Respiratory Therapists work alongside doctors and help them diagnose, treat, manage and care for patients with respiratory (breathing) problems. They use a variety of methods to treat patients, like oxygen masks and ventilators. Other responsibilities include monitoring equipment, observing patients, testing and monitoring cardio-pulmonary function, assessing patients' conditions and recommending changes in treatment. In addition, Respiratory Therapists educate patients, families, and hospital staff. The Therapist is also involved in maintenance, repair, and testing of respiratory equipment. A Respiratory Therapist may choose to work in a hospital (including the OR) homecare, or clinics, to name a few.
For most people, breathing is as easy and natural as blinking but for thousands of Canadians, breathing is a struggle. They might be accident victims, premature babies with immature lungs, heart attack and stroke patients, or people who live with asthma and emphysema.
Respiratory Therapists generally work between 25 and 40 hours a week. Most work in hospitals and have to be prepared to work late nights, evenings and weekends. It is physically demanding as they spend long hours on their feet monitoring patients, and lifting equipment and supplies. The job can be stressful, especially when emergencies occur.
Respiratory Therapists earn between $40,000 and $55 000 a year. Most have full-time positions, although many part-time opportunities exist. Education and experience can affect salary scales.
(a) Personal Characteristics
Respiratory Therapists require patience and compassion. It's also important to be in good physical shape, be able to work well under pressure and work well as part of a team. Good communication skills and a willingness to keep up to date with changes in the field are also important requirements.
(b) High School
In high school, it is important to take upper level courses in math, chemistry, English, and biology or physics. Admission requirements for post-secondary education should be checked carefully.
(c) Post Secondary
A three year (diploma) or four year (degree) program in respiratory therapy is required. Dalhousie University offers a four year degree program with a diploma exit possible after the completion of year three.
Following graduation, students are eligible to write the national registration examinations of the Canadian Board for Respiratory Care. Successful candidates earn the CSRT Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential. Passing this examination permits the student to practice in Nova Scotia and most other provinces.
Opportunities in this field are expected to grow at an above average rate. It is a relatively new field and most opportunities are still found in large urban centres. As the environment worsens, and the population gets older, more people will need respiratory care.
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