Respiratory Therapist Jobs & Employment

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Respiratory Therapist Employment

The elderly population is growing quickly. Within the next two decades, the youngest baby boomer will hit retirement age — and they, like all people, are living longer. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that, by 2010, the average life expectancy of an American will be 78.3 years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that respiratory therapy will be one of the fastest growing occupations in the upcoming decade.

The BLS predicts that in the coming years the majority of respiratory therapist jobs will come from hospitals. Some of the hospital departments that employ respiratory therapists include:

  • Respiratory therapy
  • Pulmonary medicine
  • Anesthesiology
  • Respiratory Care
  • Emergency Rooms

However, a growing number will be employed by various other facilities, such as nursing homes, home health care companies, and suppliers of home respiratory equipment.

Work Environment

Respiratory therapists usually put in a 35 to 40 hour workweek. Their shifts, however, can vary quite a bit. If they work in hospitals—as most do—they can work days, nights, and weekend because hospitals are always open.

Respiratory therapists usually spend a considerable amount of time standing and walking while tending to their patients. During an emergency, they must stay calm under pressure. They can be exposed to infectious diseases and to dangerous gases during a typical workday, and they must take precautions accordingly.

Respiratory therapists that work in home health care may have to travel frequently to visit their patients.

Advancement Opportunities

In clinical practice, respiratory therapists usually begin their careers by administering general respiratory aid to patients. They can advance in this field, however, to caring for critically ill patients whose respiratory condition affect other organs, such as the heart.

Other advancement opportunities for respiratory therapists include:

  • Management of a respiratory therapy department—more likely if you have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree.
  • Branch manager of a home health care facility
  • Sales manager of a respiratory therapy equipment supply company
  • Teaching positions in respiratory therapist schools
  • Marketing medical devices to consumers or to healthcare facilities.

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