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Readers Respond: The Real Life of a Respiratory Therapist

Responses: 60


When choosing a career, it is helpful to get information about it from those who actually work in the occupation one is considering. Please share information about your career as a respiratory therapist so that those thinking of entering this field can make an informed decision.

  1. Describe what you do as a respiratory therapist?
  2. What do you like about being a respiratory therapist? What don't you like about it?
  3. With the proper training, how easy or difficult is it for someone to get an entry level job as a respiratory therapist?
  4. Are you happy you became a respiratory therapist? Why or why not?

Tell Us About Your Job

The for profits eliminated quality

We all have our own opinions. However, having spent 14 years in the field as a specialist and trainer I can say it has proven a waste of time. Being in a narrow scope of practice for this long can stereotype and eliminate any opportunity of working in other areas of healthcare. You are labeled as having been in one of the lowest levels of the food chain in a hospital, although you may be fortunate to be in a small facility with less than 300 beds and "rule" the ER, floors, and ICU. I was able to transition eventually but with a lot of prayer and great wife. I am now a much happier stay at home retired 48 year old dad. I would rather listen to my wife's daily challenges as a doctor in our local hospital system than continue to be unhappy. My advice is to remember life is SO short, enjoy and embrace it, do not remain in a profession which makes you unhappy.
—Guest RRT in NE FL

Thank you

A big thanks to the RTs that enjoy what you do. I have only been a RRT for three years and I have seen plenty career advancement for myself. It all depends on having a good attitude and work ethic. All those negative posts are from the people we all know too well: the whiners and complainers who pass the buck and the blame ...most likely not to succeed in any career they choose.
—Guest J. A. RRT


Well, I feel that you have more bad days than good. I wish I had picked another field to go into. They load you up to the max and then the pager will not shut up. You are lucky to get your treatments done. My blood pressure has gone through the roof. I am not trying to be neg, but the job can be a living hell.
—Guest william

Love it or leave it!

It's all about what you make it. I have been an RRT-NPS for over 32 years. I intubate, insert arterial lines, assist with cardiac caths, patient transport and even change a diaper or two as needed in NICU. I encourage others to "be the best you can be", just don't mess with nurses IV's unless you know what you are doing! All the doctors and residents come to me with their questions, if I don't know the answer I'll find someone else that can help them. Learn everything you can to make a difference in the life of your patients and family members.
—Guest RRTDave

To everyone complaining about ...

how much this job sucks, is gross, doesn't pay well, and has crappy people ... I have worked in several fields and have lost count of how many jobs I have had in my life (in the 30's by now). Every. Single. One. Of. Them. Sucked. Somehow. I have always found crappy people to work with, as well as some good ones. It always feels like Jr. High all over again, no one ever really "grows up". Healthcare is a gross field. Sick people are not pretty. If you are grossed out by ick then you shouldn't have gone through with the schooling. Did no one research the position before investing time, money, and energy into school? That's your bad. And from what I've seen researching the pay rates for my area (CA) the pay is pretty dang good, especially for a career that only requires an associates degree. I know people who have graduated university and are now making a whopping $28k. You can't live on that. Go find another career that makes you happy, but don't discourage others by trashing the job.
—Guest RT Student


I spent 35 years as an RT. Finding the right hospital and throwing yourself into the fire is the first step. Avoid hospitals where doctors have to write orders for O2 % changes. If there are patient or therapist driven protocols, if they allow you to intubate as well as wean a patient off a ventilator, and your fellow therapists are trained and motivated, you may stand a chance. The worst case conditions are working with doctors and nurses who have a concept of a tank jockey turned neb pusher/glorified knob turner who sits around in an office surfing the web and wondering when it's break time. That's why you have to throw yourself into that fire and add whatever consulting talents you have to offer. If your supervisor or department head doesn't support you, find some place else that will. Believe me, there are some states I wouldn't even consider.

Respiratory therapy: a bad choice

I have worked as an auto mechanic, truck rental manager,high school teacher,civil service manager,business owner and finally respiratory therapist. I have always managed to maintain a happy outlook in life until I became a respiratory therapist. In all fairness I must say that stress and hard work come with most jobs as do thankless coworkers and unfriendly customers ( yes our hospital calls the patients customers).There are some good and bad elements of this job however I do wish that I had spoken to more people in this field before I chose respiratory therapy because I would certainly have picked something else. All of the comments that I have read here have had certain levels of accuracy but there is one point that I have not seen. Of all the professions that I have been in I have never seen a higher concentration of self centered arrogant know-it-alls as in respiratory therapy and I have worked at many hospitals for quite a few years.

Respiratory therapy gets better everyday

I have been an RRT-NPS (Registered Respiratory Therapist/Neonatal-Pediatric Specialist) for over 31 years. I have worked at large hospitals to hospitals with fewer than 20 beds in several rural communities in Nebraska, Iowa, Montana and Colorado. This is one of the most rewarding careers out there today! With the baby-boomers approaching retirement, there will be ample opportunities for skilled registered respiratory therapists. Within the next few years, the associate degree is going to be phased out and you will be required to obtain a bachelor's degree. Also, the certified respiratory technician test will be eliminated requiring all graduates to obtain a RRT credential before they can be licensed by each state (those states requiring a license). In the near future, RRT's will be near the same level as a Physician Assistant, some thoughts are we "could be" called respiratory specialists with the ability to write Rx's for RT Meds.
—Guest rrtdave

Everything is what u make it

I know people who are MDs and don't LOVE their job. You have to put in what you want out. Simple Law. Attract to yourself what you want out of this life i am a Master degrees RRT . I own a Respiratory Care Prevention Facility in Ga for children. I love it. I teach children and their parents how to prevent asthma attacks mainly and how to deal with asthma medicinally, emotionally and physically. My career is VERY rewarding. Do what feels right. Don't join or feed the negative emotions, thoughts or actions of others :)
—Guest sade

This job is the worst

Bottom line is that as an RT you live your life in fear of a nurse complaining about you to a higher up for not giving a dumb, over-used neb treatment. Please god... Will the nurses just FINALLY take all the neb treatments and just end our pain. Let them give them for whatever they want, cause they just use RTs to do what they want. Eliminate RTs and give them their self-respect back and just get rid of that fear that EVERY RT walks around with.
—Guest Carloz

Do your homework

I have been an RT for 21 years. I started in a large university hospital in the midwest when I graduated. I knew I wanted the full experience with a broad range of patient conditions and research opportunities - so I went for the university position. Throughout my career I've worked in 3 institutions-all with strong RT departments and a dedicated manager and director advocating for our profession. I now work on the west coast in an excellent department that is very involved at the state and federal governing level and is constantly looking for research opportunities to grow our profession and develop standardized protocols for our care. We are respected and our therapists are INVOLVED, not just in patient care, but in the growth and development of our profession. If you are not happy, move on. Find a hospital that respects your profession and empowers its RT department. They are out there...do your homework and find them.
—Guest Guest Tammy

Just respiratory

Been in the field for 15 years. I've had opportunity to work home care, rehab, some hospital and long term care with vent patients. If it's all about you, there are lots of professions out there. But if you want the honor of caring for those for their very breath and can stand with them in that place, consider respiratory therapy.
—Guest Ron


Don’t go into respiratory; I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s a job that consists of giving breathing treatments to pts., whether they need them or not. Depending on your hospital, you may have a say in it, but mostly, you’ll have to follow the doctor’s orders. There’s no autonomy in this field and no brain power to use. Sure, you’ll have to use critical thinking and skills in an emergency situation, but you won’t be doing anything that other hospital professionals don’t already know. Other duties include ABGs, setting and managing the ventilators, O2 therapy, suctioning. Duties vary among hospitals; ex: some may let their RTs intubate, some don’t. Ask a local hospital to job shadow an RT for a day. If you still think doing treatments all day long, doing vent checks (jotting down the numbers on the vent), drawing blood day in and day out are enjoyable, go for it. But remember, there's no advancement. I dont want anyone to waste their time and money on this field only to be disappointed.
—Guest Oahu

Happy to be an RRT

I read the majority of the posts and I am disappointed at the lack of respect people in our own profession have for what we do. I'm a new grad, got employed immediately in SWFL and enjoy working with my patients in floor, ER or units. We work hard and the pay is good PRN. However, I do not live with eyes wide shut. There are bitter people in the field but there people who love their job as well. We provide an invaluable service and we should all be glad we have a job. I would encourage anyone who is willing to work hard and get a steady paycheck to go for it!! God Bless!!
—Guest Guest Shannon

Really! It's great to be here!!!!

Ok. I have mostly read negative. I'm human... well. On a good day anywhere, you love your job and a bad day, well, you wonder why? I have been a therapist for 18 yrs. I don't love nor hate it. It is. Just like other work, it is. I would not necessarily want my child to do this job, but, I would want him to do it over the military and manual labor. I would want him to do it because he could make some living at it. I would want him to do it, because it fed him and clothed him and sheltered him. When live serves you with better than survival, choose something else. When it's survival, plus a little choose medical. When it's just survival, choose menial. I like what I do and I enjoy saving lives when I can. Today, I choose to be happy being doing what I can. Find your happy place and do it for the day!!!
—Guest RRT in NWArkansas

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The Real Life of a Respiratory Therapist

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