Career Tracks: Respiratory Care

Respiratory Care is used primarily in the treatment of heart and lung diseases such as cardiac failure, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and shock.

The registered respiratory therapist is trained to assist the medical staff with the treatment, management and care of patients with cardiopulmonary abnormalities or deficiencies. This job entails a great deal of diversity. On any given day, a therapist may give therapy for asthma, emphysema or bronchitis; handle an emergency situation; run tests such as EKG's, stress tests, EEG's, sleep studies; and perform many more duties.


Graduates in this field may be required to:

  • participate in the diagnosis, treatment and control of cardio-respiratory problems and lung disease
  • assist physician in planning an appropriate therapy program
  • discuss treatment with patient and provide instruction on use of respiratory aids
  • test, monitor and prepare reports on patient progress
  • perform research on respiratory problems, preventive techniques, and new treatments
  • instruct students enrolled in respiratory care programs

Working Conditions

Graduates in this field commonly experience:

  • work in hospitals/nursing homes/medical clinics/ambulance services/home health care (drive to location/rehabilitation clinics/physician offices)
  • work in cooperation with others
  • perform a variety of duties
  • work under little direct supervision
  • considerable paperwork required
  • overtime hours/weekends/night hours/holidays sometimes required
  • exposure to blood borne pathogens such as Hepatitis and HIV

Characteristics & Temperament

Graduates in this field should have:

  • lift up to 50 pounds to assist in moving patients, supplies, equipment
  • lift up to 200 pounds when moving patients
  • stoop to adjust equipment
  • kneel: manipulate equipment, CPR, plug in electrical equipment
  • reach overhead lights, equipment, cabinets, attach oxygen to outlets, stocking shelves
  • motor skills, manual dexterity: small and large equipment for storing, moving, apply sterile gloves, take BP, operate computers, CPR, syringes, tubes, catheters, set up and maintain sterile field
  • stand for prolonged periods of time (deliver therapy, check equipment, patient, surgical procedures)
  • feel: palpate pulses, physical exams, arteries or veins for puncture, skin temperature
  • push/pull large wheeled equipment, i.e., mechanical ventilators, wheelchairs, patients, x-ray equipment, EKG machines, office equipment
  • walk for extended periods of time
  • manipulate knobs, dials associated with diagnostic or therapeutic devices, small instruments, syringes
  • hear verbal directions, alarms, telephone, through a stethoscope for heart sounds, lung sounds and blood pressure
  • see patient conditions such as skin color, work of breathing, read small print and calibration on equipment, perceive color
  • talk to communicate in English goals and procedures to patients
  • read typed/handwritten, computer information in English
  • write to communicate in English pertinent information (patient assessment, outcome assessments)
  • function safely, effectively and calmly under stressful conditions
  • maintain composure while managing multiple tasks simultaneously
  • prioritize multiple tasks
  • social skills necessary to interact with patients, families, co-workers of the same or different culture, respect, polite, discrete, teamwork
  • maintain personal hygiene consistent with close contact of patient care
  • display actions, attitudes consistent with ethical standards of the profession

Employment Outlook

Employment statistics for 2015 - 2017 PTC graduates, who found jobs in this field, are as follows:

  • salary average: $59,710.00 per year according to the US Department of Labor. You may view the most current Occupational Outlook statistics at:
  • 73% placement rate for the 2015 - 2017 graduates
  • employment in cities and towns of all sizes
  • advancement possible with continued education
  • certification typically required for state licensure within one year of completion of Associate Degree;
  • becoming a therapist requires completion of an advanced level exam
  • therapist can do EKG's, stress tests, EEG's, Echocardiograms, sleep studies and PFT's. Therapist work in NICU, ICU, CCU and can advance to supervisor and management positions.
  • one of many magazine's top 20 "Hot Jobs"


Recent graduates have found work at:


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