Respiratory therapist (RTs) work in a wide variety of settings, from critical-care wards to private homes, dealing with people in every stage of life.
When the hospital PA system announces a “code” (life-threatening emergency), you can be sure an RT is on the scene. When an elderly patient with emphysema is admitted to a long-term-care facility, an RT is there to help develop a respiratory care plan and set up equipment. When a premature baby is born, an RT helps to evaluate the newborn’s heart, lungs, and circulation.
Respiratory therapists specialize in breathing disorders. Under a doctor's supervision, they find the source of a patient's breathing problem and treat it with oxygen, medication, or both.
“[RTs] don’t just run the machines -- you may be called on to exercise a high degree of competence and critical thinking.” Georgine W. Bills, Program Director, Respiratory Therapy, Weber State University
A critical reader who is focused on detail. You should also be an excellent communicator and effective team member, not to mention good with your hands and with machines.
Certified RTs can take the registered respiratory therapist exam, which qualifies them for higher-level jobs.