About the Health Care Team (HCT) | Doctors | Nurses and Nursing Staff | Other Direct Care Providers | Therapists | Care and Psychosocial Support Coordinators | Consultative Resource Providers | Diagnostic Technologists | Administrative and Information Managers | Other Support Staff | Patients and Families | Consultants
- Diagnoses and treats patients suffering from respiratory problems.
- Conducts pulmonary tests, interviews patients, and performs chest physical examinations to determine the best treatment.
- Responds to “Code Blue” (cardiopulmonary arrest) or other urgent calls for care.
- Works under the direction of a physician or medical director, depending on the setting.
- Usually treats patients with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), as well as patients recovering from surgery, and patients who are acutely ill and on ventilators.
Who is a Respiratory Therapist?
What does a Respiratory Therapist do?
Respiratory Therapists diagnose and treat respiratory problems in:
- hospitals, giving breathing treatments to people with asthma and other respiratory conditions
- intensive care units, managing ventilators that keep the critically ill alive
- emergency rooms, delivering life-saving care
- newborn and pediatric units, helping children with conditions ranging from premature birth to cystic fibrosis
- patients’ homes, providing regular check-ups and making sure people have what they need to stay out of the hospital
- sleep laboratories, helping to diagnose disorders like destructive sleep apnea
- skilled nursing facilities and pulmonary rehabilitation programs, helping patients to breathe easier and get more out of life
- doctors’ offices, conducting pulmonary function tests and providing patient education
- asthma education programs, helping children and adults learn to manage their asthma
- smoking cessation programs, assisting those who want to kick the habit for good
- air transport and ambulance services, rushing to rescue people in need of immediate medical attention
- case management programs, helping devise long-term care plans for patients
What education, training, and experience must one have to function as a Respiratory Therapist?
How and by whom is a Respiratory Therapist supervised?
What are the typical day-to-day activities of a Respiratory Therapist?
On a typical day, a Respiratory Therapist may:
- diagnose lung and breathing disorders and recommend treatment methods
- interview patients and perform chest physical exams to determine what kind of therapy is best for their conditions
- consult with physicians to recommend a change in therapy, based on evaluation of the patient
- analyze breathing ability and blood specimens to determine levels of oxygen and other gases
- manage ventilators and artificial airway devices for patients who cannot breathe normally on their own
- respond to “Code Blue” (cardiopulmonary arrest) or other urgent calls for care
- educate patients and families about lung disease to help maximize their recovery
Must a Respiratory Therapist be licensed or certified to function in his or her role as part of the health care team?
What types of patients would benefit from the care of a Respiratory Therapist?
Professional organization for Respiratory Therapists
Sherry Milligan, MBA, American Association for Respiratory Care