If you have good interpersonal skills and you want to make an impact on someone’s life, consider this job.
Working under the direction of a doctor, respiratory therapists treat diseases of the lungs and airways. This includes chronic respiratory diseases like asthma and emergency situations like a heart attack.
They measure lung capacity and blood oxygen levels to set a baseline breathing ability and develop a treatment plan. Treatments include performing chest physiotherapy on patients to remove mucus from their lungs, administering aerosol medications or connecting a patient who can’t breathe on his own to a ventilator.
Work environments can range from hospitals to pulmonary rehabilitation clinics to diagnostic laboratories.
- Conduct breathing exams
- Measure lung function
- Draw blood and analyze blood oxygen levels to assess a patient's oxygenation and ventilation status
- Consult with a doctor to diagnose breathing conditions
- Develop treatment plans
- Administer oxygen
- Aid in life-sustaining interventions, such as operating ventilators and other respiratory support devices
- Manage breathing equipment and teach patients how to use it
- Conduct pulmonary rehabilitation
All respiratory therapists must earn an associate degree in an accredited program, but some employers prefer a bachelor’s degree. Programs include courses on human anatomy, chemistry, physics and pharmacology in addition to supervised clinical work with patients.
All states except Alaska require a license, but specific licensure rules vary by state. The National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) is the main certifying body for respiratory therapists. Through NBRC, candidates can earn a Certified Respiratory Therapist credential or take additional exams to earn an advanced Registered Respiratory Therapist credential.
Some continuing education is required.
- Communicate and listen well
- Are detail-oriented
- Enjoy helping people
- Are able to handle stressful situations
- Have the physical stamina to do some lifting and assisting in patient mobility