So you’re thinking about becoming a respiratory therapist, but do you have what it takes? In addition to developing certain skills and having an aptitude for technology and complex procedures, the best respiratory therapists need to possess other important qualities that will help them provide great patient care.1
Respiratory therapists work with patients who are either having trouble breathing or cannot breathe on their own and who are, a result, likely very frightened. Being compassionate and providing emotional support in addition to physical care can mean a great deal to patients undergoing treatments for scary health conditions such as lung cancer and asthma.
When working as a respiratory therapist, you will need to have the ability to solve problems and think quickly in the event of an emergency. Respiratory therapists generally don’t have time to second-guess themselves, so thinking critically as you encounter each medical situation is key. Often the respiratory care practitioner is called upon to act as a clinical resource to the physician and expected to provide rapid and accurate assessments of patient’s clinical data and recommend the appropriate therapy.
Respiratory therapists spend much of their time working directly with patients, and it’s important that they have the ability to communicate well and make patients feel at ease. Respiratory care practitioners need to be able to speak with members of the medical team as well as be able to explain procedures simply to their patients. In addition, respiratory therapists often work with patients for extended periods of time, so they will need to have the patience to keep the lines of communication open throughout the treatment process and answer any questions that may arise.
The medical expertise required of respiratory therapists involves using many types of equipment and completing a variety of procedures on a daily basis. Respiratory therapists must be detail-oriented in order to manage the different treatments and types of medications that they are responsible for administering to patients, and to ensure that they are always seen in a timely manner.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, ‘Respiratory Therapists,’ April 6, 2012 - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/respiratory-therapists.htm