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what is a respiratory practioner?
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A Respiratory Care Practitioner specializes in the management, treatment and evaluation of patients who have problems breathing. It involves diagnosis, treatment, management, preventive care, and rehabilitation of patients with cardiopulmonary abnormalities. Patients may suffer from asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, cystic fibrosis, coronary heart disease and many more.

You will find respiratory therapists in practically every aspect of today's health care services:

  • Critical care unit
  • Emergency room
  • Newborn nursery
  • Outpatient clinic
  • Critical care transport
  • Clinics
  • Home health care

Work Environment

Respiratory therapists work with patients in hospitals, clinics or home settings. You will work with physicians, nurses, and other health professionals to assess the health status of patients needing respiratory care.

Expect a 40-hour work week, including holiday, weekend, and shift work, with some flexibility.

Duties and Responsibilities

Respiratory therapists work in:

  • preventive care
  • administration of oxygen and medications
  • intensive care
  • emergency
  • trauma
  • department management
  • rehabilitation of people with heart and lung problems

Other duties:

  • manage mechanical ventilators in intensive care units
  • gives breathing treatments to assist patients with respiratory problems
  • pulmonary rehabilitation
  • pulmonary function testing
  • cardiac stress testing
  • bronchoscopy assisting
  • emergency respiratory care
  • flight transport and home care


Respiratory therapy offers a career opportunity that is both personally and financially rewarding.

Salary range (full-time): $28,620 - $50,660 per year

In the year 2000, the median annual earnings of respiratory therapists were $37,680. Therapists working in hospitals earned an average of $38,040.

Fast-growing career

The United States government predicts respiratory care to be one of the 10 fastest growing careers through 2010.

The need for respiratory care professionals is expected to grow due to the large increase in:

  • elderly population
  • impact of environmental problems
  • technological advances in the treatment of heart attacks
  • cancer
  • accident victims
  • premature infants

Rapid growth is also expected in home health agencies, equipment rental companies, and firms that provide respiratory care on a contractual basis (e.g., skilled nursing facilities and acute care centers). 

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