How To Become A Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists work with a variety of patients, from premature babies to elderly adults. Under the supervision of a doctor, these specialists provide respiratory therapy care, helping to provide respiratory treatments, manage complex respiratory equipment, and evaluate the status of patients with respiratory conditions.

Respiratory therapist jobs have been in high demand, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Becoming a respiratory therapist requires a college education with either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

What Is A Respiratory Therapist?

A respiratory therapist is a type of healthcare provider who specializes in the care of respiratory illnesses. Respiratory therapists care for a group of patients and respond to respiratory needs that arise in the hospitals they work in. Respiratory therapists also serve as experts in respiratory care, advising other members of the healthcare team on what approaches to take for patients’ respiratory care.

A respiratory therapist will care for patients of any type with any kind of medical problem. They will often be essential in the care of critically ill newborns whose lungs are not developed, but will also care for adults. The diseases they treat can include everything from one-time emergencies to chronic conditions.

What Does A Respiratory Therapist Do?

Respiratory therapists perform a wide variety of care interventions. These can include assessing patients’ respiratory status, managing complex respiratory equipment such as mechanical ventilators, and serving as an expert advisor to doctors and other members of the healthcare team.

How To Become A Respiratory Therapist?

Becoming a respiratory therapist requires either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy. Most people pursuing a career in respiratory therapy will ultimately get their bachelor’s degree or even a master’s to enhance their long-term career opportunities.

Following the completion of their education, respiratory therapists are required to have one of two credentials offered by the National Board for Respiratory Care. These certifications are Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) and Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT). While either one will allow someone to practice as a respiratory therapist, the CRT credential is considered the lower of the two, and having your RRT credential will ultimately provide more opportunities.

Respiratory Therapist Duties

The duties of a respiratory therapist will vary for any given day, providing a great deal of variety to the job. Respiratory therapist duties and responsibilities also vary based on the specific employer. Respiratory therapists will normally be assigned a group of patients and the daily duties of a respiratory therapist will include seeing their patients, assessing their condition, and providing respiratory treatments that are ordered.

Beyond the daily and more predictable tasks that respiratory therapists will perform, they will also commonly respond to emergencies. When patients go into cardiac arrest or come into the emergency room with difficulty breathing, respiratory therapists will be among the first clinicians contacted to ensure that the patient’s breathing is optimized. The duties of a respiratory therapist will be interesting and varied.

Respiratory Therapist Requirements

The requirements for respiratory therapists may vary from state to state, however, they will normally be similar. Firstly, a respiratory therapist is expected to have a degree in respiratory therapy. Respiratory therapist education requirements technically only include an associate degree, but a bachelor’s degree is recommended.

Upon completion of their education, respiratory therapists will need to get either their CRT or their RRT credential. The CRT is considered the entry-level credential while the Registered Respiratory Therapist certification is considered more advanced. After completing their credentialing exam, respiratory therapists will ultimately need to follow the licensing requirements of their state to practice.

Respiratory Therapist Salary

The salary of a respiratory therapist will vary significantly based on their location, their education and credentials, their level of experience, and the type of setting in which they work. Travel respiratory therapist jobs may also pay differently from staff positions. Respiratory therapists additionally typically make more when working off shifts, weekends, holidays, or overtime.

The median salary for respiratory therapists in 2020 was about $63,000 per year. While there are many factors that can affect salary, the area in which a respiratory therapist is employed will probably have the biggest impact on their base salary.

Final Thoughts On How To Become A Respiratory Therapist

Ultimately, becoming a respiratory therapist requires long-term planning and deciding to pursue the education needed to become one. While there are other hurdles to overcome, such as obtaining the correct credentials, the educational component requires the greatest time demand. While studying to become a respiratory therapist is demanding, it ultimately provides a rewarding career of helping others.

Sunbelt is committed to helping clinicians realize their full potential and advance their careers. We can provide you with multiple respiratory therapist jobs to evaluate, enabling you to find the one that is the best fit for you. Please apply to one of our respiratory therapist jobs or call us to learn more about how we can help you advance your healthcare career!

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