If you’re considering a career in the medical field, you’ll have a number of potential specialties and individual professions to consider. You could become a doctor, a surgeon, a nurse, or a specialist in a specific area.
One of the most in-demand areas – and one of the most interesting career options – is becoming a respiratory therapist. But what exactly does a respiratory therapist do and what are the benefits of pursuing this career?
What Is a Respiratory Therapist?
Let’s start with the basics. A respiratory therapist is a type of healthcare specialist who cares for people with heart- and lung-related afflictions. You’ll apply your knowledge from a wide variety of areas, including cardiology, pulmonology, and even sleep therapy to help people with asthma, sleep apnea, lung cancer, and a variety of other chronic and acute cardiopulmonary conditions.
There are also a number of different areas of specialty for respiratory therapists. For example, you could specialize in treating people with asthma, cystic fibrosis, or neonatal and pediatric issues. You could also become a pulmonary researcher or specialize in assisting anesthesiologists.
The Benefits of Being a Respiratory Therapist
So why would you consider a career in this field?
These are some of the most important benefits:
- Minimal education and training requirements. Compared to other careers in the medical field, becoming a respiratory therapist doesn’t take much education or training. You’ll need an associate’s degree in respiratory care to get started; from there, you’ll need to be certified by the National Board for Respiratory Care, and/or the official licensing board in your state. Additionally, throughout your career, you’ll need to invest in continuing education courses online.
- Consistent job demand. Respiratory therapists are always in demand. There are millions of people struggling with heart and lung conditions and hospitals and healthcare facilities all over the country are desperate to get more respiratory therapists on staff. You’ll practically never have to worry about being out of a job.
- Relatively high income. For registered respiratory therapists, the median annual salary is $69,703, with top earners making in excess of $81,314. Over time, you’ll be able to grow your salary and make even more money.
- A sense of purpose. Many aspiring respiratory therapists begin their journey in this career field because they’re passionate about helping others. In your line of work, you can help people breathe easier, help them sleep easier, and give them a chance to participate in activities they might never have been able to do otherwise.
- Valuable professional connections. Some people love respiratory therapy because they enjoy the camaraderie. You’ll get to meet and work with other therapists and learn from each other, as well as engage with a wide variety of other medical professionals.
- Room for growth and flexibility. No matter how long you spend in this career or how much you learn, there will always be more room for growth. You can learn more, incorporate new skills, and possibly change areas of specialty if you’re interested in something totally new.
Who Makes for an Ideal Respiratory Therapist?
Almost anyone can become a respiratory therapist with the right dedication and work ethic. However, people with the following qualities tend to have a better chance of becoming successful in this field:
- Compassion and empathy. You’ll be working with many patients while they’re experiencing pain and hardship, so it’s important to have compassion and empathy for the people you’re treating. This is an emotional job as much as it is a physical and scientific one.
- Patience. Sometimes, the job can be demanding. It’s important to remain patient throughout your job and continue providing the best possible care for your patients.
- Communication skills. You’ll be sharing diagnostic information and care information to your patients as well as talking to (and learning from) other professionals. Accordingly, communication skills are vital to your success.
- Science and math skills. Learning the fundamentals of respiratory therapy is much easier if you’re already familiar with the basics of science and mathematics. That said, you can always cultivate these skills over time.
- Creativity. While some of your job as a respiratory therapist will be straightforward, you’ll also need to occasionally solve tough problems – and that means engaging in creative thinking.
- Precision and attention to detail. It’s also important to exercise precision and attention to detail in all your responsibilities. After all, patients’ health will be in your hands.
Is respiratory therapy the right career for you? If you like what you’ve read in this article, venture out and do some more research. Talk to a respiratory therapist in your area about their experiences and ask any lingering questions you have about the career. From there, you can sign up for courses and start working toward your goal.
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