What is a respiratory therapist?
These are health care professionals who treat patients who have cardiopulmonary ailments and breathing problems. They work under the supervision of doctors. A respiratory therapist is the one that uses therapy to provide relief for their patient’s symptoms and helps to restore their function. A respiratory therapist has more authority than nurses but not as a doctor.
Respiratory Therapy Career
Job description of a respiratory therapist
When you see a respiratory therapist one of the first part of their job is to interview the patient about their complaints, take their medical history, and then order diagnostic tests for them to take to make sure that they are giving the patient the correct treatment. Some of the work that a respiratory therapist might perform can include:
- Diagnosing and treating various conditions like emphysema, pneumonia, COPD, chronic bronchitis, asthma, and cystic fibrosis.
- Treating underdeveloped lungs in children and deteriorated lungs in the elderly
- Examining patients and conducting various tests like stress tests, pulmonary-function tests, and lung-capacity tests.
- Using machines for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes like ventilators, blood-gas analyzers, electrocardiograms, suction devices, etc.
- Administering inhalants, extracting mucus from a patient’s lungs to help them breathe more freely, and placing oxygen-delivering ventilation tubes in patient’s windpipes.
- Teaching breathing exercises along with other ways to help patient’s cope with their ailments.
- Teaching patients and their families about lung health and how to use any breathing equipment they are going to have to use on a daily basis to make sure they know how to do it correctly.
- Service any ventilation equipment that is being used by a patient at home.
During therapy and treatment a respiratory therapist will monitor a patient’s alterations in their blood chemical makeup, how much gas is in their blood, and their vital signs. A respiratory therapist will also create a treatment plan for each patient they see and making any changes to the treatment plan when it is necessary. They may also supervise students, medical technicians, and assistants who are providing the therapy to make sure that it is carried out correctly. A respiratory therapist will also design exercise programs for the patient to do in their homes along with teaching them how to do the exercises correctly.
If the respiratory therapist is part of an emergency-response team they will provide urgent assistance to any patient that has nearly drowned, had or is having a heart attack, or has experienced shock. A respiratory therapist may also visit patients in their home to help them with their breathing treatments and exercise. Usually these respiratory therapists work for some type of health care agency and have a certain number of patients they see on a regular basis which could be one or more days a week.
A respiratory therapist is also responsible for keeping their testing and examination area clean, sterilized, and organized with the materials they will need. They will also have to make sure that they are keeping their patient’s records up-to-date. No matter where a respiratory therapist works they need to have a good bedside manner because they will be working with patients of all ages, gender, and race. It is crucial that a respiratory therapist have the ability to communicate effectively and have excellent people skills. They also have to have problem-solving and critical-thinking skills along with being analytical.
How to become a respiratory therapist?
To become a respiratory therapist you do have specific training and education requirements that must be met before you can become a practicing respiratory therapist but you do not need a medical license. In most all states the minimum educational requirement that is mandated is to have an associate’s degree. If you want to work in emergency medical services or a hospital you may need to further your education and obtain a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree may be mandatory if you want to become an independent respiratory therapist or administrator. The higher the level of education that you acquire the better salary and it may also help you secure a job position at a more prestigious and larger medical facility. To get an associate degree it will take two years but for a bachelor’s degree it would be a four year program.
You can get your degree to become a practicing respiratory therapist at various technical schools, community colleges, vocational institutions, and universities. Before choose a school you should make sure that the school is recognized by the commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care and he Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. In every state except for Hawaii and Alaska have mandated that in order to practice a respiratory therapist must hold a license. You will also need to be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and have the credentials of being certified from the National Board for Respiratory Care. To get this certification you will also need to pass an exam.
In a two year program some of the classes you would have to take include respiratory care, human anatomy, physiology, medical terminology, mechanical ventilation, function testing and more. When taking the four year program to get your bachelor’s degree you may have classes in life support, airway management, ethic and health care policy, along with general education courses like biology, English, and math.
When choosing your degree program you should make sure that it is accredited through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or the Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). Program accreditation is necessary if you plan to take the CRT exam. You also should choose a program that will give you hands-on clinical experience.
Once you have completed your program you will be eligible to take the exam to get your license. The requirements that you need to meet are established by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). In addition to the state age requirements and licensing fees where you have completed your program there may also be education requirements that are required by the NBRC. The first step you need to complete before applying for your license you need to pass an examination that the NBRC administers to get your Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) certificate which is required for entry level positions. For a higher paying position you can take the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) but this exam for certification cannot be taken if you do not have the CRT certification.
The work shift for a respiratory therapist can vary because they are needed at all times including weekends, nights, days, evenings, split shifts, and even be on-call. More than eighty percent of respiratory therapists work in doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals. Working in a hospital a respiratory therapist could work in the emergency room, sleep labs, and pediatric units. The other twenty percent work as members of emergency-care teams, in nursing homes, or at patient’s homes. There are even some respiratory therapists who work in sales and marketing positions and do not provide treatment to patients. It is a job that often requires a respiratory therapist to work in a high-pressure, fast-paced environment.
If you work for a home health care agency and have a patient caseload you would be required to do a lot of driving during your work day visiting patient’s in your home. With this position you will most likely be working various hours and more than eight hours a day. Usually in this position a respiratory therapist will be working out of their car so they need to make sure that before they start their day that they have all the necessary supplies they will need for the patients they will see that day. Each respiratory therapist will have a set number of patients they need to see and will have a schedule detailing which time and day they need to be seen, what services they need, and how long the visit should take.
Respiratory therapist salary
What a respiratory therapist will earn annually depends on a variety of factors such as education level, how many years of work experience they have, their geographical location, and facility where they work. The average annual salary for a respiratory therapist is approximately $52,000 on average a respiratory therapist just starting out will only be making approximately $40,660 annually.
Some of the best paying states for a respiratory therapist include:
- California–$83,360 annually
- Connecticut–$73,670 annually
- New Jersey–$71,610 annually
- New York–$6439.50 annually
- Hawaii–$66,890 annually
Some of the highest places to work as a respiratory therapist are:
- Outpatient care centers–$67,720 annually
- Home health care services–$59,730
- Surgical and general medical hospitals—$56,760 annually
- Specialty hospitals not including substance abuse and psychiatric hospitals–$59,150 annually.
- Nursing care facilities–$59,570 annually
- Doctor’s offices–$57,830 annually
In addition to the respiratory therapist salary there is also the benefit package that your employer offers which can include paid vacation and sick days, paid holidays, personal days, health insurance, life insurance, dental and vision care, profit sharing, 401k, pension, social security, long and short term disability, etc. If you work for a health care agency and you travel to people’s home you will be eligible for reimbursement for mileage. Being on-call you may be reimbursed some on your phone bill and a pay deferential for work split shifts, night shift, and weekends. There are some places of employment that will provide uniforms for you. If you are required to work a holiday you may get paid double or time-and-a-half for working that day.
Respiratory therapist salary in Canada, Australia, and UK
- UK—in the UK the annual salary is based on the age of the respiratory therapist. If you are in your 20’s you can earn approximately 14.503, in your 30’s you can earn approximately 18.951, and in your 40’s and 50’s you can earn 22,243.
- Australia—the average annual salary is approximately Au $53,00.0 If you further your education and become a very experienced respiratory therapist who is employed as a director of respiratory care your annual salary could be approximately Au $142,000.
- Canada—starting your job as a respiratory therapist in Canada can give approximately CAD $21.370-$39.50 per hour. In addition a respiratory therapist gets a yearly bonus of approximately CAD $5,918 credited to their account.
Conclusion on respiratory therapist salary
This field of medicine is expected to have a continual job growth because of the rising number of elderly people experiencing heart and lung problems and premature babies being born with lung problems. Advances in science and technology are also creating new jobs by creating new uses for respiratory therapy used in patient care. It is predicted that between 2012 and 2020 there will be a 19% job growth in the respiratory therapist field of medicine. A respiratory therapist salary is very competitive when comparing them to other health care therapists. Although the salary for a respiratory is high it could be a little higher when considering all the responsibilities of a respiratory therapist. You also need to factor in the benefit package from your employer when looking at the salary for a respiratory therapist.