How Do I Become a Respiratory Care Practitioner?

Nicole Long
Nicole Long

Someone looking to become a respiratory care practitioner must have the specific skills and knowledge necessary to do the job. Respiratory care practitioners must obtain a specific amount of education to meet the qualifications of the position. An individual interested in embarking on a path to become a respiratory care practitioner should also possess good communication skills and be able to work well with patients during stressful situations.

Often referred to as respiratory therapists, respiratory care practitioners help take care of patients suffering from disorders and conditions related to the respiratory system. Patients can include infants, the elderly, and those suffering from acute conditions, such as a heart attack or stroke. Respiratory care practitioners test and monitor the breathing ability of a patient and then provide data to a physician for formal diagnosis and treatment.

An individual hoping to become a respiratory care practitioner must first earn a high school diploma or its equivalent. Excelling in coursework related to mathematics, health, and biology can provide a good foundation for entering the healthcare field. Other courses that can be beneficial include those in chemistry and physics.

Respiratory therapists usually need to obtain an associate’s degree from an accredited university. Coursework will focus on anatomy, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. Additional coursework will teach students how to operate equipment, assess patients, and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Someone hoping to become a respiratory care practitioner can also choose to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Pursuing an advanced degree can provide additional job opportunities for candidates entering the field.

Individuals entering the field will also need to become licensed as certified respiratory therapists. Depending on the licensing body, someone hoping to become a respiratory care practitioner will need to meet minimum requirements for licensure, such as education and practical experience. Employers usually require certification before employment can begin.

Respiratory care practitioners must feel comfortable operating machinery and equipment related to the position. This requires an understanding of computer systems and software programs. Some of the machines operated by respiratory therapists include ventilators and those used to monitor blood gases, oxygen levels, and overall lung function.

A host of other skills will benefit someone wishing to become a respiratory care practitioner as he progresses through his career. This includes good communications skills to communicate with patients, their families, and physicians. Respiratory therapists should also be caring, patient, and able to handle the stresses related to the position.

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