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Respiratory therapy is categorized as an allied health profession in the United States and Canada. Respiratory therapists (RTs), also known as Respiratory Care Practitioners (RCP), specialize in the assessment and treatment of respiratory and cardiovascular pathologies. These include chronic lung problems (e.g., asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, COPD), and more acute multi-systemic problems stemming from other pathological conditions such as heart attacks, stroke, or trauma as well as complications at birth. RTs are specialists in airway management, mechanical ventilation, blood acid/base balance, and critical care medicine. RTs work closely with other medical disciplines such as physicians, nurses, speech therapists and physical therapists etc.
Additional recommended knowledge
Roles and Responsibilities
- Respiratory therapists can be found in hospital intesive care units ICU's, delivery rooms, and mediflight teams. Airway and ventilator management as well as clinical assesment are the main clinical roles provided by a respiratory therapist as well as vascular access for intravenous lines (IV), an arterial line or arterial blood gas (ABG). They are an essential part of the Code Blue (Cardiac Arrest) team. Some RTs are specially trained in helping in the operating room (OR), high-risk deliveries, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), chest tube and central line insertion. - RRTs may also provide an important role in the homecare environment. Here the RRT's role is different from the hospital role in that there are not a lot of available technical resources available. One must rely more on clinical assessments and experience-related decision-making when evaluating the patient's current condition. This is where the real extent of the RRT's knowledge is truly tested.
Certification, Education, and Training
- Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRT) are required to complete a minimum of a three-year associate degree program. There are four and five year Bachelor degree programs as well as Master's degree programs offered by some schools. Some therapist go on to earn Masters degrees in health related fields such as MPH, as well as Doctoral degrees such as a PhD, or EdD. After graduation, the therapist must then write a national exam administered by the Canadian Board of Respiratory Care (CBRC) in Canada and/or the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) in the United States. In the US, a two tiered system exists. First a certification exam can be taken, and if passed, the therapist is designated CRT, or Certified Respiratory Therapist. After that, a registry exam can be taken giving the designation of RRT, or Registered Respiratory Therapist. Also, further examination for Neonatal/Pediatric Specialist may be taken allowing RT's to be designated as Neonatal-Pediatric Specialists (CRT-NPS or RRT-NPS). You must have CRT status with one year experience in Neonatal or Pediatric Respiratory Care following Certification, or RRT status before you can sit for the NPS exam. Other exams that RT's are eligible to sit for include Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist (CPFT), Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist(RPFT), and Registered Polysomnographic Technician (RPSGT).
- Respiratory Therapy has grown considerably through the past four decades. There was a time when Respiratory therapists were on the job trained technicians, with little formal education. Their main function was to ensure safe oxygen use. They were initially titled Inhalational Therapist. With the advent of Mechanical Ventilators, modern CPR and airway care methods, a need for thoroughly trained clinical practitioners presented itself. Over the years "respiratory techs" have evolved to college and University trained clinicians who practice in a variety of settings.
Regulatory Bodies and Professional Societies in the United States
- In the United States respiratory therapy is regulated by the individual states. Some states require licensure by the individual state, others accept the accreditation granted by the NBRC . The American Association for Respiratory Care  is only professional organization in the United States specifically for Respiratory Care Practitioners.
- In order to be considered for admission to a respiratory therapy program, a strong high school background (typically grades of B+ or higher) in science and math at the senior matriculation level is usually required. The program of study varies from one school to another, but all programs include the following:
- Courses in anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, chemistry, physics, microbiology, hemodynamics, mechanical ventilation, statistics, healthcare law, and medical ethics are required. Pass marks are usually set high. These studies relate to all body systems. Extra focus is spent on the respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological and renal systems.
- Class sizes are usually small and offer classroom as well as clinical "hands-on" experiences. Many applicants already hold science degrees. Traditionally there is a measurable attrition rate due to a student's failure to meet expected performance standards. Most of the schools do not allow multiple rewrites of failed exams. The material from the entire program must be mastered, applied and retained. There is no "cook book" practice. RTs must think quickly under stressful situations and make the proper life-or-death decisions. RTs function as a patient advocate, as well as a staff, physician and patient resource. RTs function as a member of the health care team.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Respiratory_therapy". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.