Respiratory therapist

Respiratory Therapist
Turkish pediatrician listens to a childs heartbeat in Afghanistan.jpg
A clinician auscultating the chest of a pediatric patient.
Occupation
Names
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Respiratory Practitioner
  • Respiratory Care Practitioner (RCP)
  • Licensed Respiratory Therapist
Occupation type
Specialty
Activity sectors
Nursing, Medicine, Allied Health
Description
Education required
Fields of
employment

Flight Transport, Air Ambulance

Teaching or nursing home
Related jobs

A respiratory therapist is a specialized healthcare practitioner trained in pulmonary medicine in order to work therapeutically with people suffering from pulmonary disease. Respiratory therapists graduate from a community college or university with a certification in respiratory therapy and have passed a national board certifying examination. The NBRC (National Board for Respiratory Care) is the not-for-profit organization responsible for credentionaling the seven areas of Respiratory Therapy.

Those seven areas of Respiratory Therapy include, as of December 2017: CRT (Certified Respiratory Therapist), RRT (Registered Respiratory Therapist), CPFT and RPFT (Certified or Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist), ACCS (Adult Critical Care Specialist), NPS (Neonatal/Pediatric Specialist), and SDS (Sleep Disorder Specialist).

Respiratory therapists work in hospitals in the intensive care units (Adult, Pediatric, and Neonatal), on hospital floors, in Emergency Departments, in Pulmonay Functioning laboratories (PFTs), are able to intubate patients, work in sleep labs (polysomnograpy) (PSG) labs, and in home care specifically DME (Durable Medical Equipment) and home oxygen.

Respiratory therapists are specialists and educators in many areas including cardiology, pulmonology, and sleep therapy. Respiratory therapists are clinicians trained in advanced airway management; establishing and maintaining the airway during management of trauma, and intensive care.

Respiratory therapists initiate and manage life support for people in intensive care units and emergency departments, stabilizing, treating and managing pre-hospital and hospital-to-hospital patient transport by air or ground ambulance.

In the outpatient setting respiratory therapists work as educators in asthma clinics, ancillary clinical staff in pediatric clinics, and sleep-disorder diagnosticians in sleep-clinics, they also serve as clinical providers in cardiology clinics and cath-labs, as well as working in pulmonary rehabilitation.

Clinical practice

Respiratory Therapist in an intensive care unit
Intensive care and operating room

Respiratory therapists educate, assist in diagnosis, and treat people who are suffering from heart and lung problems. Specialized in both cardiac and pulmonary care, Respiratory Therapists often collaborate with specialists in pulmonology and anaesthesia in various aspects of clinical care of patients. Respiratory therapists provide a vital role in both medicine and nursing. A vital role in ICU is the initiation and maintenance of mechanical ventilation and the care of artificial airways.

Outpatient clinical practice

Respiratory therapists are also primary clinicians in conducting tests to measure lung function and teaching people to manage asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder among other cardiac and lung functions.

Internationally, Respiratory Therapists that provide lung function testing are termed respiratory scientists, but in North America, they may be a Respiratory Therapist or may also be a certified pulmonary function technician in the United States.

Home-health care

Outside of clinics and hospitals, Respiratory Therapists often manage home oxygen needs of patients and their families, providing around the clock support for home ventilators and other equipment for conditions like sleep apnea.

In the clinic or outpatient setting Respiratory Therapists assist with diagnosis and serve as an educator for patients suffering from cardiac and respiratory illness.[1] In the United States, Respiratory Therapists with certification as Registered Respiratory Therapists evaluate and treat patients with a great deal of autonomy under the direction of a pulmonologist.[2] In facilities that maintain critical care transport teams Respiratory Therapists are a preferred addition to all types of surface or air transport.[3]

Public education

In other settings Respiratory Therapists are found in schools as asthma educators, working with teachers and coaches about childhood symptoms of asthma and how to spot an emergency. In the United States, legislation has been introduced several times to allow Respiratory Therapists certified as asthma specialists with registered Respiratory Therapist certification to prescribe and manage previously diagnosed respiratory patients in physician clinics.[4][5] In sleep clinics, Respiratory Therapists work with physicians in the diagnosis of sleep-related illnesses. Respiratory Therapists in the United States are migrating toward a role with autonomy similar to the nurse practitioner, or as an extension of the physician like the physician assistant.[6] Respiratory Therapists are frequently utilized as complete cardiovascular specialists being utilized to place and manage arterial accesses along with peripherally-inserted central catheters.[7]

A Respiratory Therapist gives an immunization shot to a patient
Pulmonary rehabilitation

Pulmonary rehabilitation may be initiated as a treatment as a source for continuity of improvement after a hospital stay or as a therapeutic way to increase quality of life. Pulmonary rehabilitation is intended to educate the patient, the family, and improve the overall quality of life and prognosis for the patient. Pulmonary Rehabilitation involves therapies and evaluations by Respiratory Therapists, Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists.

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