Respiratory Therapy Questions

How are lung and breathing disorders diagnosed?

While it is not the job of the RT to diagnose patients, after an individual works in this profession long enough, they develop this skill. Typically a respiratory therapist uses their stethoscope to determine what the problem is based on how they are breathing. How the patients’ lungs sound can provide very useful information. Asking a variety of questions and reviewing other test results like x-rays, CTs, and EKGs is also helpful. The doctor is the expert who is able to actually diagnose even when an RT has a pretty good idea of what the problem is.

How do RTs handle Code Blues?

For Code Blue emergency situations, a respiratory therapist initially makes sure the patient is breathing. If the patient isn’t breathing

How are ventilators managed?

Patients are put on ventilators for a number of reasons. Sometimes patients are put on ventilators for short term, such as in post-op heart patients, and other times patients are put on ventilators for long- term periods. Respiratory therapists setup ventilators based on physician’s orders and are responsible for making sure the ventilator is in sync with the patient’s breathing. The RT is responsible for checking the ventilator to ensure there are no changes with the patient or the machine. The ventilator should be working with the patient rather than the other way around. In the Intensive Care Unit, ventilators are typically checked every two to three hours. Respiratory therapists also participate in patient care plans and make adjustments accordingly in collaboration with the physician. The goal is to wean the patient as quickly as possible, but not before the underlying condition that led to the ventilator is resolved. With some patients this can be easy, but for others (especially COPD patients) this can be very tricky.

Ventilator care in the home is very involved due to educating the patient, family, caregiver, and nurses appropriately. There are several pieces of equipment that require education for the patient and caregiver. The patient and family or caregivers must be familiarized with every piece of equipment and taught how to suction, and how to identify a crisis situation.

What are the main types of medical equipment used in this field?

    • Intubation equipment such as a laryngoscope and bag valve mask.

    • Endotracheal tubes (ET tubes) which are placed in the airway (trachea) so breathing can be assisted.

    • Tracheostomy tubes which are placed in the trachea via an incision made below the vocal cords. This tube provides a connection for a ventilator and a way of suctioning the airway for long term care patients.

    • CPAP/Bilevel therapy provides one or two levels of pressure to maintain the patient’s airway.

    • Nebulizer therapy is the most commonly ordered treatment for pulmonary diseases.

    • Ventilators provide life-sustaining therapy that may be short or long term.

    • Suction catheters are typically set up at the patient’s bedside to allow RTs to suction secretions from the lungs and mouth.

    • Arterial blood gas kits include a heparinized syringe and needle used for puncturing the artery. The arterial blood that is obtained reflects the condition of the lungs by measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

    • Pulse Oximeters are devices that measure the saturation of oxygen in the blood (hemoglobin).

  • Capnometers are devices that detect the amount of carbon dioxide in exhaled air. It is used for making sure the endotube is in the trachea rather than the stomach and can also be used continuously with mechanical ventilation to ensure that the patient is adequately exchanging air

What sort of questions are patients asked when they’re being “interviewed” about their symptoms?

When a patient comes in with breathing issues, there are a series of questions the respiratory therapist asks them to better understand what is going on. Some of these questions include:

  • Are you short of breath (although this may be obvious)
  • How long have you felt this way?
  • Have you had a cold?
  • Have you been coughing anything up?
  • Do you have chest pain? If so, is it constant (sign of cardiac issues) or do you just feel it with deep inhalation (sign of respiratory issues)?
  • If you have chest pain, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worse pain you have ever experienced, how would you rate your pain?
  • Have you ever felt like this before?

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            Platt College , Alhambra
            • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
            • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
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            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2015.
            • Serving as America’s technical career education specialists for 75 years.
            • Offers accelerated associate degree programs that can be completed in as little as 18 months, and bachelor degree programs in as little as 3 years.
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            Concorde , Portland
            • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1994.
            • Designated as a 2015 Top Military Friendly School by Victory Media.
            • Currently offers over 20 degree and diploma programs in Healthcare.
            • 16 campuses across the United States, with online options as well.
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            Keiser University Campus , Fort Lauderdale
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 11:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
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            • Guarantees flat-rate tuition for students who stay continuously enrolled.
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