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Become A Certified Respiratory Therapist

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Working As A Certified Respiratory Therapist

  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Assisting and Caring for Others
  • Getting Information
  • Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Deal with People

  • Unpleasant/Hazardous Environment

  • Stressful

  • Make Decisions

  • $68,360

    Average Salary

What Does A Certified Respiratory Therapist Do

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.

Duties

Respiratory therapists typically do the following:

  • Interview and examine patients with breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders
  • Consult with physicians to develop patient treatment plans
  • Perform diagnostic tests, such as measuring lung capacity
  • Treat patients by using a variety of methods, including chest physiotherapy and aerosol medications
  • Monitor and record patients’ progress
  • Teach patients how to use treatments and equipment, such as ventilators

Respiratory therapists use various tests to evaluate patients. For example, therapists test lung capacity by having patients breathe into an instrument that measures the volume and flow of oxygen when they inhale and exhale. Respiratory therapists also may take blood samples and use a blood gas analyzer to test oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

Respiratory therapists perform chest physiotherapy on patients to remove mucus from their lungs and make it easier for them to breathe. Removing mucus is necessary for patients suffering from lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, and involves the therapist vibrating the patient’s rib cage, often by tapping the patient’s chest and encouraging him or her to cough.

Respiratory therapists may connect patients who cannot breathe on their own to ventilators that deliver oxygen to the lungs. Therapists insert a tube in the patient’s windpipe (trachea) and connect the tube to ventilator equipment. They set up and monitor the equipment to ensure that the patient is receiving the correct amount of oxygen at the correct rate.

Respiratory therapists who work in home care teach patients and their families to use ventilators and other life-support systems in their homes. During these visits, they may inspect and clean equipment, check the home for environmental hazards, and ensure that patients know how to use their medications. Therapists also make emergency home visits when necessary.

In some hospitals, respiratory therapists are involved in related areas, such as diagnosing breathing problems for people with sleep apnea and counseling people on how to stop smoking.

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How To Become A Certified Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists typically need an associate’s degree, but some have bachelor’s degrees. Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska; requirements vary by state.

Education

Respiratory therapists need at least an associate’s degree, but employers may prefer applicants who have a bachelor’s degree. Educational programs are offered by colleges and universities, vocational–technical institutes, and the Armed Forces. Completion of a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care may be required for licensure.

Respiratory therapy programs typically include courses in human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, pharmacology, and math. Other courses deal with therapeutic and diagnostic procedures and tests, equipment, patient assessment, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In addition to coursework, programs have clinical components that allow therapists to gain supervised, practical experience in treating patients.

High school students interested in applying to respiratory therapy programs should take courses in health, biology, math, chemistry, and physics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska, although requirements vary by state. Licensure requirements in most states include passing a state or professional certification exam. For specific state requirements, contact the state’s health board.

The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) is the main certifying body for respiratory therapists. The Board offers two levels of certification: Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).

CRT is the first-level certification. Applicants must have earned an associate’s degree from an accredited respiratory therapy program, or completed the equivalent coursework in a bachelor’s degree program, and pass an exam.

The second-level certification is RRT certification. Applicants must already have CRT certification, meet other education or experience requirements, and pass an exam.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Respiratory therapists should be able to provide emotional support to patients undergoing treatment and be sympathetic to their needs.

Detail oriented. Respiratory therapists must be detail oriented to ensure that patients are receiving the appropriate treatments and medications in a timely manner. They must also monitor and record various pieces of information related to patient care.

Interpersonal skills. Respiratory therapists interact with patients and often work as part of a team. They must be able to follow instructions from a supervising physician.

Patience. Respiratory therapists may work for long periods with patients who need special attention.

Problem-solving skills. Respiratory therapists need strong problem-solving skills. They must evaluate patients’ symptoms, consult with other healthcare professionals, and recommend and administer the appropriate treatments.

Science and math skills. Respiratory therapists must understand anatomy, physiology, and other sciences and be able to calculate the right dose of a patient’s medicine.

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Certified Respiratory Therapist Demographics

Gender

Female

74.3%

Male

23.8%

Unknown

1.9%
Ethnicity

White

63.2%

Hispanic or Latino

13.4%

Black or African American

12.6%

Asian

7.0%

Unknown

3.9%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

75.0%

Greek

6.3%

Portuguese

6.3%

Vietnamese

6.3%

Tagalog

6.3%
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Certified Respiratory Therapist Education

Schools

Concorde Career College

11.1%

Independence University

8.3%

Tulsa Community College

6.5%

Lamar Institute of Technology

6.5%

University of Alabama at Birmingham

5.6%

University of Phoenix

5.6%

Nicholls State University

5.6%

Ashford University

4.6%

College of DuPage

4.6%

Wallace State Community College - Hanceville

4.6%

Tennessee State University

3.7%

Sanford-Brown College - Fenton

3.7%

North Shore Community College

3.7%

Troy University

3.7%

Seward County Community College

3.7%

George C Wallace Community College - Dothan

3.7%

Angelina College

3.7%

Big Sandy Community and Technical College

3.7%

Grand Canyon University

3.7%

Shelton State Community College

3.7%
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Majors

Medical Technician

59.0%

Nursing

8.9%

Health Sciences And Services

5.4%

Business

5.2%

Health Care Administration

3.7%

Military Applied Sciences

1.9%

Elementary Education

1.7%

Management

1.5%

Public Health

1.5%

Medical Assisting Services

1.5%

Clinical Psychology

1.5%

Psychology

1.2%

Physician Assistant

1.2%

General Studies

1.0%

Criminal Justice

1.0%

Human Resources Management

0.8%

Accounting

0.8%

Liberal Arts

0.8%

Pharmacy

0.6%

Biology

0.6%
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Degrees

Associate

46.8%

Bachelors

18.7%

Other

15.3%

Masters

9.9%

Certificate

5.4%

Doctorate

2.2%

Diploma

1.1%

License

0.7%
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Top Skills for A Certified Respiratory Therapist

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  1. Oxygen Therapy
  2. Ventilator Management
  3. Emergency
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Performed diagnostic and therapeutic procedures to include respiratory treatments, oxygen therapy, ventilation initiation and management, etc.
  • Provided patient care that included ventilator management, providing oxygen therapy, breathing treatment, and airway management.
  • Worked in the Emergency Department as a Unit Coordinator while attending Respiratory Therapy
  • Worked effectively with the multidisciplinary team to ensure optimal levels of patient care.
  • Administer respiratory medications, assist with Code 500, EKG, ABG, CPT, oxygen therapy, ventilator set-up/documentation.

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