Respiratory care practitioners care for people with breathing disorders. They work with premature infants with underdeveloped lungs, patients who have had heart attacks or strokes and patients who have chronic diseases like asthma or emphysema. The typical duties of respiratory therapists include giving oxygen to patients, measuring lung capacity, monitoring oxygen concentration in blood and using equipment such as ventilators to maintain a patient's oxygen supply. They may administer aerosol medications that patients inhale. Respiratory therapists perform chest physiotherapy on patients with chronic lung disease to remove mucus from their lungs and make it easier to breathe. This may involve placing the patient in a position that helps drain mucus, thumping and vibrating the patient's rib cage and encouraging them to cough. Some respiratory therapists visit patients at home and check on their breathing equipment and medications.
Nearly all respiratory therapists work in hospitals, and may need to work evenings, nights and weekends.
Respiratory care practitioners need to have a good science background, mechanical ability and an interest in working with patients. They need to complete a respiratory care program at a community college or vocational school, which lasts two years. There are also four-year, Bachelor's degree programs. Respiratory care practitioners must pass an exam and be licensed by the State. Prerequisite courses include Human Anatomy, Intro to Chemistry and Beginning Algebra.
Links to Additional Career Information
Respiratory Care Board of California (916) 323-9983 www.rcb.ca.gov
American Association for Respiratory Care (972) 243-2272 www.aarc.org
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