Respiratory Therapist

What is a respiratory therapist?

Respiratory therapists are specially trained healthcare professionals who help treat and restore function for people with airway and breathing problems. They assess and treat people with many conditions including:

  • Low oxygen levels

  • Long-term (chronic) heart or lung problems that require breathing treatments and assistance

They also help people to use equipment such as:

  • Tracheostomy tube. This is a special type of breathing tube that is put in through the neck. It's for people unable to breathe through their mouth and nose.

  • Ventilator. This is a machine that breathes for people who can't breathe on their own due to certain conditions, such as spinal cord injuries.

They may work in many rehabilitation (rehab) settings, including those focused on the nervous system (neurological), the heart (cardiac), and the lungs (pulmonary). Respiratory therapists may practice in a variety of healthcare settings, including:

  • Hospitals

  • Inpatient rehab centers

  • Home health settings

  • Long-term care facilities

  • Private practice

Respiratory therapists may have either an associate, bachelor's, or master's degree in respiratory therapy. Many are either registered or certified in their specialty.