Career Path: What Does A Respiratory Therapist Do?

Respiratory therapists study for at least two years to learn how to help patients suffering from breathing-related conditions. As a respiratory therapist, you will work in hospitals and clinics with physicians, helping to administer treatments and assisting patients to recover from their ailments. Sound interesting? Perhaps this is the career path for you. The conditions you will help to treat range from emphysema to cystic fibrosis. Respiratory therapy schools train therapists to work with a range of patients from the very old to the very young. A part of a therapist's work may involve providing emergency care to those who have had strokes, heart attacks, or who are suffering from shock.

Job Duties

The training provided by respiratory therapy schools in Texas is geared towards one thing: returning a patient to health by restoring lung-function. To that end, therapists perform a number of duties in a typical workday, including:

Evaluate Patients

This stage of treatment calls for the respiratory therapist to conduct diagnostic procedures, interviews, and chest examinations on patients with breathing problems. The tests they administer may involve measuring the patient's lung capacity and analyzing their blood gases. They may also administer sleep studies that evaluate patients suffering from sleep apnea. Respiratory therapists also examine x-rays and laboratory tests in order to determine the nature and severity of the patient’s condition.

Develop Treatment Plans

This part of a respiratory therapist’s job involves consulting with physicians and interpreting the results of tests to come up with effective courses of care.

Administer Therapy

The treatments will range from physiotherapy for the removal of mucus to helping patients with exercises for breathing. Respiratory therapists administer medicinal gases and aerosol drugs as well as operate mechanical ventilators. As they administer therapy they will monitor the patient's response to treatment, including any changes in their blood chemistry or blood gases. They will connect patients to ventilators so that they can receive oxygen and ensure that the device delivers the correct amount. If any changes in therapy are necessary, the therapist will consult with a pulmonologist to determine what alterations to make. Respiratory therapists may also be required to supervise aides in the setting up, sterilization, and storage of testing equipment.

Educational Responsibilities

In a clinical setting, a part of the respiratory therapist’s work is to explain the therapy to patients and their families. In many cases, a patient may still need therapy even after they have been discharged from a healthcare facility. A respiratory therapist will ensure that patients and their caregivers are aware of how to administer care at home via exercises and recommendations for home care equipment.

Home Care

Not all respiratory therapists work in clinical settings. When administering home care, the therapist will educate the patient and their caregivers on how to use equipment as well as how to administer medications. They will also inspect respiratory equipment and the home to ensure that they are safe for the patient. In order to be effective, the therapists will utilize strong interpersonal skills as well as demonstrate the ability to follow instructions. Respiratory therapy schools provide students with training in these areas as well as in the clinical skills needed to administer care to patients. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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