Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory Therapy—Taking a closer look into this high-demand field

Breathing. Could there be a more essential facet of life than being able to breath properly? For those who have experienced illness or trauma that prevented proper breathing, they know that panic and fear set in quickly. A function of the body that is often not even given a second thought, breathing, is no longer taken for granted when it is obstructed or restricted.

Respiratory therapists, commonly referred to as RTs, are health care professionals who assist people with acute and chronic

What types of patients do respiratory therapists work with?

A respiratory therapist may work with a wide variety of patients with pulmonary problems from the neonate to geriatric and terminally ill patients. However, these professionals do more than just care for patients with lung disease. They also care for patients with more complicated problems, like cancer, congested heart failure, heart attacks, and even respiratory failure. Other examples of respiratory patients include those who have been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, neuromuscular disorders, brain injuries, near drowning victims, quadriplegic/paraplegic patients and trauma patients. Below more information is provided on specific types of patients a respiratory therapist sees:

  • Neonates - Because the lungs are the last organ to develop in a fetus, when babies are born prematurely, respiratory therapists are often needed. RTs may administer different modes of breathing treatments, oxygen, mechanical ventilation, noninvasive ventilation, and airway clearance. Also, surfactant is a drug administered by a respiratory therapist, after being ordered by a physician, to neonates to assist the lungs in the breathing process. Surfactant is naturally produced in babies’ lungs to help them mature but oftentimes neonates do not produce enough natural surfactant so it must be administered artificially. Learn more about repiratory therapy schools.
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome patients - There are two types of this syndrome, Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome (IRDS). Both involve the stiffening of the lungs, which makes it difficult for these individuals to ventilate. In infants it is treated with surfactant and a high frequency oscillator (HFOV). In adults it is treated with mechanical ventilation or a jet ventilator. This syndrome is extremely difficult to manage and has a high mortality rate.
  • Hospice patients/Palliative Care Patients - Hospice units care for the terminally ill patient who has chosen comfort measures only. The care for these patients is concentrated on comfort until their final day. Respiratory therapists assist nurses in palliative care for the patient. RTs may apply oxygen or perform breathing treatments to provide relief and make the patient as comfortable as possible. Depending on the patient’s wishes, respiratory therapists may also have to withdraw life support.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease patients - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is a classification that includes asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema, is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and is on the rise. Patients with emphysema can be treated with long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT), nebulizer therapy, and with corticosteroids for maintenance. The physician may also order an oral steroid, such as prednisone, to decrease the inflammation in the airways. Patients with asthma are also treated with bronchodilators, corticosteroids, and other drugs for maintenance. Asthmatics are educated on the disease process and offered maintenance regimens and rescue treatments. Patients with the diagnosis of COPD can be educated on breathing techniques and exercises through pulmonary rehabilitation.
  • Lung Disease patients - These patients are educated about the specific disease and offered treatments.
  • Car accident or trauma patients - Respiratory therapists are involved in all traumas within a hospital that include intubation, bagging, and ventilator management.
  • Cardiac patients - Respiratory therapists are involved in all codes within a hospital that include intubation, bagging, and ventilator management. Learn more about repiratory therapy schools.
  • Sleep Disorder Patients - Some respiratory therapists work in sleep labs where they are involved in the diagnosing, titrating, and treating of sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
  • Patients suffering an allergic reaction from a bee sting - This involves respiratory therapists managing the airway of the patient and monitoring for anaphylactic shock. Once these patients are aware of their allergy they can carry an epinephrine (“epi”) pen and are educated on how to use that in case of future emergencies.
  • Patients in need of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) - Patients who may need hyperbaric oxygen therapy include whose who are suffering from diabetic wounds, carbon monoxide poisoning, skin infections, and osteoradionarcosis which is delayed bone damage as a complication of radiation therapy. In addition, scuba divers, miners, tunnel builders, or fighter pilots can develop decompression sickness commonly referred to as “the bends”. This is brought on by surfacing too quickly whether it be in the air or water. The HBOT process involves breathing in pure oxygen while in a sealed chamber that is pressurized 1 ½ to 3 times the normal atmospheric pressure. Many describe these treatments as the feeling of diving without getting wet.

Respiratory Therapy Schools

Refine School Listings
Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
Matching School Ads

With Miller-Motte you can expect the focus to be on you, the student, and your career. We are committed to Changing Futures, Changing Lives, and it all starts with you. You can rely on challenging programs, interesting curriculum, and educators with industry experience preparing you for your new future.

Selected Campus Locations:
  • Clarksville

At Fortis Institute, you may get the skills and training you need to prepare for a career.

* Programs vary by location

* Please contact each individual campus for accreditation information

Please call on  844-252-4552 to talk to a respresentative.

Selected Campus Locations:
  • Erie
  • Scranton

San Joaquin Valley College is an accredited private junior college committed to the professional success of its students and graduates.
Founded in 1977, SJVC has campuses located throughout California-including an Online division and offers a variety of accelerated Certificate and Associate of Science degree programs in the business, medical and technical fields.

Students benefit from a balance of classroom instruction and real-world experience, learning the skills they need to go straight to work in today’s competitive job market.

Selected Programs:
  • Respiratory Therapy
Selected Campus Locations:
  • Ontario

Pursue your education with Platt College (Oklahoma).

Selected Campus Locations:
  • Oklahoma City