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What Do Respiratory Therapists Do?

what do respiratory therapists do

Respiratory therapists serve a wide array of patients with lung diseases, illnesses and injuries.

Respiratory therapists, depending upon their specialty, see patients ranging from premature babies in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) struggling to take their first breaths to fragile elders taking their last. They also vary in where they work and their work hours, depending upon their specialties.

What respiratory therapist may do in a day:

  • Physical examination of patients
  • Analyzing x-rays as well as blood, tissue and breath for oxygen levels
  • Diagnosis of lung and breathing problems
  • Discussing with physicians treatment recommended
  • Counseling patients about treatment methods and respiratory therapy that will improve their condition
  • Managing breathing equipment for patients depending upon them, such as life support mechanical respiration systems
  • Responding to emergency calls for patients struggling to breathe
  • Checking vital signs
  • Monitoring rehabilitative efforts
  • Educating patients about their health

Though not medical doctors, respiratory therapists play an integral role in how patients with respiratory illness and disease receive care. Respiratory therapists’ input contributes much to their recovery or comfort care.

Where respiratory therapist may work

Every person breathes, so the age range of respiratory therapy patients is lifelong.

Babies in the NICU usually need breathing assistance. A respiratory therapist may be consulted at a high risk birth, such as a premature baby or one with other complications.

Many other departments in the hospital need respiratory therapists, such as the emergency room. Difficulty in breathing represents one of the top vital signs that lands patients in the ER.

People of all ages experience asthma and cystic fibrosis. Whether an acute attack or regular care, respiratory therapists may be involved in treating these patients. Lung diseases that older adults tend to have, such as emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer, also need the care of a respiratory therapist. These patients may be seen at a specialist’s office, doctor’s office or hospital. Geriatric patients may receive care in their homes or at a long-term care facility, in addition to a hospital or specialist’s office.

Respiratory therapists’ work hours

When a respiratory therapists works depends upon where he/she works. Naturally, an emergency room, urgent care or hospital respiratory therapist would tend to work more irregular hours and likely have on-call obligations. Working at an out-patient facility helps the respiratory therapist work more regularly as those patients are seen for scheduled appointments and more routine care.