Respiratory care is an essential component to the health care continuum. These practitioners have the responsibility of assessing, managing and treating patient with disabilities and diseases involving the cardiopulmonary system. Respiratory therapists practice in a variety of capacities and in many different health care settings. Education
In order to practice, a minimum of an Associate Degree in Science in Respiratory Care is required. There are also Bachelor and Master degree programs available. Once a new therapist passes the licensing examination for their state, they must become certified. In some states, they must become registered as well. Critical is annual continuing education hours. At the very least, therapist must maintain Basic Life Support (BLS). If they are in the hospital setting, the therapist may need Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), or Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS). Professional Organizations
As with many health care roles, there are several professional organizations for respiratory therapists to join. AARC or American Association for Respiratory Care is the leading society for respiratory therapists and is supported by several physician societies (“American Association For Respiratory Care”, 2015). AARC supports research, lobbies for health care reform, promotes education and advocates for patients with pulmonary disease. It also appoints members to the NBRC which is the National Board of Respiratory Care. The board administers examinations and issues credentials to respiratory therapists. There are state specific associations as well as the International Association of Respiratory Therapists. Roles and Services
Respiratory therapists play a large role in hospitals. They are called upon to assess patients in Intensive Care Units (ICU) and general care units. Therapists are responsible for maintaining artificial airways and ventilator management. Interpretation of data, whether laboratory or physiologic aids in the care of patients. In teaching hospitals, therapists often have more experience than resident physicians and serve as a resource. Nurses rely heavily on therapists to help them care for patients in the ICU. It is a collaboration of disciplines to care for the sickest patients. Patients can have a need for home respiratory therapists.
These patients tend to be in the chronic stages of their disease. Their care may involve home ventilators, oxygen, medication delivery, nocturnal sleep machines and education for the patient and caregivers. The therapist works in tandem with a home health nurse or the patient’s physician. Respiratory therapists can also be found in clinics, pulmonary rehabilitation facilities, sleep labs, on medical flight teams and urgent care facilities. Regardless of location, the scope of practice remains the same, the use of technology and protocols to provide the best, cost efficient medical care for the patient (“American Association For Respiratory Care”, 2015). Conclusion
There are many roles in the health care continuum. Respiratory care is one whose services can span from inpatient to outpatient. Education can vary and certification is required. Continuing education hours are necessary to maintain licensure and certification. This profession has several organizations available for membership. Therapists provide specialized care for patients no matter where it may be. The care they provide could be given by a variety of caregivers but it would fractured and less focused. This could have a negative impact on patients. Important to note is regardless of site of practice, the goals of the respiratory therapist are the same: best practice care.
American association for respiratory care. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.aarc.org/resources/professional-documents/position-statements/