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What You Need To Know About Becoming A Respiratory Therapist



Becoming a respiratory therapist is a rewarding career. You get to help patients recover from accidents or surgeries that impair their breathing and become part an integral part of a larger healthcare team. A respiratory therapist is someone who specializes in airway management as well as treating patients who suffer from asthma, COPD, or other underlying respiratory illnesses. To become a RT, you do need a specific degree and need to work under another respiratory therapist prior to going out on your own. If you’ve been thinking about becoming one but aren’t sure if it’s the right choice for you, here’s what you need to know.

Educational Requirements and Mandatory Training

To become a licensed respiratory therapist, you need to successfully complete an accredit program. In general, these programs take about two years to complete. Upon completion, you’ll receive your associate degree. Some of the courses you’ll study while in school include anatomy, biology, pharmacology, and advanced patient care. You’ll also learn a variety of respiratory therapy procedures that you’ll need to know once you start working.

If the cost of earning your degree is a concern, you have several options. In addition to applying for a scholarship, you could consider taking out a loan. But since all financing options are not the same, it’s important that you know what they are and how they may affect you. There is a between a fixed and variable student loans. With a fixed loan, the rates stay the same until it’s paid off. With a variable loan, the rate can change over time, which means you could end up paying or less over the course of the loan. If you’d like to learn more, you could review a guide that explain in greater detail what both types of loans are.


After you graduate, you’ll then need to pass state exams to be officially licensed. You’ll need to take and pass the CRT exam, (Certified Respiratory Therapist), which is offered by the National Board of Respiratory Care. Note, the CRT is only an entry-level examination. To be considered a registered RT, you’ll need to take the RRT once you advance your skills.

Necessary Skills and Personal Qualities

To work in this role, you also need to have strong critical thinking skills, be a problem-solver. Since you’ll need to accurately diagnose patients and subsequently, create treatment plans, you must be able to think on your feet. You also need to be compassionate and have empathy for your patients. While some of them may be sedated, others won’t be. They’ll need you to have a level head and be able to explain clearly what needs to be done so they can get better. Patients who suffer from chronic illnesses will need someone who understands what they’re going through and makes them feel comfortable and reassured.

Job Outlook

There will always be demand for RTs. Even though things have returned to normal, a lot of people left medicine during and after COVID. That said, there’s never been a better time to enter the field. In addition to working in hospitals, you can find work in outpatient centers rehab centers and surgical centers. Many of these places offer incentives and bonuses due to a shortage of qualified personnel. If you prefer to work in more than one location, you might be able to work alongside a travel nurse. You’ll be given assignments in different states where your services are needed the most.

Things to Think About

Working in medicine has its own set of pros and cons. As such, you need to think about how these will affect you professionally and personally. Being able to bond with a patient, treat them over time and watch them improve is wonderful. You know that you’ve done your best and now this person has recovered. On the flip side, you may have to work with patients who don’t get. Even when you’ve given it all you’ve got, some patients’ conditions may worsen, or they may even pass away. It’s important to understand that this could affect your deeply, and you might even blame yourself. Working in medicine, especially in a field where patients rely on your expertise to help them breathe, is admirable. Just be sure you are mentally prepared to deal with the highs and possibly the lows as well.

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