Examples of Respiratory Therapy Jobs?

Here are some examples of respiratory therapy jobs:

  • Diagnostic therapist: Administer respiratory tests and analyze results to diagnose breathing conditions.
  • Emergency transport therapist: Manage patients during transport to hospitals or other medical facilities.
  • Neonatal therapist: Work with infants with breathing difficulties from birth.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation therapist: Work with patients to help them recover from chronic lung diseases.
  • Intensive care unit (ICU) therapist: Manage patients who are critically ill and require a ventilator or other oxygen assistance.

What Kind of Education or Training Is Required?

Respiratory therapists must have a minimum of an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy from an accredited program. Some employers may prefer a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy or a related field. Additionally, all respiratory therapists must be licensed in the state in which they practice. Licensure requirements vary by state but generally involve passing an examination.

Before becoming licensed, respiratory therapy students must complete clinical rotations to gain hands-on experience working with patients. During these rotations, students will work in hospitals or clinics under the supervision of a licensed respiratory therapist or physician. Clinical rotations are typically completed in the final year of a respiratory therapy program.

How Can You Advance Your Career in Respiratory Therapy?

For respiratory therapists who want to advance their careers, there are several options. The most common is to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree in respiratory therapy, healthcare administration, or a related field. Once a respiratory therapist has a higher level of education, they might move into a leadership role, such as a respiratory therapy manager or director.

Another way to advance in respiratory therapy is to get certified in a specialized area, such as neonatal or pediatric respiratory therapy, or critical care respiratory therapy. These certifications demonstrate expertise in a particular area and can make respiratory therapists more competitive in the job market.

How Can You Get into the Field as a New Respiratory Therapist?

If you’re a new graduate looking to start your career in respiratory therapy, networking is key. Attend industry events, such as job fairs or conferences, and connect with respiratory therapists and other healthcare professionals. You may also want to join professional associations, such as the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) or the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). These organizations provide resources, networking opportunities, and job listings.

Finally, when applying for jobs, be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge of respiratory therapy and your ability to work well with patients. Emphasize your experience in clinical rotations and any specializations or certifications you may have.

Respiratory therapists work to provide respiratory care to patients, helping them breathe easier. They are responsible for assessing patients’ needs, developing and implementing care plans, and monitoring patient progress. According to salary data, respiratory therapists at the entry level make an average of $70,200 per year, while experienced respiratory therapists make an average of $79,081.60 per year.

Unionization can have a significant impact on the salaries of respiratory therapists. Unionized respiratory therapists make an average of $98,508.80 per year, compared to non-unionized respiratory therapists who make an average of $70,699.20 per year.

The occupation of respiratory therapists is paid differently across different locations. In the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA area, respiratory therapists make an average of $98,404.80 per year, while in West Virginia, respiratory therapists make an average of $60,340.80 per year.

Overall, respiratory therapists play an important role in healthcare, and their salaries can be influenced by unionization and location. It is important for those considering this occupation to research the salaries in their area and consider joining a union if possible.

| Salary Data for Respiratory Therapists |
| Job Level | Average | Median |
| All workers, Level 06 | $66,456 | $57,990 |
| All workers, Level 07 | $71,510 | $64,521 |
| All workers, Level 08 | $67,475 | $61,880 |
| All workers, Not able to be leveled | $74,297 | $66,414 |
| Entry | $70,200 | |
| Experienced | $79,081 | |
| Union, All levels | $98,508 | $80,204 |
| Nonunion, All levels | $70,699 | $63,044 |
| Full-time, All levels | $72,092 | $63,356 |
| Full-time, Level 06 | $68,868 | $58,822 |
| Full-time, Level 07 | $67,225 | $57,657 |
| Full-time, Level 08 | $66,622 | $61,796 |
| Full-time, Not able to be leveled | $74,755 | $68,681 |
| Full-time, Entry | $66,955 | |
| Full-time, Experienced | $74,401 | |
| Part-time, All levels | $83,096 | $73,424 |
| Part-time, Level 07 | $79,310 | $81,140 |
| Part-time, Entry | $77,105 | |
| Part-time, Experienced | $103,563| |
| Time-based pay, All levels | $74,339 | $65,644 |
| New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA, Full-time, All levels | $98,404 | $82,305 |
| West Virginia, Full-time, All levels | $60,340 | $52,832 |