What does a respiratory therapist do?

A respiratory therapist helps patients who are having trouble breathing. Respiratory therapists work under the direction of doctors. They treat a range of patients, from premature infants whose lungs are not fully developed to elderly people with lung disease.

Respiratory therapists may give a patient oxygen, resuscitate a patient, manage ventilators, measure lung function, or administer drugs to the lungs.

People they work with: Doctors, nurses, and patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly

Where they work: Hospitals, cardiopulmonary diagnostic labs, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, and home health agencies

Career outlook for a respiratory therapist

Job opportunities are expected to be very good for respiratory therapists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of respiratory therapists to grow much faster than average. Respiratory therapists are in demand to care for the large aging population. Older people are more likely to experience lung and heart conditions that may benefit from respiratory therapy.

With additional training and experience, some therapists may advance to staff therapist or administrative positions. Others start their own respiratory care companies or move into equipment marketing and sales.

Respiratory therapist programs at Mayo Clinic

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