When considering a career in the health professions, most individuals consider nursing, medicine, dentistry and physician assisting, but tend to overlook less common careers in health care like respiratory therapist. Many folks know that respiratory therapists work with individuals who struggle breathing, but lack much more insight into the profession.
Some of the most caring and altruistic people are drawn to careers in health care. Becoming an allopathic medical doctor or osteopathic medical professional are career trajectories that require upward of a decade spent in school to receive education and residency. Dental school is another long, demanding road. Respiratory therapy certification on the other hand requires two years for an associate’s degree, and by the end of the program and after passing a licensure exam, professional respiratory therapists are ready to start interacting closely with patients. The road to becoming a respiratory therapist is quite condensed compared with other professions in allied health.
Who will I work with as a respiratory therapist? Respiratory therapists have a wide range of patients on their caseload, which might include a newborn who is struggling to breathe with underdeveloped lungs to a middle-aged woman undergoing open-heart surgery. You might work closely with a family who has a loved one breathing on a ventilator, providing education on how to work the equipment.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a respiratory therapist is developing close relationships with your patients. You will examine patients, measure their oxygen levels, write treatment plans, manage patients on ventilators and teach patients and their families how to use equipment. If you prefer a more “behind the scenes” role in health care, respiratory therapy is not the right choice for you. Patience, kindness, respect and good ethics are all required for a successful career as a respiratory therapist.