Millions of people have difficulty breathing. Many suffer from cardiopulmonary diseases, which interrupt or make the breathing process difficult. Cardiopulmonary diseases increase, as people get older. With a population that is living longer, the number of people diagnosed with cardiopulmonary disease is increasing exponentially. Obesity continues to rise and along with this rise is an increase in the number of people who have difficult or labored breathing. Respiratory therapy provides life-saving respiratory care to millions of patients who struggle with life-threatening breathing issues.
What is Respiratory Therapy?
Respiratory therapy is a general term that encompasses a variety of complex methods to ensure a patient receives appropriate levels of oxygen. Red blood cells carry oxygen to tissues and organs throughout the body. If there is an inadequate supply of oxygen in the cells, this may cause organs to fail or function improperly. During therapy, the oxygen, pH and carbon dioxide levels of the blood are carefully monitored. Improper levels can cause health complications and even death.
Many patients require treatment to expel excessive mucus, which may impair proper breathing and the ability to obtain adequate oxygen in the blood stream. Therapy helps patients expel the mucus and provides treatment to restore breathing. This treatment may involve inhalants that provide life-saving medicine.
Patients with cardiopulmonary disease often require life support systems such as ventilators. Respiratory therapy includes maintaining and inspecting breathing equipment used in the homes of many patients. In addition, therapists provide education to family members and patients in the proper use of equipment and medications. Therapy for homebound patients is rising due to the cost-effectiveness of treating patients in their homes and the increasing population of elderly.
Respiratory therapy is required during cardiac surgeries to ensure proper oxygen and blood gas ratios are maintained. Therapy is often required in emergency room situations or in neonatal units. Respiratory care is provided in any situation in which a patient has impaired breathing or obstructed breathing.
Job Market Growth for Respiratory Therapy Jobs
Currently, there is a critical shortage of respiratory therapists. This shortage will continue, as the expected job growth over the next five years is 21 percent according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.
Respiratory therapists work in hospitals, physician offices, home healthcare and durable medical equipment providers. Healthcare providers offer sign-on bonuses, lucrative salaries, and benefits to lure in therapists. This is particularly true in areas that have a high population of elderly citizens.
The potential for earnings is high. Many therapists maintain full-time employment at a hospital and earn additional income by working for home healthcare agencies. The median salary in 2008 was $52,200 as reported by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. This salary is a base salary and does not include bonuses or shift-differential. Therapists who work evening or night shifts earn an additional 15 to 25 percent shift differential.
As the demand for respiratory therapist increases, job security, salaries, and benefits will also continue to increase. Respiratory therapy is the fastest growing occupation and the shortage of therapists is reaching critical levels.