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Students interested in pursuing a career in respiratory care therapy must enter an accredited program, earning either a associate or bachelor's degree. Students will learn a variety of sciences, as well as participate in practical supervised sessions in a clinical setting that provide students the hours and experience necessary for licensure. Students of such a programs will learn to operate the machinery that is responsible for patient breathing when they are unable to breathe on their own, as well as provide care and treatment for patients experiencing difficulty breathing. Additionally, students will learn medical terminology and the methods used for keeping and updating records in regards to patient history and treatment plans.
A curriculum in respiratory care therapy may include:
A career in respiratory care therapy requires individuals to be licensed by their state (except Alaska). Licensure procedure varies by state, though typically requires a short program of study, exam and fee. Additionally, therapists may pursue certification, which increases your chances of being hired. Certification is available through the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) and offered at two levels. The first is Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT), which requires a minimum of an associate degree to take. The second is Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) which requires an individual to have a CRT and a certain amount of experience in order to take the exam.
Individuals working in the field of respiratory care therapy work alongside physicians in order to provide care and support for patients. Individuals in this field will document patient progress, assist in treatment plans, provide regular care for long term patients, and maintain equipment related to machine facilitated breathing. Additionally, respiratory care therapists are responsible for the education responsible in treating respiratory conditions, such as offering instruction for patients suffering from asthma on how and when to use inhalers.
Job growth in respiratory health care is expected to grow very rapidly over the next decade as the population ages, producing an increase in need for professionals capable of assisting in respiratory conditions brought on by aging. Additionally, factors such as smoking and pollution also contribute to the overall need for such professionals, adding to expected demand. The average salary for a therapist is about $54,000 per year, though actual pay varies based on experience, certification, education and location.