What is a Respiratory Therapist?

Respiratory therapists are healthcare professionals who work collaboratively with other members of the healthcare team to diagnose and treat people of all ages with breathing problems.

Most of us do not even think about breathing; it is a natural part of living. However, for some people breathing can be quite a struggle. Some people can have long-term breathing difficulties such as asthma or emphysema. Others may have trouble breathing as a result of something unexpected or sudden like a motor vehicle accident or a heart attack. For these people and many others, a respiratory therapist will play a key role in optimizing their health and overcoming the impact of their condition. Respiratory therapists are involved in the care of patients in many different settings.

A career as a Respiratory Therapist could involve:

  • Providing and maintaining an airway for people who can no longer breathe on their own
  • Managing mechanical ventilators (life support machines)
  • Assessing and evaluating patients’ cardiorespiratory status
  • Obtaining and analyzing blood gas samples
  • Inserting invasive lines
  • Performing and interpreting cardiopulmonary diagnostics: these may include pulmonary function testing, sleep laboratory evaluation or cardiac catheterization
  • Providing anesthesia assistance in the operating room
  • Transporting critically-ill patients
  • Managing cardiac arrest and trauma patients
  • Resuscitating new born babies
  • Assessing and treating people in their home who require respiratory assistance
  • Administrating respiratory medications
  • Educating patients about their conditions and in self-management techniques

September 7, 2011