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It is an exciting time for the respiratory care profession. America’s Career Infonet has targeted respiratory therapy as one of the fastest growing professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an increase in demand of 42% for respiratory therapists. Career opportunities are excellent and earning potential is competitive with other health professions.

A Respiratory therapist, also known as a respiratory care practitioner, is the health profession responsible for evaluating, treating and caring for patients with breathing or other cardiopulmonary disorders. Practicing under the direction of a physician, respiratory therapists assume primary responsibility for all respiratory care therapeutic treatments and diagnostic procedure. Respiratory therapists evaluate and treat all types of patients, ranging from premature infants whose lungs are not fully developed to elderly people whose lungs are diseased.
Respiratory therapists setup, operate and monitor devices that provide oxygen or medicine in the form of a mist or gas to patients. They use and maintain equipment such as mechanical ventilator, therapeutic gas, administration apparatus and aerosols generators. Respiratory therapists are also responsible for teaching patients about breathing exercises, monitoring patients’ physiological responses to therapy and maintaining natural and artificial airways, while maintaining the patient’s records.

Respiratory care personnel must be able to see and hear well, have mechanical ability and manual dexterity to work with machines and be able to be on their feet most of the day. Therapists should be sensitive to a patient’s physical and psychological needs. In addition, operating advanced equipment requires proficiency with computers.

About 90% of respiratory therapists work in hospitals with the department of respiratory care, anesthesiology, emergency medicine or pulmonary medicine. Therapists may assist physicians is clinical setting or operating rooms. With additional education or experience, therapists may advance to supervisory positions, managerial positions or become academic instructors.


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Respiratory therapists provide respiratory and cardiopulmonary services to patients of all ages from neonatal to geriatric in a variety of settings from outpatient to critical care, including:

  • Outpatient clinics or offices
  • Hospitals (outpatient and inpatient services)
  • Sub-acute and Long-term pulmonary care settings
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation facilities
  • Education and research centers
  • Home Medical Services
  • Operating Rooms
  • Hyperbaric Services
  • Medical Flight Services
  • Pulmonary Function Labs
  • Sleep Diagnostic Centers

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 The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports median annual wages to be $52,200 in 2008. This varies by region and geographical area, position, years of experience, degree of education, and practice setting.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment in the respiratory profession is expected to grow 21% from the year 2008 to 2018. This is much faster than average and job opportunities are expected to be very good.


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