As it belongs to allied healthcare professions, the respiratory therapy profession is booming in the USA.
If we consider the data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 119,300 respiratory therapists are employed in the United State and the number of respiratory therapist jobs in the years to come is expected to increase by 19 percent.
This is due to the aging baby boomer population and the increasing number of cardiopulmonary diseases and disorders like pneumonia, COPD, emphysema, and lung cancer among people in the USA.
The size of the population and state age demographics are two reasons that can highly affect the employment of respiratory therapists.
According to the statistics, the states with the highest employment level of respiratory therapists are:
- California: 14,160 employed respiratory therapists
- Texas: 10,160 employed respiratory therapists
- Florida: 7,470 employed respiratory therapists
- New York: 5,980 employed respiratory therapists
- Ohio: 5,880 employed respiratory therapists
There is also data related to the industries and employment settings with the highest number of respiratory therapist jobs, and those are:
- General medical and surgical hospitals: 89,460 jobs
- Specialty hospitals: 6,270 jobs
- Skilled nursing care facilities: 3,860 jobs
- Physician offices: 3,110 jobs
- Consumer goods rental: 2,970 jobs
Respiratory Therapist Job Description
The daily duties of a respiratory therapist will vary on numerous factors.
This is highly dependable on the level of supervision, type of healthcare facility where they work, and the respiratory care services provided by the facility they work for, as well as the level of education they have.
However, the general job description for almost all respiratory therapists is quite similar as they are involved in assistance to patients who suffer from cardiopulmonary problems, and they work under the direct supervision of a physician.
Responsibilities include evaluating, diagnosing, and treating disorders that affect breathing.
Last but not least, Respiratory therapists perform diagnostic cardiopulmonary evaluations and respiration therapy treatments.
When it comes to facilities where they may find jobs, respiratory therapists can work in critical care hospitals, skilled nursing homes, surgical hospitals, outpatient care centers, rehabilitation centers, sleep disorder clinics, and patient transport systems and they can expect to have different duties depending on the facility.
For example, if you become a respiratory therapist who finds a job in acute-care settings, you will be responsible for operating and maintaining acute care ventilators for adults, pediatrics, and neonates.
On the other hand, respiratory therapists in skilled nursing homes will administer oxygen therapy and aerosol therapy, airway maintenance, and tracheal suctioning.
It is true that their duties vary, but the basic job duties and responsibilities of a respiratory therapist are:
- Conducting and monitoring prescribed therapeutic and diagnostic procedures
- Maintaining artificial and natural airways
- Performing pulmonary function testing
- Performing hemodynamic monitoring and other physiologic monitoring
- Maintaining accurate and complete patients’ records
- Communicating with members of the healthcare team
- Assembling, maintaining, and calibrating respiratory therapy equipment
- Identifying and remedying equipment malfunctions
- Communicating with patients and patient families
- Educating patients on disease prevention and lung health, on the use of inhalers and inhalation devices
- Performing testing
The methods and procedures that a respiratory therapist must be skilled in are:
- Application and monitoring of medical gases
- Environmental control systems
- Humidification systems
- Inhaled medications
- Ventilator support
- Bronchopulmonary drainage/hygiene
- Pulmonary rehabilitation
- Postural drainage
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
- Airway management
So as to be able to successfully perform job responsibilities and duties, an ideal candidate for many employers is the one who:
- Possess strong communication skills
- Is responsible and trustworthy
- Possess excellent social skills
- Has the ability to work well with a medical team and under the direct supervision of a physician
All in all, respiratory therapists are people who are well trained and educated to treat patients of all ages, so respiratory therapy jobs can be found in every setting, from a neonatal intensive care unit to a nursing home.
Respiratory Therapist Job Qualifications
In 49 USA states, a valid state license is required to practice respiratory therapy and find employment.
National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) certification is used as the standard for state licensure.
The Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential is required for licensure, you may come across employers who require that applicants possess the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential, that is an NBRC credential.
The RRT is the base requirement for licensure in Ohio and California, and other states are going to the same requirement in the coming years.
Besides basic education, you may find that many employers want to hire respiratory therapists who possess specialty certification through the NBRC, such as:
- Sleep Disorders Testing and Therapeutic Intervention Respiratory Care Specialist (SDS)
- Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist (RPFT)
- Neonatal/Pediatric Respiratory Care Specialist (NPS)
- Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist (CPFT)
- Adult Critical Care Specialty (ACCS)
So as to improve your job prospects, you can get the following certifications for a respiratory therapist:
- ACLS: Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support
- BLS/CPR: Basic Life Support CPR course for CPR victims of all ages
- NRP: Neonatal Resuscitation Program
- PALS: Pediatric Advanced Life Support
There are also employers also seek candidates who are members of the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC).