Respiratory Therapist: Would You Make a Good One?
Now think of the last time you had a stuffed-up nose. It was uncomfortable and annoying. At times, maybe it was even alarming. It’s not pleasant to have to struggle for enough oxygen
Imagine what life must be like for people who have serious problems with their breathing, due to conditions such as cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease, or pneumonia.
You could help people like that. You could literally be the person who breathes new life into them. Respiratory therapists use a variety of skills and techniques to assist patients who are experiencing difficulty in their breathing. With the right training and credentials in respiratory therapy, you could become an essential part of the healthcare team.
Growing demand for respiratory therapists
Today, more people are living longer lives. Demand is increasing for respiratory therapists because many older people need help breathing. However, respiratory therapists treat patients in all age groups, even premature infants with under-developed lungs. Respiratory therapists also provide emergency treatment to people who’ve experienced a heart attack or come close to drowning.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, respiratory therapy jobs are growing “faster than average.” Here are some more job-outlook details:
- This job category is projected to grow 28% by 2020
- Over 31,000 new positions will be created nationwide by 2020
- Median pay for respiratory therapists was $26.86 per hour in 2012
- Annual median pay was $55,870 per year in 20121
Here’s some good news: You can attend a respiratory therapy school, get your associate’s degree and a license, and then get a job in the field. If you want an additional advantage or a more advanced career, bachelor’s degree programs in respiratory therapy are also available. It’s common to earn an associate’s degree, start working in the field, and then complete your bachelor’s degree later.
What does a respiratory therapist do?
As a respiratory therapist, you’ll work closely with patients to help them manage their breathing. You could work in hospitals, nursing care facilities, physician offices, outpatient care centers, or people’s homes.
When you become a respiratory therapist, your responsibilities could include the following:
- Interview and examine patients. To measure oxygen levels, you might have patients breathe into an instrument, or you might analyze a blood or tissue sample.
- Work with doctors. You’ll play a role in diagnosing patients and figuring out their treatment plans.
- Treat patients using chest physiotherapy and/or aerosol medications. To help clear a patient’s lungs, you might tap on his or her chest in certain ways, while encouraging him or her to cough.
- Manage patients on ventilators. For people who can’t breathe, you’ll hook them up to a ventilator by inserting a tube into their windpipe. You’ll then monitor the ventilator so the patient receives the right amount of oxygen. If you work in a hospital, you might even respond to a Code Blue!
- Teach patients and their families how to use equipment. For patients who need breathing support at home, you might inspect and clean their equipment, make sure no hazards are present, and double check that they’re taking their medication correctly.
- Assist in related areas. Especially if you work in a hospital, you might help people quit smoking, or you might diagnose sleep-apnea breathing problems.2
Since you’ll be working closely with people who often don’t feel well and require special attention, you’ll need compassion, patience, and good interpersonal skills. Respiratory therapists also need to solve problems, attend to details and records, and use some math and science skills.
Breathe life into your career with a respiratory therapy degree
If you’re looking for a top-notch respiratory therapy school, consider Independence University (IU), which offers online associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in respiratory therapy. IU was the first institution to offer respiratory therapy programs not only to working adults across the United States but also to those serving in the military and to international students living here.
Associate’s degree: IU’s online associate’s degree in respiratory therapy takes 26 months to complete. This program addresses all your practical and licensing needs, including hands-on experience at a clinic near you. You’ll learn how to handle sophisticated diagnostic, therapeutic, and life-support services, including ventilators, medical gases and aerosols, and cardiopulmonary assessment and monitoring. And you’ll be qualified to take the field’s credentialing exams.
Bachelor’s degree: IU’s online bachelor’s completion degree in respiratory therapy will take you just another 22 months. You can choose to concentrate on management or advanced clinical practice. This degree gives students the deeper knowledge and credentials they need to advance into supervisory/management, patient education, clinical specialist, case management, or advanced clinical practitioner positions.
“Respiratory students and practitioners should be strongly encouraged to seek higher education beyond the associate’s degree entry level to the bachelor’s level—but while they practice clinically, not before,” says Professor Deryl Gulliford, a member of IU’s senior faculty of respiratory therapy.
Professor Gulliford believes that IU provides excellent options for working respiratory therapists to continue their education while continuing to serve their patients, hospitals, and communities. “The bachelor’s degree can be accomplished in a reasonable timeframe, without relocating and without giving up employment in the field. In fact, this degree is best achieved while practicing in the field, applying course concepts to the real world.”
IU’s respiratory therapy programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).
Find out more about the online respiratory therapy programs at Independence University by visiting http://www.independence.edu or calling 1-888-856-5310.
Christopher Bigelow is a copywriter for Independence University, with over twenty years of experience in marketing and corporate communications.
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