/////Respiratory Therapists Remain in High Demand
Respiratory Therapists Remain in High Demand 2018-01-05T09:12:50+00:00

March 3, 2005 | On a visit to Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) years ago, Ben Downs watched as a respiratory therapist assisted a young patient’s breathing while the child was being temporarily taken off a ventilator.


Realizing the impact that therapist was having on the patient led Downs to the respiratory care program in the College of Health Related Professions (CHRP) at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Today, Downs is the director of staff development and education for respiratory therapists at ACH, working with UAMS respiratory care students on their rotations at ACH.


Since he went to work as a respiratory therapist 11 years ago, his experiences have regularly confirmed that he made the right career choice.


“There have been several moments when working with a patient that I know I am making a difference. And when I leave the room, I know that patient’s condition has tangibly improved,” Downs said. “Then to see the patient’s family members, who understand the impact of my job … those moments are when I say to myself ‘that’s why I’m doing this.’”


Respiratory care is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the need for respiratory therapists will increase 35 percent through 2012.


Erna L. Boone, M.Ed., chairman of the Department of Respiratory and Surgical Technologies in the UAMS College of Health Related Professions, is not surprised.


“It’s a versatile profession with a wide variety of job opportunities,” Boone said. “While most respiratory therapists work in hospitals, an increasing number of respiratory therapists are now working in skilled nursing facilities, physicians’ offices, home health agencies, specialized care hospitals, medical equipment supply companies, in research, and in patients’ homes.”


The respiratory care program at UAMS has a high job placement rate – virtually 100 percent each year, Boone said. The average starting salary for respiratory therapists in Central Arkansas is more than $40,000 per year, according to labor statistics.


Boone and other respiratory care faculty members and students plan to share these important points as well as their love of the profession with visitors at a series of open houses touting the program. The first open house will be from 10:30 a.m. until noon, Saturday, March 5, in the College of Public Health Building on the UAMS campus, Room 3202.


Visitors to the open house can see hands-on demonstrations by current students and faculty and also find out about program prerequisites and application procedures.


Respiratory therapists are members of the health care team that provide respiratory care for patients with heart and lung disorders. In hospitals, respiratory therapists perform intensive care, critical care, and neonatal procedures. They also are typically a vital part of the hospital’s lifesaving response team that handles patient emergencies.


Respiratory therapists perform diagnostic procedures intended both to identify or monitor a respiratory problem as well as being involved in treatment of respiratory problems.


Diagnostic techniques could include obtaining and analyzing sputum and breath samples. The therapist takes blood samples and analyzes them to determine levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other gases. The therapist also might measure the capacity of a patient’s lungs to determine if there is impaired function.  


Treatment responsibilities for a respiratory therapist could include operating and maintaining various types of equipment to administer oxygen or to assist with breathing. The therapist can also administer medications that help alleviate breathing problems and prevent respiratory infections.


The respiratory therapist then will monitor the patient to ensure the patient is responding to treatment and that respiratory equipment is functioning properly. For patients with chronic lung problems, the therapist may assist with rehabilitation activities, such as aerobic exercises.


In rotations at UAMS Medical Center, ACH, the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, Baptist Health Medical Center, and St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, respiratory care students from UAMS will get hands-on experience in the techniques and knowledge they gained in a classroom setting.  In their senior year, Downs noted, students will come to ACH for a critical care rotation in the intensive care units and the burn unit.


“I think that’s when the student really shows the heart of what they have learned in the classroom, being able to use the depth of knowledge of the respiratory and cardiovascular systems,” Downs said. “The respiratory therapist is a vital member of the critical care team, responsible for the patient’s airway – because when the patient’s airway isn’t clear, nothing else matters.”


UAMS also offers the respiratory care program through the Area Health Education Center Southwest in Texarkana. Those students have clinical rotations at Christus St. Michael Health Care System and Wadley Regional Medical Center in Texarkana.

Links on This Page

UAMS Respiratory Care program: http://www.uams.edu/chrp/res/default.asp

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