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The Role of Respiratory Therapists

According to a report from the Administration of Aging, the number of elderly individuals in the U.S. is expected to double between 2020 and 2040, going from 6.7 million to 14.4 million. Given the growing number of middle-aged and elderly populations in the United States, the current and projected demand for respiratory therapists is increasing. Respiratory therapists handle breathing or airway issues stemming from various conditions and illnesses. As an essential part of a healthcare team, respiratory therapists work in clinics, doctor’s offices, hospices, critical care units, neonatal care units, patient’s homes, hospitals and other medical settings to help those with respiratory illnesses breathe more easily.

These healthcare professionals help people of all ages who experience airway and breathing problems, which can stem from COVID-19, emphysema, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, chest trauma, bronchitis, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). By teaching patients how to adjust their lifestyles and use breathing techniques to accommodate their medical conditions, respiratory therapists can improve the quality of life for people with breathing issues.

The online Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Respiratory Care program from Northern Kentucky University (NKU) can help registered respiratory therapists complete their bachelor’s degree, prepare for leadership positions, grow their ability to provide high-quality care and learn to adopt new approaches and technologies to improve patient outcomes. By exploring essential caregiving topics more deeply, respiratory therapists can further develop their skills and save lives.

The Important Contributions of Respiratory Therapists

From newborn babies to people in hospice care, respiratory therapists monitor individuals with temporary breathing disorders or chronic respiratory diseases. Respiratory therapists are certified medical professionals who focus on the well-being of the respiratory system and lung function. They aid patients with pulmonary diseases and breathing problems, including those who use a ventilator or have tracheostomy tubes.

With the skills to diagnose, assess and develop treatment plans for patients with difficulty breathing, respiratory therapists are a vital part of the medical community. Many respiratory therapists have earned a degree in respiratory therapy or have Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) or Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) credentials.

By working with nurses and doctors, respiratory therapists have a range of duties involving lung health. They assist people in enhancing their quality of life by managing their breathing conditions, developing long-term care plans and providing information, training and education regarding pulmonary care. Respiratory therapists are qualified to perform various procedures including oxygen therapy, airway management, medication administration, aerosol therapy, mechanical ventilation, blood gas determinations, pulmonary function tests and maneuvers to remove lung secretions.

Respiratory therapists also develop and refine appropriate treatment plans for COPD, an umbrella term for chronic bronchitis, emphysema and refractory asthma. COPD can develop due to smoking and exposure to certain chemicals, air pollution and secondhand cigarette smoke. Respiratory therapists also treat pneumonia, asthma, sinusitis, acute bronchitis and pulmonary fibrosis.

For people with pulmonary fibrosis or COPD, pulmonary rehabilitation is essential to rebuild strength and enjoy an active life. Pulmonary rehabilitation provides significant benefits in boosting lung function, improving the quality of life for people with lung disease and reducing their symptoms. Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease where scarring of the lungs makes breathing difficult. Rehab involves teaching patients how to conserve their energy and exercise without shortness of breath. This type of rehab is typically offered in a group setting so patients can meet others with the same or similar conditions and receive or give support to others.

About the NKU Online B.S. in Respiratory Care Program

NKU’s online B.S. in Respiratory Care program can help graduates grow their careers and compete for higher-level positions in a high-demand field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, respiratory therapists make an annual median pay of $61,830, and the job outlook for these professionals between 2021 and 2031 is 14%.

By providing students with a solid foundation, this online degree program equips them for future graduate study. Graduates will be prepared to achieve the best possible outcomes for their patients.

Learn more about NKU’s online B.S. in Respiratory Care program.

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