A Day in the Life of a Respiratory Therapist
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have asthma or if you’ve ever had surgery, it’s likely that you’ve seen a respiratory therapist  in action. But do you know what a typical day in respiratory care is like? To give you an idea, we spent some time on the job with Bryan, a Respiratory Therapist and graduate of the Carrington Respiratory Care program. 
Respiratory therapists help patients who are having trouble breathing because of an illness or accident. That could be in a nursing home or assisted living facility, a physician’s office, in an in-home care setting or in a hospital, which is where Bryan works.
Bryan has been at the Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix for almost nine years. He chose Respiratory Care because the program description attracted him, and his younger brother has asthma so he already had an interest in the field.
So how does a typical day start? Well we all know that hospital care is 24/7, patient care doesn’t stop when you clock-off and go home. Bryan explains that the first thing he does is catch-up on what’s been happening with his patients while he was off shift. “When I get to work in the morning I normally get a report from the night shift, just get a detailed report on all my patients – what has happened through the night, and what I need to know for the day.” That means at the end of the day, Bryan has to prepare a report and brief the therapist that’s coming on shift.
Jo-el, Director of Cardiopulmonary & Rehab Services, is Bryan’s boss. Her department has 40 respiratory therapists. She’s been at the hospital for 16 years, and says each day she learns more. That desire to always learn is something she wants to see in the therapists she hires. “A respiratory therapist takes care of a patient’s breathing so a typical day is always busy! The respiratory therapists like to be moving, like to be busy. So when we hire respiratory therapists they have to be motivated, wanting to learn more every day.”
Jo-el, tells us why she thinks that Carrington Respiratory Care graduates do so well at the hospital.
“The graduates from Carrington College are always motivated, always wanting to learn more, and they’re highly educated.”
As a respiratory therapist in a hospital setting like Bryan, you’ll be part of a department but you won’t always work in the same ward or department, or even with the same type of patient every day. “I work all over the hospital, everywhere. I’m in high-risk deliveries, so I get them from birth all the way to geriatrics,” he said.
Because respiratory therapists work all over the hospital, they’re exposed to some pretty heavy situations. Maricopa Medical Center is a Level I Trauma Center, which means they can provide total care for every aspect of a patient’s injury, which means the real serious stuff comes their way.
“I was in the ICU and we had an overhead page to go to the trauma bay; we had a Red trauma come in. When I got there I immediately put him [the patient] on oxygen, and set up for intubation. We assist with intubations here, so a doctor intubated the patient while I assisted, and we ventilated the patient while they [the rest of the trauma team] coded him.”
Jo-el explains that’s why it’s important for people who work in respiratory care to have a cool, calm and composed personality.
“So codes are very intense, it’s extreme; the best scenario is to stay calm. We are located at the head of the bed because we are assisting the airway and helping the patient breathe, so a lot of times the team looks to us for that calmness and sense of security.”
But just because you look calm and composed on the outside, it doesn’t mean you’re like that on the inside. For Bryan, it’s a very stimulating and exciting job. “It’s an adrenaline rush every single day. It feels very good when I get home to know that I’ve helped a lot of people…and actually saved lives.”
 Individuals seeking to enter this career field may be subject to screenings such as, but not limited to, criminal background checks and drug/alcohol testing prior to externship, to attain occupational licensure/certification or employment and throughout their careers.