Respiratory therapy is best described as the assessment and treatment of patients with both acute and chronic dysfunction of the cardiopulmonary system.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing, for example from a chronic respiratory disease such as asthma or emphysema. Their patients range from premature infants with underdeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also help provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning or shock.
Respiratory therapists also perform a wide array of diagnostic tests. Pulmonary function tests, as well as many other types of diagnostic tests, are performed at the Forks Community Hospital in the cardiopulmonary department. This is where a licensed respiratory therapist may test lung capacity by having a patient breathe into an instrument that measures volume and flow when they inhale and exhale. Respiratory therapists may also perform arterial blood gasses to determine oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Other diagnostic tests commonly performed by respiratory therapists are: Cardiac stress treadmill tests, EKG’s, cardiac patch and Holter monitoring, spirometry and pulse oximetry testing.
Respiratory therapists are also trained to operate a ventilator and assist during intubations where a physician or a nurse anesthetist inserts a tube into the patient’s lungs.
Today’s respiratory therapists have demanding responsibilities related to patient care and serve as vital members of the healthcare team.
Doug Devine, Director of Cardiopulmonary at Forks Community Hospital and Licensed Respiratory Care Practitioner stated, “The field of respiratory care is wide open right now with a lot of opportunities. Respiratory therapists can work for hospitals, home care companies, sleep labs, medical device companies and research facilities. The opportunities are endless.”
To find out more about respiratory therapists and licensing requirements please visit:
• Bureau of Labor Statistics – Occupational Outlook Handbook
Doug Devine, Director of Cardiopulmonary
Disclaimer: This column is not intended as a diagnosis or recommended treatment of a specific condition. Answers are not a replacement for an individual medical evaluation. Individual health concerns should be evaluated by a licensed clinician.