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What does a Respiratory Therapist do?

Learn all about Respiratory Therapist duties, skills and much more. Get expert advice on how to become a Respiratory Therapist.

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Brenna Goyette
Certified Professional Resume Writer, Career Expert

Published 3 min read

A respiratory therapist is a health care professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of respiratory disorders. Respiratory therapists work closely with physicians to develop and implement individualized treatment plans for patients with respiratory problems. They also provide education and support to patients and their families to help them better manage their condition.

Respiratory Therapist job duties include:

  • Assess patients’ respiratory function and design treatment plans accordingly
  • Educate patients and their families about respiratory conditions and care
  • Administer respiratory therapies using various techniques
  • Monitor and record patients’ respiration, vital signs, and blood gas levels
  • Perform diagnostic tests such as spirometry and chest X-rays
  • Collaborate with physicians and other members of the healthcare team to develop care plans
  • Keep abreast of new developments in respiratory therapy and implement them as appropriate
  • Maintain equipment and supplies
  • Supervise respiratory therapy technicians and aides

Respiratory Therapist Job Requirements

Respiratory therapists must have at least an associate’s degree from an accredited program, although many have bachelor’s or master’s degrees. All states require respiratory therapists to be licensed; requirements vary by state but generally include passing an exam. Some states require continuing education for license renewal. Respiratory therapists typically need one to three years of experience before they are able to work independently.

Respiratory Therapist Skills

  • Breathing
  • Ventilators
  • Lungs
  • Airway
  • Oxygen
  • Pulmonary
  • Respiratory
  • Therapist
  • Patients
  • Assessment
  • Treatment

Related: Top Respiratory Therapist Skills: Definition and Examples

How to become a Respiratory Therapist

A Respiratory Therapist (RT) is a health care professional who provides care and treatment to patients with breathing or other pulmonary disorders. RTs work in hospitals, clinics, and other health care settings. They may also work in home health care or provide respiratory therapy services in industrial settings.

To become an RT, one must complete an accredited respiratory therapy program and pass a national certification exam. Respiratory therapy programs are typically two-year associate’s degree programs, although some schools offer four-year bachelor’s degree programs. Admission to a respiratory therapy program generally requires the completion of prerequisite coursework in biology, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology.

Once you have completed an accredited RT program and passed the national certification exam, you will need to obtain a state license in order to practice. Each state has different licensure requirements, so be sure to check with your state’s licensing board for specific requirements.

With the proper education and training, becoming a Respiratory Therapist can be a rewarding career helping others to breathe easier and live better lives.

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