“Take a deep breath.” We’ve all heard this statement uttered just about every time we’ve gone into a doctor’s office, but how often is that simple action taken for granted?
In 1982, President Reagan decided to shine a light on this area of the medical field and encourage us all to remember the hard-working individuals working in respiratory care. Respiratory Care Week is recognized in October as an opportunity for us all to celebrate the respiratory therapists and other healthcare professionals who have made it their mission to make sure we all can breathe a little easier.
The Role of a Respiratory Therapist
A respiratory therapist (RT) is responsible for tending to patients that have difficulty breathing. This could mean issues from a chronic condition or an emergency. Problems that may require respiratory care include asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, pneumonia, heart failure, chest trauma, and COVID-19.
So what does a typical day look like for a respiratory therapist? RTs are usually working directly with patients and a care team to determine which kind of therapy is best for their specific condition. This could include the use of an inhaler, nebulizer, or even a ventilator depending on the condition.
An respiratory therapy consultation may include:
- A chest exam
- A change of therapy methods
- Measuring vitals
- Drawing blood
- Analyzing oxygen levels
- Managing ventilators or other respiratory aids
- Instruction on the use of breathing treatments
Why Become a Respiratory Therapist?
If you want a career with excellent opportunities for advancement, the career outlook for respiratory therapists is very positive. Here are a few of the reasons that respiratory therapists choose this healthcare career path.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this field has a growth potential of 23% in the next ten years with more than 10,000 positions projected to become available in that time. That trend is a considerably faster average than that of many other occupations.
Along with the growth potential of this in-demand healthcare field, the annual median wage of respiratory therapists is $62,810 per year or $30.20 per hour as of May 2020. This makes respiratory therapy an excellent healthcare career path to consider in terms of salary potential.
Direct Patient Care
As an RT, you’re there to help provide better quality of life for patients. Respiratory therapists work directly with patients to offer bedside care, help them breathe easier, control chronic conditions, and improve patient outcomes. There’s nothing better than helping patients thrive.
Diverse Work Environment
As a respiratory therapist, you’ll never be bored. Every day provides challenges and opportunities to utilize different skills. You will be able to work with different patient populations with a wide array of needs in critical care, acute care, and long-term care – sometimes all in the same shift.
Home Health Care Careers
If settings outside of hospitals or medical facilities are of interest to you, respiratory care is an essential role in home health. Providing home care, diagnostic services, and patient education are all vital to keeping patients comfortable and healthy at home.
Respiratory therapy allows for travel career options as well. If you want to pick up and work in a new environment across the country, respiratory therapy is a very in-demand healthcare field. A healthcare staffing company like Supplemental Health Care can help you find the perfect travel assignment wherever you’re looking to go.
How To Become a Respiratory Therapist
Aside from possessing the core skills already mentioned, respiratory therapy careers usually require at least an associate’s degree, sometimes a bachelor’s. As the U.S. credentialing board for respiratory care practitioners, the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) offers to options for respiratory therapists credentials: Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).
- TMC Exam: The first requirement is that you have a degree from a respiratory therapy education program that has been supported or accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). Typically, at the end of your degree program, you become eligible to sit for the Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) Exam, and the score you achieve determines which credential you receive.
- CRT Credential: Low-cut scores receive a certified respiratory therapist (CRT) certification, while higher scores earn a CRT and gain eligibility for the Clinical Simulation Exam (CSE).
- RRT Credential: After you pass the CSE, you can then earn the registered respiratory therapist (RRT) credential. The RRT credential is a nationally recognized achievement that is a “standard of excellence” in the respiratory care field.
Respiratory Care and COVID-19
COVID-19 shone a spotlight on respiratory therapists, but the fight against the pandemic continues, according to a former chronic lung disease coordinator, Michael Hess, MPH, RRT, RPFT. Hess notes a “significant number of COVID-19 patients” will require continued care weeks, and even months, after they have left hospitals.
He believes diagnostics and post-acute care will be key care areas of importance, observing that a large number of patients are continuing to show low DLCO measurements, “a measurement that assesses the lungs’ ability to transfer gas from inspired air to the bloodstream.”
Respiratory Therapy Careers
All in all, respiratory therapists are empathetic and caring individuals on one hand and critical problem solvers on the other. COVID-19 has solidified even more that respiratory therapy is an essential healthcare profession. We’re honored to celebrate our respiratory therapists this Respiratory Care Week and the rest of the year.
If you’re ready to find a new opportunity as a CRT or RRT, Supplemental Health Care has local and travel opportunities nationwide. For over 37 years, we have connected those with a passion for respiratory care to lucrative job opportunities. Join us today and see how we can help your passion meet its purpose!
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