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The role of a respiratory therapy technician is supplementary to that of a respiratory therapist, aiding in the care of patients suffering from cardiopulmonary problems. A respiratory therapy technician administers specific treatments, under the supervision of a respiratory therapist, operating machines such as ventilators, oxygen devices, and breathing treatments. As a respiratory therapy technician, your duties may also include consulting with physicians and respiratory therapists to create and improve the treatment plans of individual patients.
A respiratory therapist technician's work is usually carried out in specialized areas of hospitals, including emergency rooms, neonatal or pediatric intensive care units, and surgical intensive care units, helping to treat conditions that include pneumonia, asthma and emphysema. Respiratory therapy technicians aid respiratory therapists in treating patients of all ages, ranging from premature infants with respiratory problems, to elderly patients with failing lungs. They also provide care to patients who have been traumatized by heart attack, drowning, stroke, or shock. Other equipment operated by a respiratory therapy technician includes environmental control systems, aerosol generators, and mechanical ventilators.
It is essential for a respiratory therapy technician to be able to work and communicate with patients, so as to best fulfill their needs. A practicing respiratory therapy technician must also be willing to cooperate with other professionals, such as physicians and respiratory therapists.
In 2008, the median annual salary among respiratory therapy technicians was $42,430. Incomes among earners in the lowest 10 percent were less than $28,040, while among the highest 10 percent, incomes were more than $62,530.
Training and Education
Although only a high school diploma is required to gain employment as a respiratory therapy technician, most employers would prefer to hire someone with at least an associate's degree, which usually requires two years of coursework to earn. Relevant degree programs are available at many accredited institutions in the United States, among them medical schools, colleges, universities, vocational schools and the armed forces. These programs offer education in the equipment a respiratory therapy technician is responsible for, as well as training for use of medical computer software, and coursework in chemistry, physics, mathematics, pharmacology, and human anatomy and physiology, among other subjects.
A credential necessary for practicing as a respiratory therapy technician is completion of a training program recognized by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Certification titles include that of Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), which is conferred upon passing an exam at the end of a two-year program, and Certified Respiratory Therapy Technician (CRTT), which is awarded after a candidate passes an exam following completion of a one-year program. Both certifications are awarded by the National Board for Respiratory Care.
In 2008, respiratory therapy technicians occupied about 16,210 jobs, most of which were located in general medical and surgical hospitals. Other settings included individual physicians' offices, specialty hospitals, and employment services and consumer goods rental departments. The highest paying industry for employment as a respiratory therapy technician was that of health and personal care stores.
For respiratory therapy technicians, opportunities are not expected to significantly increase or decrease between 2006 and 2016. While the job market should remain relatively stable, normal growth is expected to create a need for 6,000 additional employees in the field.