Respiratory Therapist Salary And Info

doctor checking the baby's heart using stethoscope

Are you aspiring to become a medical practitioner? Does the idea of diagnosing and treating patients suffering from respiratory diseases, such as asthma excite you? Then you should consider becoming a respiratory therapist. Just like any other allied healthcare career, the jobs are forecasted to grow significantly. The respiratory therapist salary is enticing and you will work with patients, making them feel better. Nothing is more fulfilling than caring for patients and seeing them get better.

However, to become a certified respiratory therapist, you need to meet educational and certification requirements. Once you do so, it will be easy for you to land your dream job. So what does it take to become a respiratory therapist? This article highlights what respiratory therapist do, the respiratory therapist salary and job description, and educational and certification requirements.

What Is A Respiratory Therapist?

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Respiratory therapy entails assessing and treating patients with both chronic and acute cardiopulmonary system (heart and lung problems) dysfunctions. Their responsibilities in relation to patient care are typically demanding and are vital players of the healthcare team. Respiratory therapists may also be involved in treating infections, diseases, or viruses of the cardiopulmonary system, including lung cancer, pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.

They also treat patients with sleep apnea, cystic fibrosis, those having a heart attack or suffering a stroke. Respiratory therapists save lives for patients with trauma. They conduct diagnostic tests for lung capacity, administering breathing treatments, recording the progress made by patients, and consulting with physicians and surgeons on the continuity of care.

They are usually found in acute-care hospital settings working in the intensive care units, emergency room, the newborn and pediatric intensive care units, and the pulmonary diagnostics laboratory. The therapists attend to patients of all ages, ranging from infants whose lungs are underdeveloped to senior citizens who have advanced cardiopulmonary issues, such as the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Working Conditions

Besides hospital settings, they also work in pulmonary rehabilitation clinics. They typically counsel patients regarding topics such as disease prevention, how to stop smoking, and how to keep a healthy respiratory system. In addition, they may also work in home settings caring for patients, especially senior citizens, teaching them and their families on how to use assistive breathing devices.

To surmise, respiratory therapists will work in:


  • Acute care hospitals (employ about 75% of the therapists)
  • Sleep disorder centers
  • Diagnostic laboratories
  • Wellness centers
  • Patients’ homes
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Patient transport systems
  • Educational institutions
  • Convalescent and retirement centers
  • Rehabilitation, long-term acute care, and skilled nursing facilities

Respiratory Therapist Salary And Job Description

Job Duties And Responsibilities

Respiratory therapists restore the pulmonary function of patients, alleviate pain, and support life, mainly by planning and administering medically prescribed respiratory therapy. Besides treatment, they are involved in diagnosing lung diseases and breathing disorders and make recommendations of the best treatment options. Therefore, this implies that their work entails examining patients, analyzing specimens from patients, and conducting chest examinations.

They should have an extensive knowledge of the cardiopulmonary system, but should also know how to operate machines and devices used in the administration of respiratory care treatments. This is because they are in most cases involved in managing patients with ventilators among other artificial airway devices and assessing the oxygen level in patients’ blood.

We have compiled some responsibilities of respiratory therapists:


  • Administration of aerosol-based medications
  • Management of life support and mechanical ventilation systems
  • Management of artificial airways
  • Patient assessment of lung capacity to determine their impairment
  • Counsel people in cardiopulmonary health, for example, smoking cessation and asthma education
  • Conduct rehabilitation activities, such as patient education on cardiopulmonary health
  • Monitoring equipment used in cardiopulmonary therapy
  • Analysis of sputum specimens and chest x-rays
  • Assessment of vital cardiopulmonary signs and red flags
  • Conduct studies in relation to the cardiopulmonary system
  • Conducting tests and studies in relation to the cardiopulmonary system, including stress tests and examinations
  • Consult with other medical practitioners to recommend a change in therapy
  • Analyzing patients’ blood samples to determine the blood-oxygen levels among other gases
  • Complying with state, federal, and local legal and certification requirements by studying legislation, both new and existing

Respiratory therapy is typically practiced under medical direction, which implies that respiratory therapists work with the rest of the medical team, coordinating their efforts to achieve a common goal of making patients feel better. 

Their work includes participating in:


  • Health promotion activities and programs
  • Disease management
  • Patient education
  • Clinical decision-making
  • Disease prevention
  • Developing and implementing treatment plans and protocols
baby lying down while doctor checking up the lungs using stethoscope

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Important Skills and Characteristics

Skills important to respiratory therapists include:


  • The ability to adapt to new technology
  • Organized and meticulous
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Patience and empathy
  • Assessment skills
  • Advanced knowledge in evidence-based clinical practice
  • The ability to work independently, but also in a team of medical practitioners
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Impeccable attention to detail

Respiratory Therapist Salary And Career Outlook

According to the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), the average annual salary for respiratory therapists is $62,222. However, as per the BLS latest reports, the 2017 median salary was $59,710 annually. The approximate hourly salary is $28.71. As reported by AARC, like many other healthcare professions, the demand is projected to rise. A similar trend is expected in terms of wages.

Based on location, BLS reports that the top paying states for respiratory therapists are:


  • California: $75,870
  • New Jersey: $69,580
  • Nevada: $69,340
  • Alaska: $68,790
  • Massachusetts: $67,620

Metropolitans with the highest respiratory therapist salary are:


  • San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA: around $90,230
  • Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, CA: around $88,000
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: around $86,620
  • Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: around $85,240
  • Sacramento-Arden-Arcade-Roseville, CA: around $85,020

This implies working in California will offer you better respiratory therapist salary than any other state. The BLS reported that the number of jobs for respiratory therapists was 130,200. The job outlook, as per the BLS, is set to grow by 23%, which is faster than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026. This also translates to an employment change of an additional 30,500 jobs is the same time period.

The growth in the middle-aged and the senior population will lead to an increased incidence of the cardiopulmonary condition, such as COPD and pneumonia. This will lead to an increase in the demand of respiratory therapists. Therefore, the job outlook is positive and choosing this career will be beneficial.

Education And Certification 

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Education

The minimum educational requirements for respiratory therapists is an associate’s degree, but they can also possess advanced degrees to enjoy more opportunities and respiratory therapist salary. Advanced degrees for respiratory therapists include master’s and bachelor’s degrees, which provide students with additional clinical experience, as well as an in-depth study in cardiopulmonary care techniques. The American Association for Respiratory Care reports that there are hundreds of associate’s programs and over 50 bachelor’s degrees, and only a few master’s programs.


You should anticipate delving into microbiology, anatomy, chemistry, mathematics, and pharmacology. The programs also offer training on effectively performing diagnostic tests and patent assessments.

Certification

It is mandatory to hold a state licensure. Every state requires respiratory therapists to be licensed for you to practice, except Alaska. For you to become licensed, you must complete a respiratory therapy education program at the associate's or bachelor’s level. However, ensure that the program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).


Candidates should also earn either an advanced level Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential or an entry-level Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credential via the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) to qualify for licensure.


Just like other allied health professionals, respiratory therapists should apply for licensure and maintain it in accordance with the respiratory care board requirements for each state. This entails completing specific continuing education requirements.


You may also specialize by obtaining other certifications, for example, the Sleep Disorders Testing and Therapeutic Intervention Respiratory Care Specialist credential or the Neonatal/Pediatric Respiratory Care Specialist credential.

Conclusion

doctor checking up the baby's heartbeat

Image via Freepik

Respiratory therapists are involved in treating infections, diseases, or viruses of the cardiopulmonary system, including lung cancer, pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, sleep apnea, cystic fibrosis, those experiencing a heart attack or suffering a stroke. These professionals typically counsel patients and also work in home settings caring for patients. They are not limited to that as they can still work in acute care hospitals, sleep disorder centers, diagnostic laboratories, wellness centers, patients’ homes, and physicians’ offices among other work environments.

In these work settings, they restore the pulmonary function of patients, alleviate pain, and support life, mainly by planning and administering medically prescribed respiratory therapy. Besides treating patients, they help in diagnosing lung diseases and breathing disorders and making recommendations of the treatment options. The BLS reported that the 2017 median salary was $59,710 annually. The approximate hourly salary is $28.71.

For you to practice, you should meet educational and certification requirements. The minimum educational requirements for respiratory therapists is an associate’s degree. However, the program should be CoARC accredited. It is mandatory to hold a state licensure where candidates should earn either an advanced level RRT credential or an entry-level CRT credential through the NBRC. However, you should maintain the license by completing specific continuing education requirements. We hope this article has adequately addressed what respiratory therapist do, the respiratory therapist salary and job description, and educational and certification requirements.

Featured Image: Image via Freepik

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