Respiratory therapists, or respiratory care practitioners, provide treatment to patients with abnormalities associated with the cardiopulmonary system—or breathing disorders—under the direction of a licensed physician and as part of a health care team.
Respiratory therapists administer therapeutic or diagnostic drugs to patients as part of a physician-prescribed treatment plan, implement a physician's orders for respiratory treatments, observe and monitor patient symptoms, and assist with administering medical gases (including hyperbaric or standard oxygen, vapor therapies and ventilation support). Administration of anesthesia falls outside the scope of practice of a respiratory therapist.
Respiratory therapists work at hospitals, clinics, nursing care facilities, in private care facilities and commercial businesses that specialize in the treatment, management, diagnostic testing, control and care of patients with breathing disorders that range from chronic lung conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema to heart attack and accident victims, premature infants, and people with cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, or AIDS. Complete licensing requirements for respiratory therapy