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Respiratory Therapist Education Requirements

Through the Respiratory Therapist Career Guide, you learn that a respiratory therapist must have a minimum of an Associate’s degree from an accredited respiratory therapy education program. The Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) is the organization that accredits schools of respiratory therapy. 

To become a respiratory therapist, you will be in an accredited program and will take courses such as: Medical Terminology, Pharmacology, Anatomy and Physiology, Pathophysiology, Chemistry, Microbiology, Mathematics, Mechanical Ventilation, Cardiopulmmonary Anatomy and Physiology, Communication, Behavioral and Social Science, Basics of Respiratory Care and eventually your Respiratory Practicums. When you graduate you will be a well-rounded student and be eligible to take your state board examinations.

The following are the skills you will acquire to be a respiratory therapist and be able to accomplish after you gradate from an accredited Respiratory Care Program:

  • Administer and recommend oxygen and other medical gases.
  • Administer and recommend humidification therapy, including aerosolized drugs.
  • Interpret and report tests that diagnose respiratory illnesses and recommend treatment methods to evaluating physician.
  • Manage mechanical ventilators and maintain artificial airway devices for patients who are not able to breathe effectively on their own.
  • Perform chest physical therapy, broncho-pulmonary hygiene, teach breathing exercises and pulmonary rehabilitation techniques.
  • Perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Measure respiratory volumes, pressure and flows as a diagnostic tool.
  • Perform hemodynamics, pulmonary function testing and other related physiologic monitoring of the cardiopulmonary system.
  • Evaluate, Interview and clinically assess patients such as performing a chest physical exam to determine best course of treatment for their respiratory illness.
  • Educate patients and families about respiratory conditions to maximize their pulmonary rehabilitation and recovery.
  • Consult with physicians to recommend a change in therapy when needed, based on their evaluation of the patient.

Respiratory therapists work with people of all ages from newborns to the elderly that have one thing in common: they have trouble breathing. Your patients have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which encompasses asthma, chronic bronchitis and, emphysema. They have neuromuscular diseases, have suffered a traumatic brain injury or they may even be a tiny, premature infant. There are many modalities of treatment for each of these conditions.

You will follow the direction of a physician in treating and will work as a member of a team that includes nurses, doctors, occupational, physical therapists and speech therapists. You gain sharpened skills such as critical thinking, manual dexterity with the many pieces of equipment you will handle each day and you’ll also perfect your people skills as you develop relationships with your peers.

After obtaining your degree, there are two state level of credentials awarded to those students who pass their state board examinations. These exams are formulated and administered by the American Association of Respiratory Care (AARC). First, you must pass a written exam to become a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT). Next, to become a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) you must pass another written test and also a clinical examination that tests your ability to handle clinical scenarios/situations that you world face in the real world of respiratory therapy. Every two years you must earn continuing education units/credits (CEU’s) to renew your state license to practice as a respiratory therapist.

As you can see, being a respiratory therapist is a satisfying medical specialty to employed in. You have job security, a competitive respiratory therapist salary, a good work schedule, the benefits of continued education, and the appreciation of how caregivers make a difference in others lives.