What Is A Respitory Therapist

What Is A Respitory Therapist
Cropped shot of an unrecognizable female nurse comforting a patient in the hospital

Many readers are interested in the following topic: What Is a Respiratory Therapist and What Do They Do?. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

A respiratory therapist is a healthcare professional who specializes in treating patients who have respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and pneumonia. They also work with patients who are on life support or in need of mechanical ventilation. The main goal of a respiratory therapist is to improve the respiratory function and overall health of their patients.

Respiratory therapists work closely with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to provide care to patients. They use advanced equipment to measure lung function, administer oxygen therapy, and perform other treatments that help patients breathe easier. Respiratory therapists also educate patients on how to manage their respiratory conditions and prevent further complications.

To become a respiratory therapist, one must earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy and become licensed by the state in which they work. Certifications and continuing education are also necessary to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in respiratory care.

In summary, respiratory therapists play a vital role in providing care to patients with respiratory problems. They use specialized skills and equipment to improve lung function and overall health and work closely with healthcare professionals to ensure patients receive the best care possible.

What Is A Respiratory Therapist: Understanding the Role

To Start With

A respiratory therapist is a healthcare professional who specializes in treating patients with breathing problems. The role of a respiratory therapist is critical, particularly in acute care settings such as hospitals, where patients with respiratory difficulties require immediate attention.

Duties and Responsibilities

One of the primary responsibilities of a respiratory therapist is to evaluate patient breathing patterns, diagnose respiratory problems, and develop treatment plans. They also perform diagnostic tests such as blood gas analysis, pulmonary function tests, and electrocardiograms. Additionally, they provide patient education on respiratory treatments and preventative measures.

Respiratory therapists can also administer medications and provide life support to patients who have undergone surgery or require mechanical ventilation. They may also provide emergency care to patients in respiratory distress.

Education and Training

Respiratory therapists must have a degree from an accredited respiratory therapy program and obtain a license to practice in their state. Some states may also require additional certification. A respiratory therapy program typically takes two to four years to complete and includes courses in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and respiratory therapy techniques.


Experts say, respiratory therapists play an essential role in the healthcare system. They work with patients of all ages to develop individualized treatment plans and improve their quality of life. Their skills and knowledge help patients breathe easier and manage respiratory problems effectively. If you are interested in a career in respiratory therapy, it is first essential to understand the responsibilities and requirements of the role.

The Importance of Respiratory Health

Why Respiratory Health is Important

Maintaining good respiratory health is essential to living a healthy and active lifestyle. The lungs are responsible for supplying the rest of the body with oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. Proper breathing also helps to regulate heart rate and blood pressure, as well as boost the immune system. Poor respiratory health can have serious consequences, leading to respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer.

Ways to Maintain Respiratory Health

There are several ways to maintain good respiratory health. One of them is through regular exercise, including cardio and strength training, which can help to increase lung capacity and improve overall respiratory function. Avoiding smoking and exposure to harmful pollutants is also crucial, as these can cause lung damage and increase the risk of respiratory disease. Incorporating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can also benefit respiratory health through providing necessary vitamins and nutrients.

The Role of Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists play a crucial role in maintaining respiratory health for patients with respiratory diseases. They provide care for patients with breathing problems and work with healthcare teams to develop treatment plans that improve lung function. They also educate patients and families on proper breathing techniques, prevention of respiratory infections, and proper medication use. Respiratory therapists are essential in the management of respiratory diseases and contributing to overall patient health.

What Does a Respiratory Therapist Do?

Assessment and Diagnosis

A respiratory therapist is a healthcare specialist who assesses and diagnoses respiratory problems in patients. They use a variety of tools and techniques to test lung function, measure oxygen levels, and assess breathing patterns.

Treatment and Management

Once a respiratory therapist has assessed a patient’s condition, they develop and implement a treatment plan. This plan may include medication, oxygen therapy, breathing exercises, or mechanical ventilation. The therapist monitors the patient’s progress and adjusts the treatment plan as needed.

Patient Education

Respiratory therapists also play a key role in educating patients about their condition and how to manage it. They teach patients about the proper use of medications and medical equipment, such as inhalers and nebulizers. They also teach breathing techniques that can help patients reduce symptoms and improve lung function.

Collaboration with Healthcare Team

Respiratory therapists work closely with other members of the healthcare team, such as physicians, nurses, and physical therapists. They collaborate to ensure that patients receive comprehensive and coordinated care. They also participate in emergency response teams and critical care teams in hospitals.

Continuing Education and Research

Respiratory therapists are committed to staying up-to-date with the latest advances in respiratory care. They often participate in continuing education programs to enhance their knowledge and skills. They may also conduct research to contribute to the development of new treatments and therapies for respiratory conditions.

Education and Certification for Respiratory Therapists


To become a respiratory therapist, one must first obtain a high school diploma or equivalent. After that, a person must enroll in an accredited respiratory therapy program, which typically takes about two years to complete. These programs can be found at community colleges, technical schools, or universities.

The coursework in these programs typically includes anatomy and physiology, cardiopulmonary pharmacology, medical gas therapy, mechanical ventilation, and patient assessment. Students will usually have hands-on clinical experience as well, working with patients in a hospital or clinic setting.


After completing an accredited respiratory therapy program, a person must pass a national board exam to become a certified respiratory therapist (CRT). This credential is required to practice respiratory therapy in most states.

Some respiratory therapists may choose to become registered respiratory therapists (RRTs), which requires passing an additional exam. RRTs generally have more advanced training and are qualified to perform more specialized procedures.

Continuing education is also a requirement for respiratory therapists to maintain their credentialing. This ensures that they are up-to-date on the latest techniques and treatments in the field.

The Various Work Environments for Respiratory Therapists


Hospitals are the most common work environment for respiratory therapists. They work in various departments, such as critical care, neonatal, pediatric, and emergency. They provide respiratory therapy to patients in intensive care units, emergency departments, and general medical-surgical floors. Hospital-based respiratory therapists also work in specialty areas such as pulmonary function testing, sleep medicine, and home care services.

Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care Facilities

Respiratory therapists also work in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. They provide respiratory therapy services to residents with chronic respiratory diseases such as COPD, asthma, and bronchitis. They are responsible for assessing patient needs, developing treatment plans, and providing ongoing respiratory care to residents.

Home Care Services

With the increasing demand for home-based care, respiratory therapists are now providing their services to patients in their homes. They provide a range of respiratory therapy services such as oxygen therapy, breathing treatments, and ventilator support. They work with patients and their families to develop individualized care plans that can be executed in the comfort of the patient’s own home.

Government Agencies

Respiratory therapists can also work for government agencies such as the Veterans Administration or the Department of Defense. They provide respiratory therapy services to veterans, military personnel, and their families. They work in various settings such as hospitals, clinics, and mobile units.

Education and Research

Research is an important aspect of respiratory therapy, and many respiratory therapists work in education and research. They work in universities, research institutions, and pharmaceutical companies. They conduct research on respiratory diseases and treatments, and develop new therapies and treatments for respiratory diseases.

In Conclusion

Respiratory therapists are highly skilled healthcare professionals who work in a variety of work environments. They provide a range of respiratory therapy services, from acute care in hospitals to home care services. They work with patients of all ages and demographic groups. They play an essential role in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of respiratory diseases.

Equipment and Tools Used by Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory Therapy Equipment

Respiratory therapy equipment is used by respiratory therapists to help clear airways, improve lung function, and deliver medication directly to the lungs. Some of the most common respiratory therapy equipment includes:

  • Nebulizers
  • Oxygen concentrators
  • Breathing masks and tubes
  • Chest percussion vests
  • Incentive spirometers
  • Ventilators

Tools Used by Respiratory Therapists

In addition to respiratory therapy equipment, respiratory therapists also use a variety of tools in their daily work. These can include:

  • Pulse oximeters to measure oxygen levels in the blood
  • Spirometers to measure lung function
  • Arterial blood gas analyzers to analyze blood samples
  • Chest X-ray machines to evaluate lung conditions
  • Suction machines for airway clearance
  • Computer programs for respiratory therapy management and documentation

Respiratory therapists are highly trained professionals who use specialized equipment and tools to help diagnose, treat, and manage respiratory conditions. They play a critical role in the care of patients with lung diseases, including asthma, COPD, and pneumonia, among others. If you have a respiratory condition, you may benefit from working with a respiratory therapist to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Common Conditions Treated By Respiratory Therapists


One of the most common respiratory diseases, asthma affects the airways and makes it difficult to breathe. It can be triggered by a variety of factors, including allergens, exercise, and cold air. Respiratory therapists work with patients to develop individualized treatment plans, which might include medications, breathing exercises, and lifestyle changes. By managing asthma symptoms, respiratory therapists can help patients maintain a good quality of life.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Another respiratory disease, COPD is characterized by airflow obstruction and difficulty breathing. It includes conditions like chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and is commonly caused by smoking. Respiratory therapists work with patients to manage symptoms through medication, oxygen therapy, and pulmonary rehabilitation. By improving lung function and teaching patients breathing techniques, respiratory therapists can help COPD patients be more active and independent.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease that affects the body’s ability to produce mucus, causing a buildup in the lungs and other organs. Respiratory therapists work with cystic fibrosis patients to clear mucus, prevent infections, and improve lung function. Treatments may include airway clearance techniques, exercise, and medication. By helping patients manage their disease, respiratory therapists can improve their quality of life and prolong their lifespan.


Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the lungs. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi. Respiratory therapists work with patients to manage symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing. Treatment may include antibiotics, oxygen therapy, and breathing exercises. By preventing complications and aiding in recovery, respiratory therapists can help patients overcome pneumonia and return to their normal activities.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep, leading to daytime fatigue and other health problems. Respiratory therapists work with patients to diagnose and treat sleep apnea through methods like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. By improving sleep quality and preventing complications, respiratory therapists can help patients maintain good health and quality of life.

How Respiratory Therapists Work with Other Healthcare Professionals

Collaborating with Physicians

Respiratory therapists work closely with physicians to develop effective treatment plans for patients with respiratory diseases. They consult with physicians to review patient symptoms and medical histories and to suggest the most appropriate therapies. Additionally, they often help doctors during procedures, such as intubations, and assist in determining the progress of treatment plans.

Coordinating with Nurses

Respiratory therapists also collaborate with nurses to ensure patient comfort and safety. They work together to manage patients’ ventilator settings, adjust oxygen levels, and monitor vital signs. Respiratory therapists may also help nurses in administering respiratory treatments, including nebulizer treatments, chest physiotherapy, and bronchodilator therapy.

Working with Pharmacists

Respiratory therapists often work closely with pharmacists to ensure proper administration of medications related to respiratory care. They may also help pharmacists manage drug inventory and educate patients about the usage and side effects of prescribed medications.

Communicating with Social Workers and Patient Advocates

Respiratory therapists frequently communicate with social workers and patient advocates to provide comprehensive care to patients. They may work together to ensure that patients have access to financial resources, counseling services, and education about managing respiratory diseases. Additionally, respiratory therapists may consult with social workers and patient advocates to ensure that the patient’s quality of life is improved.


In summary, respiratory therapists work with various healthcare professionals to provide effective care for patients with respiratory diseases. Good communication and collaboration between healthcare professionals is critical to provide the highest level of care possible. The goal is always to ensure the patient receives the greatest quality of life with the most effective treatment plan possible.

Salary and Job Outlook for Respiratory Therapists


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for respiratory therapists in the United States is $62,810 as of May 2020. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $44,850, while the highest 10 percent earn more than $86,980. The salary varies by experience, location, and industry.

Job Outlook

The employment of respiratory therapists is expected to grow 19 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. The demand for respiratory therapists is expected to increase due to the aging population, the prevalence of respiratory diseases, and advancements in treatment technologies. Respiratory therapists with experience treating elderly patients and those with complex respiratory conditions are expected to have the best job prospects. Respiratory therapists who are willing to work in rural areas or with underserved communities may also have more job opportunities.

Skills and Qualities Needed for a Career in Respiratory Therapy

Strong Communication Skills

Effective communication is a key skill for a respiratory therapist. They need to be able to communicate clearly with patients and their families about their diagnoses, treatment plans, and progress. They must also clearly communicate with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians and nurses.

Attention to Detail

Respiratory therapists must carefully monitor patients’ breathing patterns, vital signs, and other indicators in order to make informed decisions about treatment plans. They need to be able to notice small changes in a patient’s condition and respond appropriately.

Problem Solving Abilities

Respiratory therapists must be able to think critically and solve problems quickly. They often work in high-pressure environments, where quick decision-making can be key to saving a patient’s life. They need to be able to analyze data, interpret results, and make informed decisions about treatment plans.

Compassion and Empathy

Respiratory therapists work with patients who may be experiencing significant physical and emotional stress. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and compassion in order to provide emotional support and care to their patients.

Technical Skills

Respiratory therapists need to be adept at operating and troubleshooting complex medical equipment, such as ventilators. They must also be able to maintain accurate electronic medical records, follow protocols and guidelines, and stay up-to-date with technological advancements in the field.

Teamwork Skills

Respiratory therapists often work as part of a multidisciplinary healthcare team. They must be able to collaborate effectively with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to develop and implement treatment plans that meet the unique needs of each patient.

The Future of Respiratory Therapy: Emerging Trends and Technologies

Advancements in Technology

The field of respiratory therapy is rapidly evolving, with new technologies being developed that are making diagnosis and treatment more efficient and effective. One such technology is the introduction of wearable devices that can monitor patients’ vital signs in real-time, allowing for early identification of respiratory issues. Another technology that is gaining popularity is telemedicine, which allows patients to receive respiratory therapy services from the comfort of their own homes.

Focus on Prevention

There is a growing trend towards prevention in the field of respiratory therapy, as healthcare providers seek to avoid the need for extensive treatment. This involves educating patients on lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation and exercise, that can reduce the risk of developing respiratory problems. Additionally, there is an increased focus on early detection and monitoring of respiratory issues, so that treatment can be initiated before symptoms become severe.

Personalized Treatment Plans

As technology continues to advance, it is becoming easier to tailor respiratory therapy treatment plans to individual patients’ needs. This includes the use of personalized medication dosages based on genetic testing, as well as the development of computer algorithms that can predict the best treatment plan for a particular patient. This personalized approach to treatment is helping to improve outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.

Collaboration Among Healthcare Providers

Collaboration Among Healthcare Providers

To provide the best possible care, respiratory therapists are increasingly working in collaboration with other healthcare providers. This includes physicians, nurses, and other specialists, who can offer their expertise in the management of respiratory conditions. This collaborative approach ensures that patients receive comprehensive care that addresses all of their healthcare needs.

In summary, the future of respiratory therapy looks bright, with advancements in technology and treatment approaches that are making care more personalized and effective. By focusing on prevention and collaborating with other healthcare providers, respiratory therapists are improving patient outcomes and helping to create a healthier population.

Questions and Answers:

What qualifications do I need to become a respiratory therapist?

Usually you will need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy to become a respiratory therapist. You will also need to pass a national exam and obtain a state license in order to practice.

What type of patients do respiratory therapists work with?

Respiratory therapists work with patients of all ages with a variety of respiratory problems such as asthma, COPD, and pneumonia. They also work with premature infants, patients on ventilators, and those with sleep apnea.

What is the job outlook for respiratory therapists?

The job outlook for respiratory therapists is quite positive, with a projected 19% growth rate from 2019-2029. This is due in part to an aging population and an increased focus on preventative care.