respiratory therapist job description

What Does a Respiratory Therapist Do?

If you are looking to breathe new life into your career (quite literally), make an impact in others’ lives, and join the healthcare forces, becoming a Respiratory Therapist (RT) is a great option for you. Respiratory Therapists are trained to help people with lung diseases, respiratory illnesses, and other disorders that cause trouble breathing. The field of respiratory care is growing quickly, and offers a rewarding career path without spending years in costly medical school.

If you are considering respiratory therapy, you may be asking yourself, “What does a Respiratory Therapist do?” Or, “What is a typical day-in-the-life of a Respiratory Therapist?” As a leading respiratory therapy school in Connecticut, Goodwin University understands how important (and practical) these questions are before diving into an RT program. It is important to ensure that this field aligns with your passions, goals, and needs. It is important to know what to expect. Read on, as we break down the Respiratory Therapist job description.

What is a Respiratory Therapist?

A Respiratory Therapist is a certified healthcare professional that specializes in cardio-pulmonary treatment and critical care as it relates to the lungs and breathing. Respiratory Therapists work with patients of all ages and from all walks of life. Those suffering with asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, chronic respiratory disease, COPD, chest trauma, and heart disease, for example, require the help of a Respiratory Therapist.

This role is one that is in high demand, too, with experts anticipating major industry growth. In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that employment of RTs will grow 19 percent by 2029 – almost five times faster than all occupations in the U.S. Moreover, as we continue to face the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect the need for Respiratory Therapists to grow even higher over the coming years.

Respiratory Therapist Job Duties

Respiratory Therapists execute a multitude of critical tasks for patients in need of assistance with their breathing. Overall, the RT job description includes:

  • Administration of oxygen
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • Management of mechanical ventilators
  • Administering drugs to the lungs
  • Monitoring cardiopulmonary systems
  • Measuring lung function

A typical day-in-the-life of a Respiratory Therapist offers a wide range of variety throughout the workday. A typical shift involves:

  • Examining and interviewing patients
  • Consulting with physicians to determine treatment plans
  • Performing diagnostic tests, such as measuring lung capacity
  • Treating patients using a variety of methods, such as aerosol medications and chest physiotherapy
  • Obtaining and analyzing blood and sputum specimens
  • Using ventilators to help patients breathe
  • Monitoring and recording patients’ progress
  • Teaching patients how to use equipment and take medications

How Much Do Respiratory Therapists Earn?

The median annual salary for Respiratory Therapists in the U.S. is $62,810. This, of course, varies by state. In Connecticut specifically, Respiratory Therapists earn an average of $71,530 annually. Those in the highest 10 percent can earn around $89,000 to $92,000, according to the BLS. Most Respiratory Therapists work full time. Some work in traditional medical offices which operate under normal business hours, but there are many RTs who work in hospitals, and therefore must work nights and weekend hours. For this reason, Respiratory Therapists in hospitals typically are offered a higher salary.

Where Do Respiratory Therapists Work?

Because the patients in need of respiratory care range so widely, Respiratory Therapists are able to land jobs in a variety of settings, such as:

  • Acute care hospitals
  • Homecare settings
  • Life Star air ambulance
  • Rehabilitation and long-term care facilities

In some hospitals, RTs are involved in related areas of the field – such as diagnosing breathing problems for those with sleep apnea, or counseling to patients on how to stop smoking, or helping out in the critical care unit (such as when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit). Breathing issues cause, and are caused by, different factors, which is why Respiratory Therapists are needed in so many areas of the healthcare system.

Skills for the Job

Like many other jobs in the healthcare field, Respiratory Therapists need a special set of skills that allows them to multitask while maintaining their focus on the needs of their patients. RTs should have the following skills in order to reach success:

  • Attention to detail
  • Comforting bedside manner
  • Compassion
  • Communication skills
  • Detail oriented
  • Good judgment and quick decision-making ability
  • Patience with patients
  • Science and math skills
  • Teamwork
  • Time management

Those who have an interest in pursuing a career in this exciting and growing field are  passionate about helping patients within the healthcare community. Respiratory therapy offers a rewarding path for anyone setting out to make a difference. If you have a pure interest in helping others and have always been drawn to the healthcare industry, you may be perfect for this role.

How Does One Become a Respiratory Therapist?

Aspiring Respiratory Therapists need to earn an associate degree in Respiratory Therapy, from an accredited institution. They then must pursue certification in the field. In Connecticut, you may earn entry-level certification as a Certified Respiratory Therapy Technician (CRTT) or a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). These credentials are administered by the National Board of Respiratory Care, Inc.

The accredited respiratory care program at Goodwin University offers a career-focused curriculum that will enable you to demonstrate proficiency as a Respiratory Therapist. You will walk away with the ability to diagnose, manage, and treat patients with cardio-pulmonary disorders, and be prepared to complete both the Entry-Level and Advanced Practitioner Respiratory Care examinations. These will certify you to practice in the field.

The beauty of respiratory therapy is that it does not require 4+ years in medical school. You can be on your way to a Respiratory Therapist position in just 2 years’ time. For students who need to maintain a full-time or part-time job, Goodwin also offers respiratory care classes in the evenings, in order to give students time to fulfill other obligations during their day. At Goodwin, the focus is on the students and the convenience for busy lives.

Why Respiratory Therapy Matters

The list of daily responsibilities for Respiratory Therapists shows just how important this role is within the healthcare field. RTs are important members of the healthcare team. They work under the medical direction of doctors and treat all types of patients, from premature infants to the elderly. They provide temporary relief to patients suffering chronic illnesses and offer emergency care to patients experiencing a heart attack, stroke, drowning, shock, or respiratory distress from illnesses like COVID-19.

That is what makes a career in respiratory care such a rewarding one – both professionally and personally. It involves helping people. It also offers a perfect blend of technology and patient interaction. If you are compassionate, dedicated, and driven, you may be perfect for a career in Respiratory Therapy.

Now, rather than asking, “What does a Respiratory Therapist do?” you may be wondering, “What can I do to start my career in respiratory therapy?” To become a respiratory therapist in Connecticut today, you can start at Goodwin University. Goodwin University’s career-focused program prepares students with the knowledge, skills, and clinical experience needed to pursue a successful career in this exciting and in-demand field.

If you are ready to launch your career and start your Respiratory Therapist training program at Goodwin University, call us at 800-889-3282. You may also request more information online about our flexible and competitive program.