A career in respiratory care can provide exciting and intellectually challenging responsibilities as you work with sophisticated life-support systems. Respiratory care practitioners are important members of the healthcare team and work under the direction of a physician, from pulmonologists to physicians specialized in emergencies, resuscitation, critical care, and pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation.
Registered respiratory therapists (RRTs) have a well-defined scope of practice and have been identified by the Medical Board of the national Academy of Sciences as Type B physician assistants. Type B physician assistants are expected to make recommendations on the respiratory care of patients with pulmonary disorders. This level of interaction with physicians and other members of the healthcare team can be very rewarding. RRTs are considered authorities on the operation of life support equipment used in intensive care areas of the hospital. Interfacing mechanical ventilators to a critically ill patient to provide life support places a great intellectual demand on a respiratory therapist.
Licensure of respiratory care practitioners is required in the continental U.S. Specialty board examinations are provided by the National Board of Respiratory Care. Career opportunities abound as staff therapists or managers in critical care, rehabilitation and education, or as a technical specialist for high-tech equipment companies.
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