How Does a Respiratory Therapist Spend a Work Day?


What Is a Respiratory Therapist?

  • Respiratory therapists are health care employees that work either autonomously for a respiratory care department or directly under a physician. They care for patients who may be suffering from injury or diseases that affect the lungs are cause problems breathing. This requires them to be able to work with patients as young as a few hours old to seniors. It is their job to administer treatments and medication to patients as directed by a doctor as therapy for people with chronic lung problems or as emergency lifesaving procedures such as in an emergency room of a hospital. Respiratory therapists hold degrees as medical technicians--either an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree, depending on the requirements of the course. The average respiratory therapist works 40 hours a week in an indoor environment and makes an average of $40,000 each year.

Where Do Respiratory Therapists Work?

  • Respiratory therapists are considered critical staff members in any medical facility. The vast majority, 80 percent, work in hospitals. They also work in doctor's offices and private practices, nursing homes and mobile respiratory services where they go to people's homes to give them respiratory therapy.

How Does a Respiratory Therapist Spend a Work Day?

  • As most respiratory therapists work in hospitals, their workdays are the most pertinent. A therapist will work three or four days a week. Three of those days will be the morning or afternoon shift, while the fourth will be the night shift. If working three days a week, one can expect 12 hour shifts spent on your feet with a few moments of rest every few hours if it's a slow day. Typically at the beginning of the shift the therapist will receive a printout detailing the people whom he must see to and what treatments they will require. He will also have a beeper with him. If it goes off, it is possible that he must immediately run to the emergency room to intubate a critical or dying patient in order to keep her breathing. During the day, the therapist may be required to carry out any of the following duties: test a patient's lung capacity by having her breathe in a specialized instrument and calculate the concentrations of gas within exhalations, interpret the results of stress tests, analyze samples of sputum for possible bronchial or lung infections, administer oxygen, intubate patients and connect them to artificial respirators, perform CPR, compute and administer inhaled medications, update patient charts, perform chest physiotherapy and clean and maintain all critical therapy equipment. After this, the very tired physical therapist goes home, collapses, and does it all over again the next day.

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