6 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming a Respiratory Therapist

6 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming a Respiratory Therapist Before deciding on a career, it is important for students to consider the impact that a chosen career will have on a student’s life. This is especially important when it comes to healthcare careers as they can sometimes feel stressful and time consuming by nature. It is important to understand the duties of any career a student may decide to pursue. Students who are considering a path in respiratory therapy must understand 6 things before becoming a Respiratory Therapist (RT):

  1. What Respiratory Therapist Do

A Respiratory Therapist specializes in examining and caring for patients who have respiratory trouble. This might relate to breathing, the lungs, the esophagus, and the like. One of the tests they administer to evaluate a patient’s condition is a lung capacity test, during which patients are asked to breathe into an instrument that measures the capacity of their lungs and oxygen levels. They often hook patients to an oxygen tank if needed, and track the oxygen level in their blood to ensure that it does not drop below a certain level. If it does, they may need breathing assistance.

In the event that a Respiratory Therapist is given a patient that cannot breathe on his/her own, the therapist will connect him/her to a ventilator. A Ventilator is inserted in to the patient’s windpipe and used for artificial respiration.

Patients of an RT may suffer from asthma, emphysema or another chronic respiratory disease, and the typical patient ranges in age from a premature infant to the elderly. RTs must be well trained to help and encourage patients of all ages. Therapists are also required to keep close records of each patient and their progress and evaluate the findings of examinations.

  1. The Work Environment

The work environment of a Respiratory Therapist varies, including hospitals, home care, and nursing care facilities.

The majority of therapists work from hospitals where they have lengthy shifts and spend long periods of time on their feet caring for patients. Individuals who work in hospitals will often work evenings, nights, and weekend hours because most hospitals are open constantly.

Those who work in home care are responsible for teaching patients or their families how to properly use all of the equipment needed to care for a patient at home. During routine visits to patient’s homes they will inspect the equipment to ensure that it is working properly. A therapist will also respond to emergency calls for home visits when necessary.

  1. Job Outlook

Students must always be aware of the job outlook for their expected career path. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of Respiratory Therapists is projected to grow 19 percent from 2012 – 2022, which is a positive sign—that is faster than average. The growth of the middle aged and elderly population will result in the increase of job demand to treat conditions that are common in older age. The BLS also conveys that the median annual wage of an RT was about $55,870 in 2012.

  1. How to Become a Respiratory Therapist

To become a Respiratory Therapist, one must acquire at least an associate’s degree. However, it is even better to obtain a bachelor’s degree, as it shows dedication and further education. When considering where to study, think of Florida National University (FNU). FNU is well equipped to help you prepare for your career through our Respiratory Therapist programs.

Studying to obtain an associate’s degree in Respiratory Therapy requires a minimum of 80 credits, and students will learn about various subjects, such as:

  • Respiratory Care Equipment
  • Respiratory Anatomy and Physiology
  • Pediatrics / Neonatal Respiratory Care
  • Cardiopulmonary Diagnostics

Take a look at the Student Handbook for an Associate of Science in Respiratory Therapy to see what else you will learn.

A bachelor’s degree requires a minimum of 120 credits to graduate. The program enhances the knowledge of a RT graduate by providing them with the skills to manage patients while staying aware of cultural diversity and the skills needed to supervise in the health care setting.

  1. Licensing and Certification

Upon graduating as a Respiratory Therapist, students are eligible to take the entry-level exam of the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) to become a Certified Respiratory Therapist. Following the certification, therapists may take the advanced written and simulation exams of the NBRC to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist.

Learn more about Licensing in Florida here.

  1. Qualities of a Respiratory Therapist

Here are some important qualities that a respiratory therapist should have:

  • Being detail oriented to ensure that patients are receiving the correct treatment
  • Keeping and collecting well organized records of patients condition
  • Problem solving skills in order to evaluate patients test results and symptoms
  • Working with doctors and in team oriented environments requires Interpersonal skills
  • Compassion is important so that therapists can serve as a support system for patients suffering from an illness
  • Because RT’s work long hours in hospitals providing special care for patients it is important that one have an enormous amount of patience
  • The ability to manage risk and capability to work well under pressure

Getting Started

If you are considering a path in Respiratory Therapy, FNU is ready to welcome you in to the family of growing healthcare students! Take a closer look at our Associates Degree and Bachelor’s Degree programs. If you are still searching for your career path, FNU can help! Check out our other programs and apply today!

Works Cited

“Licensing and Registration.” Florida Board of Respiratory Care Licensing and Registration Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

“Respiratory Therapists Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.


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