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All About Respiratory Therapy

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Created on 15 October 2014

What is a Respiratory Therapist?

Respiratory therapists (sometimes called respiratory care practitioners) are the best-kept secret in health care!  We are clinicians who work throughout the American healthcare system...most commonly in hospitals, also in clinics, home health, pulmonary function laboratories, and some physician offices.

So, like a nurse?

Not really.  While we have a great deal of respect for our fellow healthcare professionals, we have unique training and education.  Respiratory therapists specialize in the heart and lungs, illnesses that affect the cardiovascular system, and treatments for those illnesses.

Gotcha.  What kind of qualifications do you need?

Respiratory therapists attend college programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC).  Graduates of these programs receive either a 2- or 4-year degree, and must pass two credentialling examinations from the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC), including a multiple-choice knowlege exam and a clinical simulation exam, before calling themselves respiratory therapists.  Respiratory therapists also are required by law in 49 states (come on, Alaska!) to hold a state license to practice respiratory care, and obtain continuing education credits.

That's a lot of stuff!  Don't you guys just give people inhalers?

Breathing treatments are just a part of what we do.  Respiratory therapists are an integral part of the interdisciplinary team.  Alongside nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and other clinicians, respiratory therapists manage mechanical ventilators and provide treatment suggestions to help care for critically ill patients, and we respond to virtually every medical emergency inside most hospitals.  We provide home oxygen therapy and other home health procedures, and teach patients how to use medical equipment.  We help diagnose and manage sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).  We help people with long-term lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis lead active, productive lives by coordinating pulmonary rehabilitation programs.  And, yes, we do inhaler and nebulizer treatments, too.

You just treat adults, then?

Absolutely not!  Many therapists work in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), caring for premature babies with underdeveloped lungs.  These therapists are often also present at high-risk deliveries, just in case problems develop.  Many more therapists work with older children both inside and out of the hospital setting, working with cases ranging from accidental trauma to asthma.  Some therapists even span age groups, working with chronic conditions like asthma and cystic fibrosis, teaching patients how to manage their symptoms and treat flare-ups.  Respiratory therapists treat patients from the first day of their lives to the last.

I had no idea respiratory therapists did so much!

That's why we call ourselves the best-kept secret in healthcare!  Respiratory therapists are on the front lines, researching new treatments, working with advanced equipment, and teaching patients and the general public.  It's a fantastic career choice!

Proper MDI Use Almost Nonexistant In New Study

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Created on 03 November 2013

Antistatic pediatric asthma spacer inhaler CE In news that will probably shock no respiratory therapist anywhere, a new study shows that vanishingly few adults properly administer inhalers to asthmatic children in their care. It's unclear why there's such a problem with education, but this appears to be another area where failure to utilize respiratory therapists is leading to lower quality care.


Turning the Tide on RSV

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Created on 03 November 2013


disease-picture-comThe National Institutes of Health estimate that respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), nemesis of pediatric RTs everywhere, accounts for 7% of infant deaths worldwide.  On the flip side, the NIH also now estimates a vaccine is now not only feasible, but in the works.  ‚ÄúThis work marks a major step forward," according to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID).