Respiratory Therapists

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Also known as:
Certified Respiratory Therapist, CRT, Inhalation Therapist, Oxygen Therapist, Registered Respiratory Therapist, Respiratory Therapist, RRT

Video transcript

Most of us take breathing for granted. But not everyone is that fortunate. Because of an accident or illness, some people need assistance to breathe. They may rely on respiratory therapists. These professionals have gone to college for at least an associate's degree to learn about respiratory illnesses - conditions that affect the lungs, such as asthma and emphysema. Therapists also learn how to treat people who are having trouble breathing because of an injury or stroke.

Struggling to breathe can be frightening. So a calm, reassuring manner is essential. That includes taking the time to clearly explain procedures and answer questions. Using a ventilator and breathing tube, the therapist delivers oxygen to a patient's lungs.

They usually work under a doctor's supervision in hospitals and clinics, although some therapists visit patients through home care services. It's not unusual to work nights and weekends - and spend a lot of time standing and bending. Tanks can be heavy, and because gas under high pressure can be hazardous, you must handle them with care.

Much of this work can also be done by respiratory technicians. But because they have more limited responsibility than therapists, the job of technician is being phased out. With America's population aging, it's expected that more therapists will be needed in the years ahead. So this field offers good job opportunities. Many people are able to breathe easier, knowing they're in the care of trained respiratory therapists.

Assess, treat, and care for patients with breathing disorders. Assume primary responsibility for all respiratory care modalities, including the supervision of respiratory therapy technicians. Initiate and conduct therapeutic procedures; maintain patient records; and select, assemble, check, and operate equipment.
Critical decision making
Level of responsibilities
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
Dealing and handling conflict
Competition for this position
Communication with others
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
Comfort of the work setting
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
Exposure to job hazards
Physical demands
Daily tasks

Teach, train, supervise, or use the assistance of students, respiratory therapy technicians, or assistants.

Perform pulmonary function and adjust equipment to obtain optimum results in therapy.

Use a variety of testing techniques to assist doctors in cardiac or pulmonary research or to diagnose disorders.

Provide emergency care, such as artificial respiration, external cardiac massage, or assistance with cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Perform bronchopulmonary drainage and assist or instruct patients in performance of breathing exercises.

Conduct tests, such as electrocardiograms (EKGs), stress testing, or lung capacity tests, to evaluate patients' cardiopulmonary functions.

Read prescription, measure arterial blood gases, and review patient information to assess patient condition.

Relay blood analysis results to a physician.

Make emergency visits to resolve equipment problems.

Demonstrate respiratory care procedures to trainees or other healthcare personnel.

Inspect, clean, test, and maintain respiratory therapy equipment to ensure equipment is functioning safely and efficiently, ordering repairs when necessary.

Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Assisting and Caring for Others Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
Customer and Personal Service Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
Medicine and Dentistry Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
English Language Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Education and Training Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Psychology Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
Biology Knowledge of plant and animal organisms, their tissues, cells, functions, interdependencies, and interactions with each other and the environment.
Computers and Electronics Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Chemistry Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
Active Listening Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Monitoring Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
Critical Thinking Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Service Orientation Actively looking for ways to help people.
Social Perceptiveness Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Active Learning Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
Reading Comprehension Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.