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Readers Respond: The Real Life of a Respiratory Therapist

Responses: 40


worst profession ever!!!

I absolutely hate the fact I went to and finished respiratory school. It took MONTHS to find a job after graduating even though I trained at a trauma one level center. This profession is more about who you know, not what you know. Often I feel overworked, especially when I have to go to CT or MRI and I have a FULL unit. I feel there is no one to fight for us the way nurses have people. I am not sure who the lobbyists are in Washington, DC for respiratory therapists but, I think it’s time to get some new ones!!!!!
—Guest new RRT

What it's really like

All I can say is Wow! Where do you guys work? I have been a respiratory therapist for 12 years and I love it. When I show up for my shift I receive an assignment and report on hospital patients that need respiratory therapy including oxygen, inhaled medicines or mechanical ventilation of any kind. I then split the workload with the other therapist on duty. I assess my patients and decide what if any therapy is needed and institute that therapy. During my shift I respond to any emergencies in the hospital and am often called to assess and give my opinion on patients as part of a critical assessment team when their nurse or family is concerned. I also draw blood gases, suction the airway, care for tracheotomies, assist with neonatal care, intubate (place breathing tube into trachea) and much more. I care for people from birth through death. I often hear "Thank You" and I often say it too. I work holidays, weekends and overtime but that is what I signed up for when I chose health care.
—Guest RT

Guest CRT

I had been a CRT, Certified RT, for over 5 years. I started as a RTA, RTT, then they said we had to go through a respiratory program. This was in the 1980's. So, at the time we all had to do this so our whole department went to school and worked. The hospital reimbursed us. I guess I was lucky because we all got along and worked together. Yes, we had very different personality types, but it worked. It saddens me to read some of the replies on this site. Yes, respiratory is thankless if you are waiting for a pat on your back from a doctor, nurse etc. They are very busy people just as you are. Your thanks are received from the numerous patients YOU helped to breathe easier when they had asthma attacks or they came off the ventilator alive and are back on the floor out of ICU. Don't you get it? YOU are the best, because you gave from your heart no matter what. What do you hear when you aren't around"help- we need respiratory!!" There's your thank you.
—Guest Mary

Pros and cons

Pros: decent pay; doesn't take long to get through school; sometimes it can be easy to find a job. Cons: long 12 hour shifts, sometimes longer; work weekends and holidays; usually have to start out on nights; thankless job; don't get much respect; hard to move up or advance in your career. After 2 years and 3 different hospitals I am going back to school for something else. I wouldn't suggest this if you plan on having a family.
—Guest Sara


RT is not my dream job. Scheduling is crappy but you'd get the same schedule if you were a nurse or in any other health job. The pay is about the same as a nurse. You won't get rich, but you'll do okay. Depending on who you work with, they generally assume you don't know anything or assume you are like a doctor and know everything. Staffing is never really right. It seems that they staff too little so when it's busy you are like a chicken with your head cut off, and when it's slow you will spend the majority of your 12 hour shift just trying to stay awake. On the other hand you do get to work independently, are not stuck at a desk and get to interact with a lot of interesting people. It's not for everyone -- it has it's perks, it has it's pitfalls -- the same as ANY job. We complain but when it comes down to it, it's like any other job + the stress of dealing with sickness and death. I have been an RT for two years now and I can handle it but don't want to do it the rest of my life.
—Guest Sammy

Hate It!

Most stressful job I have ever done! If you are not stressing over critical patients you are a mess over the long hours and nasty unhappy people you work with. I have never heard so many complainers in all my life! Everyone in Respiratory is always trying to one up the other to climb on that clinical ladder. I was so unprepared for what I would deal with as a professional. I am back in college doing anything but RESPIRATORY! It sucks! :(
—Guest Tracy

Don't Become A RT

Although being a Respiratory Therapist has been a fairly rewarding career,you can get burned out easily,not to mention you are limited on mobility in this field.I would not like to be a supervisor. They are not treated very nicely. I do work 3/12 hour shifts per week which is nice. I get paid a good hourly wage. It's a job that you could only do it for a few years. If you are thinking about a job in healthcare, become a nurse.

Ups and downs

The 3 days aren't bad, the 12hrs can get a little long but don't bother me too much. 40,000/yr is a good estimate on what you can expect to make right out of school. All in all it's not a bad gig, but def not the dream job. It seems to attract a lot of (chief wannabes) ppl that want to be big wigs, but lack the leadership and proper communication skills. It is the "thankless" job of respiratory so even going above and beyond won't get you much. I've worked at 3 dif hospitals now and I hate to say it....been disappointed every time:( I've looked at myself and asked if "I" was the issue for my reasons of not caring enough for the job, but I was quickly reminded that the badness trickles down from the top. It's so true. Just don't expect too much and remember hospitals are almost just like high schools. My 4yrs exp. isn't much compared to most, but I've def got the feeling of how it all works now. I will be moving on just as soon as I'm able.
—Guest just me

Pros and Cons of RRT

Pros: work 3-4 days per week the rest of the week is yours unless you work multiple jobs. Help people, work with innovative technology. Cons: Limited as far as lateral or upward movement in the profession. Better enjoy working 12hours in the hospital. Giving up a large portion of holidays and at least every third weekend. Scheduling sucks and just not a lot else you can do other than homecare, hospital, sales, or education. I feel trapped. I've been doing it for 4 years and don't plan on retiring as a therapist, but we'll see, right now it's what is paying the bills
—Guest RRT

Respiratory therapist

As a respiratory therapist, I feel I have one of the best careers in the medical field. I care for terminally ill patients, and patients who are recovering. The job is versatile and very challenging. Rts are all over the place in hospitals, we are highly respected, and are a vital part of the life support team.
—Guest Cherry Reagan

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