Description of Profession
Respiratory therapists evaluate, treat, rehabilitate, and educate patients to prevent and manage cardiopulmonary diseases. Procedures performed by therapists include aerosolized medication therapy, bronchopulmonary clearance techniques, and administration of medical gases. Respiratory therapists also provide ventilator support, pulmonary rehabilitation and advanced life support. They are skilled in airway maintenance, procurement and analysis of arterial blood gas samples, and in the performance of pulmonary function tests and sleep diagnostic studies. Respiratory therapists work primarily in hospitals caring for patients in nurseries, medical and surgical units, adult and pediatric intensive care units, and emergency rooms. As valued members of the multi-disciplinary medical team, they work directly with physicians, nurses and other medical professionals to provide care to patients. Critical thinking and problem solving skills are essential for respiratory therapists. Additional employment opportunities are available in nursing homes and rehabilitation hospitals, in organizations providing home care, physicians’ offices and clinics, pulmonary function laboratories, sleep clinics, and in commercial organizations that manufacture and distribute medical supplies.