A respiratory therapist provides a wide range of treatments to people who have cardiopulmonary, or breathing, problems. The therapist may consult with other health practitioners to develop patient care plans, provide complex therapies, evaluate and examine patients, and supervise respiratory therapy technicians.
Respiratory therapists work in clinics, hospitals, nursing care facilities, home health care agencies and home care settings. A clinical respiratory therapist may treat infants who have underdeveloped lungs or patients who have lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma or cystic fibrosis. Some of the tasks that a therapist may complete include inserting a ventilation tube in a patient’s windpipe and connecting it to an oxygen delivery machine or removing mucous from the patient’s lungs. A respiratory therapist who provides emergency care may assist victims who are in shock, have drowned or have suffered a heart attack. Therapists who work in home health care settings may set up life support equipment and ventilators and teach caregivers how to use the equipment properly. Therapists may start off their careers by providing general care services to patients, then progress toward caring for those who are critically ill. Experienced therapists can work as supervisors, branch managers or become teachers in respiratory therapist training programs.