How To Become a Respiratory Therapist
There are very few barriers to entry in becoming a therapist which means you probably qualify now. There are no prequalifications required in order to begin your training to become a Respiratory Therapist outside of having graduated High School where studies included basic courses in math, science, Chemistry and Biology among others.
To become a registered Respiratory Therapist, one need only have an Associate’s Degree and it is very common for someone working in this field to already have their Bachelor of Science degree or higher. Once the proper training programs are completed, a Respiratory Therapist working in the United States will need to become licensed (except in the State of Alaska.) Requirements for licensure will vary by state.
If you are a people person who is good in math and science, has a deep interest in caring for others and enjoys working with the latest technologies, the respiratory field is definitely something to consider. If you are interested in learning more about whether a respiratory therapy school is available for your location, we have more information throughout our site for you to get started.
What Can You Expect From the Courses?
Most schools require students to complete approximate 2-years of specialized courses ranging from math and computer skills to general and advanced courses in Pharmacology, Cardiopulmonary and Respiratory subjects in order to receive their Associate of Science or Respiratory Therapist degree. Students studying for these degree programs will develop the necessary skills required for advanced respiratory care techniques and learn about related diseases, patient assessment techniques and therapeutics.
In all, students will complete an accredited program which includes approximately 100-125 credits taken over 4-6 semesters of learning, all of which can be completed locally or via online courses. Programs should be accredited by one of the following:
- Committee on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC)
- Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
- Joint Review Committee for Respiratory Therapy Education (JRCRTE)
Although the practice of respiratory care is regulated at the state level, it is the recommendations that come from the National Board for Respiratory Care, Inc. (NBRC) that are involved in setting the standards for education, credentialing exams and other associated services.
What Does a Therapist in the Respiratory Area Do?
In the most general sense, the therapist’s job description is to care for those patients that have difficulties breathing whether that be from an acute injury such as an accident, heart attack, drowning or stroke or whether the difficulties are a result of chronic issues such as asthma or even sleep related illnesses. Therapists primarily work out of a hospital or clinical setting and work closely with Pulmonologists and intensive care Physicians to diagnose, treat and educate patients who suffer from breathing problems. Some common issues and situations that a Respirtory Therapist will encounter include:
- Sleep disorders
- Stroke and acute care
- Airway Management and Pulmonary Function
- Administration of medications (inhaled), oxygen and medical gases
- Lung function evaluation and testing
- Support for patients on home ventilators and other breathing related equipment
- Diagnosis and treatment of cardiopulmonary diseases
- Works directly with Neonatal and pediatric intensive care units
- Pulmonary research and education in various settings
Employment Projections and Salary Outlook = EXCELLENT
Most studies that have looked into the occupational outlook for respiratory therapy jobs have all concluded that the position is a growing one and that in the next 7-10 years there will be an increase in the need for more professionals across the country. This is mainly attributed to the anticipated growth in the elderly population expected over the next decade which will ultimately lead to a higher demand for respiratory treatments.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor indicated that the total number of Respiratory Therapists in the United States amounted to approximately 112,000 in 2010 and this number is expected to increase to about 143,000 by 2020 (an increase of nearly 30%.)
The average salary for a therapist (per the Bureau of Labor Statistics) is approximately $56,260 per year and this number is expected to also increase 1-2% per year of the next 10 years to meet the standard of living increases expected.
Because of positive outlook for jobs over the next 7-10 years and the better than average salaries being offered, we believe the future for someone in this career is EXCELLENT.
What Qualities Makes the Best Therapist?
If you are a person who enjoys working with people and helping those in need, becoming a therapist is definitely something to consider. The rapid rise over the last 20-years in lung related illnesses and diseases related to both acute and chronic issues has put a strain on the medical field, a field that is already in desperate need of highly trained individuals to provide respiratory care for a growing population.
An RT (Respiratory Therapist) is someone who is analytical in their thinking yet able to deal with patients utilizing the best interpersonal skills. One has to not only understand the underlying issues of the medical problems creating the patient’s respiratory issues, but also has to know the best way to interact with the patient to explain the problems and provide solutions that work.
RT’s provide important care and are specialists that provide a vital role in our local hospitals and medical clinics and, if you are considering a career change in the medical field or are simply looking to expand your current knowledge, becoming a professional in this field is definitely something to consider.