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Respiratory Therapy Careers

What can be expected from a career in respiratory therapy?

Respiratory therapists, more commonly referred to within the medical community as RTs, very often work with the elderly who suffer from various cardiopulmonary diseases. However, RTs may just as often work with premature newborns that have lungs that aren’t yet fully developed. A career in respiratory therapy may also involve working in very urgent situations where a patient’s life quite literally hangs in the balance.

Although these highly skilled medical professionals work in dramatically varied roles, there is always a common goal: Facilitate breathing and restore oxygen flow through the bloodstream to the vital organs. In less dire situations this may be done as part of a maintenance schedule for asthma and emphysema sufferers. In medical emergencies respiratory therapists take great measures to eliminate or reduce the occurrence of organ or brain damage resulting from a restricted flow of oxygen. This can save a life and prevent a patient from living out their life in a vegetative state.

Who may benefit from the services of respiratory therapists?

Respiratory therapist careers will upon RTs to work with patients of all kinds, from those with cardiopulmonary diseases to those who have suffered injuries or who may be comatose and in need of mechanical respiratory intervention with a ventilator.

Respiratory therapists are very familiar to individuals who suffer from cardiopulmonary diseases such as emphysema or those who are chronically asthmatic. However, the widely varying types of patients treated by RTs would also include those who may have suffered a stroke or heart attach.

The work performed by respiratory therapists is not limited to only disease treatment or responding to advanced cardiopulmonary emergencies. Depending on the work environment, these professionals may just as frequently be called upon to help restore or facilitate breathing to drowning victims or those who are suffering from shock as a result of an accident or severe injury.

Those interested in how to become a respiratory therapist should note that this career is well suited to individuals with a gentle nature, but a strong sense of duty and an intense sense of urgency as part of their professional disposition.

What are the responsibilities unique to respiratory therapists?

Respiratory therapists often work under the direct supervision of a physician; however, the specialized training RTs have received and the unique skill set they have mastered put them in a position to assume a tremendous level of responsibility. Clinical components of respiratory therapy programs will address the various RT responsibilities that include:

  • Patient evaluation, diagnosis, examination
  • Administering aerosol medications
  • Administering chest physiotherapy
  • Measuring oxygen, carbon dioxide levels in blood
  • Analyzing blood pH levels
  • Administering ventilator therapy
  • Maintaining resident equipment such as ventilators

What type of medical situation would require the intervention of respiratory therapists?

Because breathing is such a fundamental component to life, there is literally no branch of medicine or medical specialty that doesn’t call upon the services of respiratory therapists at some point. This has led to a whole host of respiratory therapist careers that are themselves highly specialized as they serve specific needs for specific segments of society. The specific types of patients who are assisted by respiratory therapists include:



  • Neonates
  • Trauma patients
  • Accident victims
  • Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) patients
  • Infant Respiratory Distress Syndrome (IRDS) patients
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients
  • Sufferers of sleep disorders (sleep apnea)
  • Severe food and bee sting allergy sufferers
  • Lung disease sufferers

Respiratory Therapy Schools