Respiratory therapists evaluate, treat and care
for patients who have breathing disorders.
Respiratory therapists work under the supervision
of physicians to administer prescribed respiratory therapy to patients
with chronic illnesses such as asthma or emphysema. They also assist
in emergencies such as heart failure, drowning, or shock when life-support
treatment is needed.
Respiratory therapists set up, operate, and
monitor devices that provide oxygen or medicine in the form of a
mist or gas to patients. They use and maintain equipment such as
mechanical ventilators, therapeutic gas administration apparatus,
and aerosol generators. Respiratory therapists are also responsible
for teaching patients about breathing exercises, monitoring patients'
physiological responses to therapy, and maintaining natural and
artificial airways. They maintain patient records, and may also
be responsible for supervision of Respiratory Care Technicians.
Respiratory care personnel must be able to
see and hear well, have mechanical ability and manual dexterity
to work with machines, and be able to be on their feet most of the
Areas of Specialization
Respiratory therapists can learn additional skills in order to specialize
in respiratory care for neonatal, pediatric, adult, and geriatric
patients. They may also specialize in pulmonary function, education,
rehabilitation, home care, asthma education, emergency care, research,
About 90% of respiratory therapists work in hospitals with the department
of respiratory care, anesthesiology, emergency medicine or pulmonary
medicine. Therapists may assist physicians in clinical settings
or operating rooms. Others work in diagnostic centers, extended
care facilities, home health agencies, ambulance/transport services,
and oxygen and medical equipment rental companies.
The number of Respiratory Therapists employed in Florida in 2006
was 6,139. It is projected that in 2014 there will be 7,442, an
annual average growth rate of 2.7 percent.
Length of Training/Requirements
There are two primary educational pathways - either a two-year associate
degree program or four years in a university leading to the baccalaureate
degree. The curriculum usually includes core courses in fundamentals
of respiratory therapy, anatomy and physiology, cardiopulmonary
pathology, pediatric and neonatal respiratory therapy, pharmacology,
physiologic monitoring, introduction to psychology, and clinical
practicum. Baccalaureate degree programs may grant specific certificates
of completion allowing students to apply for the entry level and/or
advanced practitioner credentialing exams after completion of the
coursework commensurate with the requirements for an associate degree
With additional education or experience, therapists may advance
to supervisory positions, managerial positions, or become academic
In order to be eligible for a state license, a graduate must earn
the Certified Respiratory Therapist title (CRT) from the National
Board for Respiratory Care. All graduates from accredited programs
are eligible to take the certification exam. Most programs are designated
to allow graduates to take the Registered Respiratory Therapist
(RRT) exam after passing the CRT exam. Specialty credentials may
be earned in Neonatal/Pediatric, Pulmonary Function and Asthma Education.
Continuing education hours are required every two years to maintain