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Readers Respond: The Real Life of a Respiratory Therapist

Responses: 40


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?

It's not for everyone

Just because I decided that RT was not for me and got out of the profession does not mean that I need to grow up. I ended up leaving RT after 7 years. I am now a Biology/A&P professor at a University. I am much happier with being a professor. I really enjoy it. RT taught me a lot, but there's no way that I could have stayed in the profession forever. I was miserable. I hated the hours, the weekend shift, night shifts, dealing with death on a regular basis. It just wasn't for me. For all of you RTs out there that love it, more power to you! I applaud you!
—Guest Guest

I'm loving it so far

I'm a new RRT - but I'm loving it. It's a little irksome that RN's make more, but you'd have to pay me more to do that job! I make good money and I enjoy myself doing it. We get a lot of respect at my hospital. We have protocols so we only give breathing treatments when they are needed (mostly). If we are called to assess a patient the RN's express their appreciation for our help. In the ICUs we are expected to take part in rounds and give our input. Sometimes we even do an additional "respiratory rounds" with the fellow or attending to discuss our ventilation plans. We have to have orders for vent changes, but usually the residents are told to write us orders for whatever we think is best. When the Medicare Respiratory Therapy Initiative passes, we will see a new kind of career growth as well.
—Guest NewRRT

Loser Profession

When I walked into [name of employer withheld by editor] 24 years ago they said one thing to me. This is a loser profession. If you plan on staying in it don't!!! Funny thing was that at that time we were the 3rd biggest money maker in the Hospital. We were paid per procedure. We had 20 to 30 jobs posted weekly in Cleveland papers. When managed care came in we became a money loser to the hospitals. We were no longer paid per procedure. The AARC did not even show up to represent us during the meetings in Washington. I know this as a former boss of mine told me and he now works for the AARC. The NBRC now pressures the hospitals to only hire RRTs. They have screwed all CRTs but still send money and membership requests to them. We still are not recognized by the federal government as a profession. The NBRC and AARC should be torn into a million pieces and cast to the wind. If you choose a healthcare profession find out if they have good representation. Physical Therapy or Ultrasound does have this.
—Guest LSRT

Empowerment and Ethics

I have been an RT for 18 years. I have experienced the good and bad sides of it. What I have to say is that it is what you make of it. I had the best experiences when I worked in hospitals where RT's were given a voice in the patient care. I had the worst experiences when no or very little autonomy was given. This can be translated to any job. My only gripe is the lack of cohesiveness between administrators and staff. Like any other business, it's all about the bottom line and unfortunately at the risk of patient safety. The career as an RT is a walk on a tight rope. Either you love the audience or you hate the risk or both. The question is...can you maintain balance?

Look into other options

Ive been an Rt for 8 years. I would look for another profession. There is no room for advancement, everyone in the field has been there forever, and most of them are bitter and can't wait for retirement. Most nurses treat you like crap, but are the first to call when they need something. A lot of them feel like they can take over our job in a second. The doctors don't even speak to you. I was in the room with one the other day as he spoke to the nurse and said to change a vent setting when I was standing right there. There are no options, acute care or chronic care. The money is ok, but you have to work holidays, nights, weekends, usually be mandated if someone calls in. I regret going to school for this and really don't want others to waste all their time and money to find out what a horrible profession this is. Look around and explore your options.
—Guest Guest774

WOW you are all confused!!!

I have been an RT for close to 30 years when an RT was respected when ABGs were calculted when rts did PEEP compliance studies and calculated complete DLCO PFTs. When RNS said ask RT we were respected for our expertise in ICU CCU ER LND and OR. We are needed for our knowledge. RNs can't do our job and we can't do theirs trust me. I have done all aspects of respiratory care in many hospitals, in top rated hospitals in southern calif. The problem is CEOs that treat patients like herding sheep (get em in get em out) get the money!!! Patient care is not a priority and they don't want to pay benefits. Nursing has union backup and pays less for licensing. NBRC needs to help RTs. Then the respect will come back!!! Those RNs that think RTs are gofers are uneducated and do not work in the critical areas! Good luck, hold your head up, keep the respect in yourself. GOD BLESS
—Guest Rt J


I have been a respiratory therapist for over 25 years and I had very rewarding experiences in many hospitals. For the last 12 years I have worked in NE Florida and the rewards had gone downhill. Currently I have become a dreaded knob turner, a trained monkey handling Albuterol nebs. Great were the days I was able to intubate, insert arteries, choose my ventilated mode and treatments per Respiratory Driven Protocols, Surfactant replacement. It is a very rewarding career if you land in a well managed department which believes in moving forward with technologist. Also I have never received a pay greater than 45K here in Florida, so choose well and enjoy the ride!
—Guest Luna

Making a difference

I am currently a student enrolled in the RT program in Central California. I have read all the posts here, both positive ones as well as the negative ones. I have come to a conclusion that I am hopeful to work side by side with those who love their career and more so hopeful that I will be the one to replace the one who does not enjoy this career. I agree with.."you make your job"...if you are positive and love helping people..than everything falls into place.
—Guest ARodHunter

RRT Update

I work in Florida for a major hospital as a staff therapist. I have been out of school for many years and still can't get a full-time position. I've had up to three prn jobs just to meet 36-40 hours. The market is over saturated and not getting any better. Concorde, Keiser, Virginia College have completely ruined the profession by pumping out grads faster than hospitals can hire. I love what I do and have a rap sheet of credentials plus fantastic references and my patients compliment my professionalism. I just don't get it. I actually work with full time RT's that regulary take smoke breaks, only have the minimum credentials, some even do rounds with a cane. I have to get out of the profession. If you are a prospective RT student in FL (or basically anywhere in southeast as I have tried all the neighboring states) don't do it. Look at the classified or browse the hospital postings. There are absolutely ZERO jobs. Sure you may get to work prn (in winter) but come summer...forget it
—Guest Clark Kent


I'm about to start respiratory school and currently work as an EMT at one one of the highest paid services. I've never met a CRT or RRT that hates their job. I see a lot of them at a lot of different hospitals. They're mostly needed and definitely respected. I've been in healthcare for 10 years and as long as my positive attitude holds up everyone else's around me does too. They pay may not be great, but it's more than what I make now. A lot more. If you want respect you have to earn it. And as far as working holidays and weekends, we asked for it by choosing to put others before us. All you people complaining should maybe look into an MBA. Twelve hours of helping others, from treatment to paperwork, is a good twelve hours. I can't wait to start.
—Guest Scott

RRT it's hell

I have been an RT for about 28 to 30 years and I have worked in large to small hospitals. I feel after all these years that I am being punished, like being in purgatory for choosing this profession. Now I will tell you why I would never ever in a million years advise anyone with a lick of brains to go into this field. 1. The money sucks. 2. There is really nowhere to advance to except to become a supervisor, lead therapist or charge therapist or maybe get some special NICU specialist title or even become a cert. or reg. pulmonary function tech. but these really don't pay you well enough for all the BS you have to go through to get them. 3. You will work with the worst managers and supervisors that you can imagine. Most of these people are just automatons who never will support you about anything, especially if you get written up by a nurse. Forget it. No matter how innocent you may be you will always be wrong. 4. Get a good ED. BUT NOT IN RT.

rt backwards

This field is going backwards education wise. When everyone is going up for BS minimum, RT schools are opening up everywhere flooding the market with new grads. It is impossible to get a job nowadays. There is too much kissing a** in this field too, its true, its not what you know but who you know. You also get to work with rts that only sleeps because they are too tired working 7 days a week. There is no way you can advance in this field. If you are thinking about doing RT, think again.
—Guest rt stuck on reverse

attitude of gratitude

I guess if you have a positive attitude most things in life are good. If the shift before you leaves all the work for you, I guess you will never be out of work. It will only be a matter of time before your superiors see you as the go-to person because you have a can do attitude. People need help and that is what you signed on for. If you love them and their condition karma will see to your success. Keep your chin up. Go exercise in your off time and enjoy your good health. Life is too short to be miserable. Good luck all.
—Guest marc

I guess it must be better in Canada

I have been a RRT for 4 years, and to me becoming a respiratory therapist was the best decision I could have made. Many of the negative responses on this forum seem to be related to: not enough money, and not enough respect from your fellow healthcare professionals. My response to these posts is this. What I did today at the university hospital that I work in was, as follows: Ran to a 'Respiratory STAT' page in CCU- intubated a difficult airway patient with a glidescope, with the assistance of another RRT. Intubated, and put a radial arterial line in a cancer patient with a GCS of 3. The two above events are only part of what I was required to do during my 12 hour emergency shift. The nurses/MD's were appreciative. The role is great. But, after reading some of the negative comments I wanted to give someone interested, an idea of what a RRT's day can consist of. Ventilator changes/O2 therapy are up to the RRT-no MD order required. Salary- I've made 85,000-107,000/YR in the last 4yrs.
—Guest Dan

I love doing my job

I have been an RT for 10 years now. I have had several different jobs as a RT. I hated working as a home care RT but, I love working in the hospital now that I am back in the hospital I will never leave. I work at a great hospital that is a great team and we really do care for our pt's. I can't tell you how many times I have been told that MMH is the most care hospital that one of my pt's has step in to. I thank the Lord for my great job.
—Guest steph

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