Across the United States, educated and experienced respiratory therapists help patients breathe better, enhancing their overall quality of life.
A respiratory therapist’s scope of practice encompasses the care of patients with abnormalities and deficiencies in the cardiopulmonary system, as defined by the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC).
Typically, a licensed independent practitioner (such as a physician or advanced practice registered nurse) supervises a respiratory therapist, and state licensure laws determine such supervision. However, respiratory therapists boast great autonomy in their career and scope of work.
Respiratory therapists exude expert standards of practice — applying only evidence-based protocols, guidelines, and field policies to their care.
Generally, respiratory therapists monitor patient signs, symptoms, reactions, and responses to respiratory care interventions. Respiratory therapists advocate for patients, provide accessible resources for care, and promote understanding of disease processes.
Curriculum & Clinical Training for Respiratory Therapists
Due to their important scope of practice, respiratory therapists require specialized training and practice in the field. Most respiratory therapists hold an associate degree in Respiratory Care or Therapy.
Examples of respiratory therapy classes, like those offered at Goodwin University, include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Applied pharmacology
- Clinical internships
- Fundamentals of critical care
- Medical physics
- Neonatal and pediatric respiratory care, and
- Respiratory diagnostics and therapeutics
Overall, respiratory therapy programs aim to prepare graduates with the knowledge, skills, and capabilities required of a respiratory care practitioner.
Respiratory Therapist Credentials in Connecticut
Connecticut respiratory therapist applicants must also have successfully passed the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) entry-level exam to earn licensure. The NBRC respiratory therapist exam consists of 160 multiple choice questions on patient data evaluation and recommendations, troubleshooting and quality control of equipment and infection control, and initiating and modifying interventions.
In addition, the exam has a clinical simulation portion in which applicants are asked to perform 22 different patient management problems and intensive therapy tasks. A respiratory care practitioner in Connecticut must be actively credentialed by the NBRC as a registered respiratory therapist.
A completed state licensure application is also mandatory, with an accompanying photograph and a $190 application fee.
State licensure credentials are renewed yearly via a fee of $100 and a minimum of six hours of continuing education — for instance, through an accredited and approved online course.
Where Does a Respiratory Therapist Work?
Respiratory therapists care for patients across the lifespan — from premature infants to adult patients with cardio-pulmonary disorders such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and sleep apnea.
In 2021, there were 135,800 respiratory therapists nationally. Eighty-two percent worked in local, private, and state hospitals. The second and third largest employers of U.S. respiratory therapists were skilled nursing facilities and physicians’ offices.
According to the state of Connecticut, respiratory therapists are not limited to hospitals. Respiratory therapists collaborate with medical assistants, physicians, registered nurses, and surgeons and have various career options in inpatient and outpatient settings, including:
- Alternate care sites like long-term mechanical ventilator centers
- Critical care units
- Emergency rooms
- Homecare settings
- Life Star air ambulance
- Neonatal intensive care units
- Rehabilitation facilities
- Sleep labs and clinics, and
- Vendor and industry venues
Respiratory Therapist Responsibilities and Scope of Practice
A respiratory therapist holds many roles, including, but not limited to:
- Administering aerosol medications to help relieve breathlessness
- Analyzing sputum specimens
- Assessing living areas for environmental hazards
- Assisting physicians in the diagnosis, management, and treatment of patients
- Clearing airways for improved breathing
- Completing physiotherapy to remove mucus from the lungs by tapping the patient’s chest
- Connecting patients who cannot breathe on their own to ventilators that deliver oxygen
- Counseling people on smoking cessation
- Determining protocols for medical procedures
- Directing humidity therapy
- Discharge planning and case management
- Examining and evaluating patients
- Gathering medical information from patient histories
- Inspecting and cleaning, and repairing respiratory therapy equipment, as needed
- Maintaining applicable technical proficiency
- Managing pulmonary function tests, measuring the volume and flow of oxygen to access patient lung capacity
- Monitoring and recording patient progress
- Overseeing therapeutic procedures to help improve patient breathing patterns
- Performing diagnostic tests for patients with sleep disorders
- Taking blood samples and testing carbon dioxide and oxygen levels with a blood gas analyzer
- Teaching patients, caregivers, and their loved ones how to take medications and use respiratory therapy equipment (like ventilators and other life support apparatuses), and
- Training respiratory care practitioners
Connecticut’s Respiratory Therapist Scope of Practice
According to Connecticut General Statutes, a respiratory care practitioner – otherwise known as a respiratory therapist – is a professional who is licensed to practice respiratory care, as well as transcribe and implement orders for respiratory care issued by a physician, physician’s assistant, or APRN.
Respiratory care involves the therapy, management, rehabilitation, diagnostic evaluation, and treatment of patients with deficiencies and abnormalities affecting the cardiopulmonary system and associated functions. For example, under the respiratory therapist scope of practice in Connecticut, a practitioner can be found:
- Using medical equipment and resources for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes, such as drugs and medications, ventilatory assistance and control, medical gases, humidification and aerosols, and artificial airways
- Implementing chest physiotherapy and breathing exercises, as well as cardiopulmonary resuscitation
- Testing techniques to assist in the diagnosis, monitoring, treatment, and research of respiratory therapy, such as ventilatory volumes, pulmonary function testing, blood collection, and more
- Educating patients in self-care procedures and ongoing treatments
Professional Pay and Projections
A respiratory care graduate receives an excellent return on investment for their education.
In 2021, as stated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median wage for respiratory therapists was $61,830. The same year, respiratory therapists in Connecticut made an annual average wage of $71,590.
Further, the respiratory therapy field is projected to grow 14 percent from 2021 to 2031, with 9,400 job openings annually.
Respiratory therapists serve an array of patients, and the essential profession is a rewarding field for anyone seeking a meaningful scope of practice.
Are you ready to make a difference in the lives of patients?
Click here to learn more about a career in respiratory care!