Respiratory Therapists (RTs), also known as Respiratory Care Practitioners (RCP), are trained to aid physicians in the evaluation, diagnosis, and care of patients with cardiopulmonary problems.
Such patients include those with emphysema, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, cardiac failure, and chest trauma.
The focus is in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of patients suffering from diseases of the cardiopulmonary system. RTs serve as members of cardiac arrest and trauma admission teams or home care providers. They are committed to respiratory wellness and disease prevention and are often found administering family asthma and freedom from nicotine programs. Patients of all ages are treated by RTs, from premature infants in respiratory distress to senior citizens with end-stage ventilator failure.
What do Respiratory Therapists do?
Respiratory Therapists (RTs) are trained as “physician-extenders” and are a very important part of a healthcare team. As the name implies, respiratory therapists treat patients with problems related to breathing, such as issues of people suffering from lung disease. They are patient care managers who not only determine the need for respiratory care services but actually administer that care directly to patients.
RTs manage clinical resources (staff and equipment), can provide home care (sub-acute) services, and treat patients recovering from surgery. They often work with patients from the time of their admission through the time they leave the hospital. RTs can expect to have close interaction with patients' families.
When working in an intensive care unit, you will grow accustomed to seeing people in critical situations, while simultaneously experiencing the deep satisfaction that comes from saving lives. To be a Respiratory Therapist, you need to have a great deal of compassion for other people.
RTs perform a variety of procedures such as:
- Giving medication and aerosol therapy
- Pulmonary function tests
- Oxygen therapy
- Blood gas determinations
- Airway management
- Mechanical ventilation
- Maneuvers designed to facilitate removal of secretions from the lungs
Types of Respiratory Therapy
- Critical care
- Acute care (hospital)
- Emergency care
- Outpatient / homecare
Types of Work Environments
- Intensive care
- General hospital floors
- Rehabilitation center
- Sub-acute unit
- Home care
- Pulmonary function lab
- Willingness to work irregular hours
- Passion to continue learning
- Enjoy teamwork
- Excellent work ethic
- Two-year education program, second year is clinicals
- Registered Respiratory Therapist: 2- and 4-year college programs
- Must be licensed by state
According to salary.com, the median salary for Respiratory Therapists is between $63,114 and $75,514 per year.
- Meet a Professional Respiratory Therapist: Gabrielle
- Explore what respiratory therapy programs Cleveland Clinic is affiliated with.
- Visit the Cleveland Clinic Respiratory Therapy Scholarship program webpage.