What Exactly Does a Respiratory Therapist Do?

Reviewed on 3/4/2021

Respiratory therapists deal with patients having breathing difficulties caused due to lung diseases.
Respiratory therapists deal with patients having breathing difficulties caused due to lung diseases.

Respiratory therapists deal with patients having breathing difficulties caused due to lung diseases. They are trained to rehabilitate people with chronic lung diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and occupational lung diseases that can result from genetic and environmental issues. Respiratory therapists deal with patients with lung distress or breathlessness due to complications from:

Respiratory therapists teach these patients chest exercises, how to sleep in the proper position, proper breathing techniques, and how to care for their tracheostomy tubes.

Respiratory therapists may also rehabilitate the individuals who suffer from the following conditions that attribute to breathing difficulties:

The duties of a respiratory therapist include:

  • Examining and interviewing the patients who have lung diseases or complications
  • Analyzing diagnostic and function tests to measure lung capacity and capability
  • Consulting with physicians and nurses to create treatment plans
  • Treating patients using a variety of methods, such as aerosol medications and chest physiotherapy
  • Assessing the progress of treatment
  • Giving inhalants and mucolytic via nebulizers
  • RT tube and tracheostomy tube care
  • Recording care by updating charts and records
  • Working mechanical ventilators and other machines
  • Teaching patients how to take treatments and use equipment on their own
  • Recommending equipment and treatment for outpatient or home health
  • Protecting patients (and other healthcare employees) through stringent protocols

Who is a respiratory therapist?

A respiratory therapist is trained and skilled to examine, diagnose, and treat patients with lung diseases. They are certified medical professionals but not medical doctors. However, they work closely with physicians and nurses to diagnose and monitor the patient’s condition. Respiratory therapists work with people of all ages, from infants to the elderly, and play a critical role in helping people to survive the disease. 

If someone is interested in a career that won’t take several, costly years of medical school, a career as a respiratory therapist would be an ideal option. 

What is the desired qualification for a respiratory therapist?

To become a respiratory therapist, one should have the following qualifications:

  • At least an associate degree but preferably a bachelor degree
  • Two years of supervised training in practical experience with patient treatment
  • A licensure certified from the state

What are the different types of work environments?

A respiratory therapist may work in the following settings:

What are the personality traits required for a respiratory therapist?

A respiratory therapist should have the following personality traits:

  • Compassion
  • Sacrifice
  • Willingness to continue learning
  • Enjoy teamwork
  • Excellent work ethic
  • Well-prepared to work irregular hours
  • Verbal communication skills
  • Calm bedside manner
  • Profound knowledge of infectious control
  • Good judgment and quick decision-making ability
  • Time management skills
  • Physiological knowledge
  • Perseverance and ability to teach and train patients
  • Attention to detail
  • Science and math skills


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