Respiratory Care practitioners are members of the health care team who provide respiratory care for patients with heart and lung disorders, under the direction of licensed physicians.
The scope of practice of a respiratory care practitioner includes: general care, neonatal critical care, pediatric critical care, adult trauma care, diagnostic testing, rehabilitation, home care, education and research. Most respiratory care practitioners are employed in hospitals, which operate 24 hours a day. Increasingly, there are career opportunities in nursing homes, medical sales, with medical equipment supply companies, in home health agencies, and in physicians offices.
The percentage rate of graduates who have been employed in the respiratory field has been extremely high. Many students have been employed part-time in area hospitals while they complete their associate degree. Starting salaries at area hospitals range from $32,000 to $37,000. These salaries do not include shift or weekend differential.
Job opportunities are expected to be very good, especially for respiratory therapists with cardiopulmonary care skills or experience working with infants. Employment of respiratory therapists is expected to increase faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2012, because of substantial growth in numbers of the middle-aged and elderly population-a development that will heighten the incidence of cardiopulmonary disease.
Once you enter the profession, you may want to specialize in an area such as neonatal care, cardiopulmonary diagnostics, helicopter transport, critical care, rehabilitation, education, or management.