/////Respiratory Therapists Vital to Health Care Team
Respiratory Therapists Vital to Health Care Team 2018-01-05T09:16:54+00:00

OCT. 23, 2006 | From delivering the first breath of life to premature newborns in the delivery room to helping asthma patients manage their disease to working a Code Blue, respiratory therapists stay busy. Respiratory Care Week, being celebrated Oct. 22-28, offers an opportunity to raise awareness of the vital role respiratory therapists play as part of the health care team.


Amy Longnecker, a respiratory therapist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Medical Center, enjoys the variety offered in the profession. She has been a part of the “Code Blue” team that responds anywhere in the hospital when a patient stops breathing. She has worked on serious trauma cases brought to the emergency room, cared for patients with chronic lung disease and those requiring mechanical ventilation. She has attended high-risk deliveries to assist in the resuscitation of newborns.


“It feels good any time I’ve been able to help a patient,” Longnecker said. “Respiratory care is a varied and interesting profession.


“I also like the interaction with the doctors, nurses, and other members of the health care team.”


Longnecker knew she wanted a career as a health care professional, because she wanted to help people. Respiratory care interested her after observing respiratory therapists operate mechanical ventilators that helped premature newborns breathe.


She graduated from the respiratory care program in the UAMS College of Health Related Professions (CHRP). Today she is the assistant director of the respiratory care department in the UAMS Medical Center. She offered a strong recommendation for respiratory care as a career choice.


Respiratory care is regularly rated as one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that the need for respiratory therapists will increase 35 percent through 2012.


Erna L. Boone, chairman of the Department of Respiratory and Surgical Technologies in the CHRP, said the profession is versatile. While most respiratory therapists work in hospitals, an increasing number are working in skilled nursing facilities, physicians’ offices, specialized care hospitals, in research, and in patients’ homes.  Additionally, therapists serve as members of neonatal and pediatric helicopter flight teams.


The respiratory care program at UAMS has a high job placement rate – virtually 100 percent each year, Boone said. The average salary for respiratory therapists in the United States is more than $50,000 per year, according to labor statistics.


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


Respiratory therapists perform diagnostic procedures to identify or monitor respiratory problems, and they help treat those problems.


Diagnostic techniques include obtaining and analyzing blood and breath samples, as well as performing studies of sleep disorders. 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.  Increasingly, therapists are working in sleep disorders laboratories.


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


For patients with chronic lung problems, the therapist may assist with rehabilitation activities, such as aerobic exercises.


In clinical rotations, respiratory care students get hands-on experience in the techniques and knowledge they gained in a classroom setting. 


UAMS also offers the respiratory care program through the UAMS Area Health Education Center Southwest in Texarkana and the University of Arkansas Community College in Batesville.

Links on This Page
UAMS Respiratory Care program: http://www.uams.edu/chrp/res/default.asp