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A Day in the Life of a Respiratory Therapist

Exciting, difficult, joyful, sad, fulfilling, a calling - these are just a few words used to describe the emotions one can feel during a typical day as a registered respiratory therapist. The opportunity to change lives every day is almost limitless.

Upon arriving at work, there is a sense of anticipation for what the day will bring. Will I be the first to help a newborn take its first breath? Will I be the therapist who delivers the treatment that breaks an asthma attack? Will I be the therapist who intubates the cardiac arrest patient or manages the life support system of the open heart surgery patient? Will I be the therapist who teaches a family how to care for their loved one who is going home on a ventilator?

As a respiratory therapist, you can choose to work in a variety of healthcare settings.

  • In a pulmonary function lab, you may perform vital tests to determine the extent of damage done to a patient's lungs.
  • As a transport therapist, air or ground, you may bring critically ill patients to the hospital or transport patients to another facility.
  • Respiratory therapists often care for premature newborns who cannot breathe on their own. You may even be part of the team that monitors the baby and the life support system keeping them alive.
  • Intensive Care Units (ICU) often need respiratory therapists to monitor the ventilators that oxygenate and ventilate patients until they are well enough to breathe on their own.
  • Respiratory patient education may include a 3rd grader who needs to know how to use their metered dose inhaler (MDI) and peak-flow meter. Patient education often times decreases the number of times a patient has to come to the hospital and could even save their life.

From critical care to patient and family education, the respiratory therapist is a vital part of the healthcare team as they help those with breathing problems get well and improve the quality of their day to day lives.