For most people, breathing comes easy. For people such as heart attack and stroke victims, premature babies, sick or anesthetized patients, and asthma sufferers, breathing may be a more difficult task. Respiratory therapists work with these types of patients as well as to preventing respiratory problems in the first place. If you choose to become a respiratory therapist, you can expect to be in high demand as the medical field continues to grow rapidly, catering to an aging population.
If you decide to pursue a career in respiratory therapy, you will need to complete an accredited respiratory therapy program. This might entail obtaining a bachelor's degree, although an associate's degree is much more common. Your education will begin with basic chemistry, anatomy, biology, physiology and mathematics studies. Then you will move on to more advanced and specialized classes such as diagnostic procedures, equipment use and care, patient assessment, and cardiac and pulmonary resuscitation, rehabilitation, and treatment. Most likely, you will study health promotion and disease prevention, medical recordkeeping, and billing as well. In most states, you will have to become licensed after completion of your studies with a test called the CRT (certified respiratory therapist) examination.
Most often, respiratory therapists work for hospitals in the emergency room or assist anesthesiologists with patients undergoing surgery. Some respiratory therapy professionals open private practices or work for home care companies, traveling to patient's homes. There is also the possibility of doing research in a pharmaceutical or diagnostic company. As a respiratory therapist, you may choose to educate students in a classroom or promote respiratory health and disease prevention.