Respiratory care is an allied health specialty which provides a wide range of therapeutic and diagnostic services to patients with heart and lung disorders. Respiratory therapists, also known as respiratory care practitioners, are involved in the evaluation and monitoring of of heart and lung function as well as giving treatment.
Respiratory therapists are important members of the health care team. They work under the medical direction of doctors to treat all types of patients, ranging from premature infants whose lungs are not fully developed to elderly people with lung disease. They provide temporary relief to patients with chronic asthma or emphysema, as well as emergency care to patients who are victims of a heart attack, stroke, drowning or shock.
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Respiratory care is a professionally and personally rewarding career with a balanced blend of technology and patient interaction. Specific care provided by respiratory therapists may include: administration of oxygen, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, management of mechanical ventilators, administering drugs to the lungs, monitoring cardiopulmonary systems and measuring lung function.
Respiratory Care video
For more information about a career in respiratory care and to view an online video, visit the American Association For Respiratory Care.
Job opportunities are expected to be very good, especially for respiratory therapists. Employment of respiratory therapists is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2018, because of substantial growth in numbers of the middle-aged and elderly population - a development that will heighten the incidence of cardiopulmonary disease.
Respiratory therapists held about 107,000 jobs in 2008. More than four out of five jobs were in hospital departments of respiratory care, anesthesiology, or pulmonary medicine. Most of the remaining jobs were found in offices of physicians or other health practitioners, consumer goods rental firms that supply respiratory equipment for home use, nursing care facilities and home health-care services.
Median annual earnings of respiratory therapists were $52,200 in 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $44,490 and $61,720. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,920 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $69,800. In general medical and surgical hospitals, median annual earnings of respiratory therapists were $53,950 in 2009.
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