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Become A Respiratory Care Practitioner

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Working As A Respiratory Care Practitioner

  • 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

  • $51,935

    Average Salary

What Does A Respiratory Care Practitioner 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 Respiratory Care Practitioner

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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Respiratory Care Practitioner Demographics

Gender

Female

58.9%

Male

39.3%

Unknown

1.8%
Ethnicity

White

57.6%

Hispanic or Latino

20.1%

Black or African American

10.1%

Asian

7.8%

Unknown

4.4%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

51.9%

German

3.8%

Bulgarian

3.8%

French

3.8%

Mandarin

3.8%

Armenian

3.8%

Russian

3.8%

Portuguese

1.9%

Hindi

1.9%

Chinese

1.9%

Vietnamese

1.9%

Malayalam

1.9%

Bosnian

1.9%

Italian

1.9%

Serbian

1.9%

Khmer

1.9%

Persian

1.9%

Tagalog

1.9%

Croatian

1.9%

Macedonian

1.9%
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Respiratory Care Practitioner Education

Schools

San Joaquin Valley College

10.3%

University of Phoenix

9.8%

Grand Canyon University

9.8%

Concorde Career College

7.0%

Mt San Antonio College

6.5%

Weber State University

6.1%

Independence University

5.1%

California College-San Diego

4.7%

Butte College

4.7%

Orange Coast College

4.2%

College of DuPage

4.2%

All American Career College

3.7%

Grossmont College

3.7%

Walden University

3.3%

East Los Angeles College

3.3%

Tennessee State University

2.8%

Modesto Junior College

2.8%

Excelsior College

2.8%

Loma Linda University

2.8%

Crafton Hills College

2.3%
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Majors

Medical Technician

57.0%

Business

9.7%

Nursing

6.8%

Health Care Administration

4.6%

Health Sciences And Services

3.8%

Management

3.1%

Military Applied Sciences

1.6%

Biology

1.6%

Psychology

1.6%

Public Health

1.4%

Education

1.2%

Clinical Psychology

1.2%

General Studies

1.1%

Medical Assisting Services

1.1%

Nursing Assistants

0.9%

Health And Wellness

0.8%

Pharmacy

0.7%

Dental Assisting

0.7%

Kinesiology

0.5%

Social Work

0.5%
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Degrees

Associate

41.8%

Bachelors

25.1%

Masters

13.6%

Other

12.6%

Certificate

4.6%

Doctorate

1.2%

Diploma

0.6%

License

0.5%
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Top Skills for A Respiratory Care Practitioner

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  1. Ventilator Management
  2. Respiratory Care
  3. Oxygen Therapy
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Designated as ICU therapist specializing in ventilator management of Adult and Neonatal patients.
  • Communicate with medical staff concerning patient's condition and suggest any necessary alterations to respiratory care.
  • Provide oxygen therapy to patients, chest physiotherapy, and aerosol medications to patients with respiratory diseases and disorders.
  • Learned and utilized critical-thinking skills in emergency situations.
  • Work as part of a team of physicians, nurses and other health care professionals to manage patient care.

How Would You Rate Working As a Respiratory Care Practitioner?

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Top Respiratory Care Practitioner Employers

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Jobs From Top Respiratory Care Practitioner Employers

Respiratory Care Practitioner Videos

Cook Children's - Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)

Life and Breath, Respiratory Care Overview

Respiratory Care Practitioner Program

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