Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Career Spotlight: Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists evaluate, treat, and care for patients with breathing disorders.

Did you know that an average, healthy adult can take in over three liters of air in a single breath? Or, that the average person will breathe 23,040 times during 24 hours? That's 69,120 liters of air in a day! That is, if you are healthy. Unfortunately, many people have trouble breathing, whether they have asthma or are recovering from surgery. Respiratory therapists are the people who treat those who need help breathing.

Respiratory therapists treat all types of patients. Sometimes they care for infants whose lungs are not fully developed. More often they care for elderly people whose lungs are diseased. In some cases, they give care during patient emergencies.

Respiratory therapists usually evaluate new patients before they treat them. They test patients' lung capacity by having them breathe into an instrument that measures oxygen. They compare the reading with the norm for that patient's age, height, weight, and sex. Therapists also use a blood gas analyzer. This machine measures the levels of oxygen and acidity in patients' blood. They talk to patients and explain to them everything they are doing. This makes patients feel comfortable and helps them to cooperate. Respiratory therapists follow doctors' orders when they treat patients. They monitor patients' conditions, and consult with the doctor if there are bad reactions. They may also make treatment decisions.

Respiratory therapists operate many different devices to treat patients. For example, they connect patients to ventilators by inserting a tube down their windpipe. Then they set the rate and volume of oxygen that will flow into patients' lungs. Some patients use ventilators and other life support systems at home. Therapists teach patients how to use them and check the equipment.

Respiratory therapists also perform chest physiotherapy to remove mucus from patients' lungs. They place patients in positions to help drain mucus. Then they vibrate their rib cage and tell patients when to cough. When their lungs are clear, therapists may administer inhalants. An inhalant is a liquid medicine mixed with gas. Therapists teach patients how to inhale properly so the medicine is most effective.

Respiratory therapists maintain patients' charts as they treat them. They record the results of evaluations and all treatment notes. They may also keep separate records of materials they use and the charges to patients. They make sure that all safety precautions are followed. In addition, therapists with experience may train and supervise new therapists and other staff.

Respiratory therapists sometimes have tasks that fall outside their typical role. They may perform procedures that test heart and lung function, such as stress tests. They may also draw blood samples from patients.


~Treat patients of all ages using a variety of therapy and treatments.

~Work hours may vary: days, nights, weekends, holidays.

~Often work under the supervision of a doctor.

~Train through a two or four year program. Must have a license.

~Median salary in Ohio $51,400.00

~Very in demand field, and continually growing.

For more in formation about a career in Respiratory Therapy, or any health related occupation visit the Ohio Career Information website: (OCIS)

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