Respiratory Therapist Jobs
Respiratory therapists, also known as respiratory care practitioners, diagnose and treat patients who have breathing difficulties or cardiopulmonary disorders.
Job Description: A Day in the Life of a Respiratory Therapist
Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals, and therefore may work irregular hours in hospital settings, working night shifts or long shifts.
Working with doctors and other physicians, respiratory therapists treat all types of patients, from premature babies with lung problems to elderly patients suffering from lung disease.
A respiratory therapist may also be required to provide emergency care to patients who have suffered from accidents such as drowning, stroke, or heart attack.
Before beginning treatment, a respiratory therapist generally interviews the patient and conducts a number of diagnostic tests, such as measuring pH and oxygen concentration of the patient’s blood and testing his lung capacity. Treatments used by respiratory therapists include oxygen masks, chest physiotherapy, ventilator systems, and administration of aerosol medication. Treatment will vary depending on the patient’s needs. For example, a patient who has just undergone surgery may require chest physiotherapy to remove mucus from the lungs which builds up during anesthesia. A patient with a permanent lung disease may need to be put on a ventilator, in which case the respiratory therapist needs to teach the patient about maintaining and cleaning the equipment.
General Requirements and Training
A minimum of an associate’s degree from an accredited college, university or vocational institute is required in order to work as a respiratory therapist.
Many respiratory therapists choose to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in addition to an associate’s degree, as this may improve employment and payment opportunities.
After completing the necessary educational requirements, respiratory therapists must pass an exam and meet the certification requirements of the National Board for Respiratory to become licensed to work.
Respiratory therapists must be licensed to practice in every state except Hawaii and Alaska.
Salary, Benefits, and Opportunities for Advancement
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of respiratory therapists is $52,200 as of May 2008. Salary.com reports the mid-50% earnings range of certified respiratory therapists to range from $42,979 to $50,859.
According to Payscale.com, a respiratory therapist with one to four years of experience can expect $17.74 to $23.13 hourly, while one with twenty or more years of experience earns an average of $23.36 to $29.81 per hour.