Respiratory therapists are allied health professionals who specialize in assessing and improving patients’ lung functions. RTs, also called RRT’s (Registered Respiratory Therapists), assess and treat a wide array of diseases, illnesses, and injuries that affect the respiratory system. They must have advanced knowledge of pulmonary care and high-tech equipment, such as ventilators, to effectively improve a patient’s quality of life or even save it.
One of the many great aspects of a career in respiratory therapy is helping patients at all stages of life, from premature infants to the elderly. These patients rely on RTs to address asthma, COPD, pneumonia, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, lung trauma, and acute respiratory failure.
Respiratory therapists are in high demand nationwide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment growth of 21% in this field through 2028 largely due to an aging population.
Respiratory therapist salary
Respiratory therapists in full-time staff positions earned a median annual wage of $61,330 in 2019 (BLS). This is about $1,179 weekly and $29.48 per hour assuming a 40-hour work week.
According to NurseFly data, travel respiratory therapists earned a gross average weekly salary of $1,534 per week, which includes additional stipends for housing, meals, and other living expenses. Travel RTs who can claim a permanent tax-home can receive these stipends tax-free, which is why travel RT nurse pay can often be higher than an equivalent staff position.
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Respiratory Therapist FAQs
What are the best agencies for Respiratory Therapist jobs?
The agencies on NurseFly that currently have the most Respiratory Therapist jobs are Cross Country Allied (418), Anders Group (319), and MedPro Healthcare Allied Staffing (311).
How Much Do Respiratory Therapist Jobs Pay?
For jobs available on NurseFly as of Wednesday, December 2nd 2020, the average weekly pay for Respiratory Therapist jobs is $1,760, but can pay up to $4,800 per week. In 2020, Respiratory Therapists jobs on Nursefly paid a gross average weekly pay of $1,745 per week working an average of 36 hours per week. This includes non-taxable compensation like living stipends, meal stipends, and housing which add up to an average value of $1,095 per week.
- min - $482
- avg - $1,760
- max - $4,800
What does a respiratory therapist do?
Respiratory therapists are specialists trained in pulmonary medicine to work therapeutically with patients suffering from various lung conditions. They determine the need for respiratory care services and administer that care directly to patients, while educating them on lung health and breathing disorders.
RTs handle everything from treating chronic diseases, such as asthma, emphysema, COPD, and cystic fibrosis, to providing emergency care when a heart attack, shock, or drowning impacts a patient’s ability to breath. Some common tasks may include:
Assess lung and breathing disorders
Recommending pulmonary treatment methods
Establishing therapeutic goals for patients with cardiopulmonary disease
Developing and modifying respiratory care plans
Acquiring and evaluating clinical data
Performing tests and studies, such as blood gas analysis, pulmonary function, and polysomnography
Performing prescribed pulmonary rehabilitation
Performing chest physiotherapy to remove mucus from patients’ lungs
Managing ventilators and artificial airway devices, as well as non invasive ventilation aimed at preventing intubation
Where do respiratory therapists work?
Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals in a variety of settings, such as intensive care units, emergency rooms, newborn and pediatric units, step down units, and med-surg/tele units. RTs may also work in skilled nursing facilities, air medical transport and ambulance services, physician’s offices, patients’ homes, or as a traveling respiratory therapist. They may specialize in long-term acute care units, sleep labs, cardiopulmonary diagnostic labs, bronchoscopy labs, hyperbaric oxygen units, or cardiopulmonary rehabilitation centers. Some RTs may also choose to work in specific programs, such asthma education, smoking cessation, or case management.
What skills make a good respiratory therapist?
Respiratory therapists must have in-depth knowledge of human physiology and be able to apply this knowledge in a clinical setting, across all age groups. RTs must be skilled at using advanced diagnostic tools to accurately diagnose pulmonary dysfunction and measure the severity of respiratory distress.
In addition to physical care, RTs should have strong communication skills to explain procedures to patients and convey patient information to other health care professionals. RTs also need exceptional problem solving and critical thinking skills to act quickly in emergency situations because they seldom have time to second-guess themselves.
How to become a travel respiratory therapist
Aspiring respiratory therapists are required to earn an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in a respiratory care program. Both two-year and four-year programs must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care. RTs are licensed in all states, except Alaska, which recommends but doesn’t require national certification. Licensure requirements vary by state, but most require passing a state or professional certification exam. Most states use the Certified Respiratory Therapist and Registered Respiratory Therapist credentials issued by the National Board for Respiratory Care as the basis for state licensure.