The Respiratory Care Profession
Respiratory Care is an exciting field dedicated to helping patients with cardiopulmonary (heart-lung) disorders, such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, trauma, and post-operative complications. The practice of Respiratory Care encompasses activities in diagnostic evaluation, therapy, and education of patients found in neonatal/pediatric units, adult general and intensive care units, pulmonary function labs, pulmonary rehabilitation and home care. RTs practice under qualified medical direction while working closely with physicians, nurses, and other allied health professionals to deliver direct bedside care to patients of all ages.
Diagnostic activities include obtaining and analyzing sputum and blood specimens, performing breathing studies to determine if lung function is impaired, performing sleep disorder studies, and interpreting the data obtained from these.
Therapy may include: administering medical gases and respiratory medications to alleviate breathing problems, applying and monitoring mechanical ventilatory and cardiovascular support, maintaining artificial airways, and performing bronchopulmonary hygiene procedures and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation activities.
Education of the patient, family and public promotes knowledge of cardiopulmonary disease, medical therapy and wellness.
Graduates of accredited respiratory care programs may take a series of examinations that lead to the Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential. Graduates readily find employment in hospital, clinic, and home care settings throughout the United States. Opportunities also exist in management, education, sleep labs, research, sales and public health.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics , "employment of respiratory therapists is expected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2018. This increase is attributed to a substantail growth in the numbers of the middle-aged and elderly populations that will heighten the incidence of cardiopulmonary disease." Mean annual earnings for respiratory therapists is $56,260 (www.bls.gov, "National Occupational and Wage Estimates", May, 2010).
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