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Respiratory Care: A Great Profession for a Great Future

For Immediate Release

IRVING , TX (October 10, 2006) – Ask most people what they want out of a career and the answer is pretty simple: good pay, interesting work, flexible preparation, a chance to make a difference in the world. 

The respiratory care profession has all that and more, say respiratory therapists (RTs) from the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC). The profession has been around since the late 1940s and has increasingly grown in prominence and importance in the nation's health care system, even though the field isn't as well known as other medical professions like nursing and physical therapy.

“ Respiratory therapists work with physicians to evaluate and treat people with breathing difficulties,” explains Frank Freihaut, RRT, AE-C, adult critical care team leader at The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha . “A respiratory therapist may deliver medications, do hands on therapy and/or maintain mechanical ventilation life support in a hospital or for home bound patients.”

Patients treated by RTs run the gamut. “Whether it's a baby born with underdeveloped lungs needing life support, or child with asthma needing training on proper use of their medications, or an older adult suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure needing airway pressure therapy and medications, you will find a respiratory therapist caring for that patient,” says Freihaut.

Most RTs work in hospitals, but a growing number also work in home care, long-term care facilities, pulmonary function laboratories, doctor's offices, and sleep laboratories. “A few therapists even utilize their airway management and life support skills on specialized ground and air transport teams, in ambulances and helicopters,” adds the registered respiratory therapist.

Like nursing, preparation for the respiratory care profession is flexible. “Respiratory care programs are found at community colleges and universities through out the United States ,” says Freihaut. “There are two-year Associate's and four-year Bachelor's degrees.” The two-year degree provides a relatively quick route into the profession, while the four-year degree positions graduates to move up into management and research positions.

Beginning RTs can expect to make about $35,000 a year, with experienced therapists bringing in $50,000 or more, depending on location. Thanks to ongoing workforce shortages, most graduates have their pick of jobs. 

“A recent article mentioned that in 2005 there were 10,000 vacant full time positions available for respiratory therapists, but the educational programs were only graduating about 4,500 new respiratory therapists,” says Freihaut. “Finding a respiratory position where you want is very possible.”   

Freihaut says a career in respiratory care is a wonderful way to contribute to the nation's health. “Being part of the health care team is great.  I know I am not out there alone -- there are physicians and other therapists I work with and get advice from.  But I also enjoy knowing that what I do individually makes a difference in the lives of the patients I care for.”

Respiratory Therapists (RTs) are specially trained and licensed respiratory health care professionals assisting physicians in diagnosis, treatment, and management of respiratory diseases. RTs provide care in hospitals, outpatient centers, physicians' offices, skilled nursing facilities, and patients' homes.

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) is a not-for-profit, professional organization, consisting of 40,000 respiratory therapists, physicians, and other health care professionals. AARC is dedicated to assisting persons with respiratory diseases receive safe and effective respiratory care. 


Contact:   Beth Binkley
American Association For Respiratory Care
9425 N MacArthur Blvd, Suite 100 , Irving , TX 75063
972-406-4657, 972-243-2272

What's a “Respiratory Therapist”?

According to the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), respiratory therapists: 

  • Are educated in two- and four-year programs at community colleges and universities across the nation.

  • Licensed in the majority of states.

  • Work with patients of all ages suffering from acute and chronic breathing disorders.

  • Conduct diagnostic tests, assess patients for breathing difficulties, provide breathing treatments, help manage ventilators in the ICU, and educate patients and families about lung disease.

  • Work in a wide variety of health care settings, from the hospital to the home to the doctor's office.

  • Are valued members of the health care team. 

    For more information on the respiratory care profession, visit the AARC's career web site, Be an RT, at http://www.aarc.org/career/be_an_rt/ .