Consider a career as a respiratory therapist

December 18, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Respiratory therapists play a crucial role in the healthcare field. They provide a variety of specialised respiratory treatments to patients who may be struggling with breathing problems and other conditions relating to cardiopulmonary disorders. Their role spans diagnostics right through to patient treatment and management of records. These professionals have a huge responsibility as they play a key role in something vital to all patients – breathing.

Student helping examine a patient with doctors during ward rounds, Tanzania. Job Description

As a respiratory therapist, a typical day would involve treating patients across all ages, from the very young to the elderly. You will work alongside physicians and other healthcare employees as part of a team to help manage patient care. Part of your task would be to provide specific respiratory diagnostics and therapies to patients depending on their diagnosis.

There is a lot of scope to progress in this speciality as you gain more experience. You would most likely start your career working in a clinical setting but after you’ve gained sufficient experience, you could move up to a role caring for patients who are critically ill. This requires considerably advanced skills.

Eventually, you could aim to work in a teaching role at a university or within a hospital.

Education & Training

To become a respiratory therapist, you typically need to be at a diploma or degree level. You could even begin with a nursing degree and then take graduate work in respiratory therapy.

Most of the coursework is science-based, with various patient-focused components such as diagnostic procedures and patient management.

Essential Skills & Qualities For This Field

Because respiratory therapists work closely with physicians and other health professionals, excellent communications and people skills and the ability to work well within a team are very important.

Other necessary skills and qualities for this field include a strong attention to detail, the ability to follow instructions well when given from a physician or other member of the patient-care team and excellent computer skills to ensure all data is entered correctly.  

A good bedside manner is particularly important as a huge part of the job involves supporting patients who are frustrated with long-term breathing conditions.

Salaries & Job Prospects

With an increasing aged population and breathing problems on the rise because of high pollution levels, job prospects in respiratory therapy are currently high and expected to rise considerably over the next few years. Typical wages vary depending on the healthcare setting and the level of responsibility within a respiratory care team but you can expect to earn an average salary of around £25,000 to £35,000 a year.

Choosing A Career In Respiratory Therapy

If you feel you have the skills and are interested in pursuing a career as a respiratory therapist, it is a good idea to talk to someone already working in this role or to get some shadowing experience in this area. This will allow you to get a better idea of the daily challenges in this role, which could help you make a more informed decision about whether or not this is the right specialty for you.