A respiratory therapist is a specialized healthcare practitioner who has graduated from a college or a university and passed a national board certifying examination. Respiratory therapists educate, diagnose, and treat people who are suffering from heart and lung problems. Specialised in both cardiac and pulmonary care, respiratory therapists often collaborate with specialists in pulmonology and anaesthesia in various aspects of clinical care of patients. Respiratory therapists provide a vital role in both medicine and nursing. Respiratory therapists are specialists in airway management; actively maintaining an open airway during management of trauma, intensive care, and may administer anaesthesia for surgery or conscious sedation. Respiratory therapists often are in charge of initiating and managing life support for people in intensive care units and emergency departments, stabilizing and monitoring high risk patients being moved from hospital to hospital by air or ground ambulance, and administering inhaled drugs and medical gases such as asthma medication, oxygen, and anaesthetic gases.
Respiratory therapists are also primary clinicians in conducting tests to measure lung function and teaching people to manage asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder among many other cardiac and lung functions. Internationally, respiratory therapists that provide lung function testing are termed respiratory scientists, but in North America, they may be a respiratory therapist or may also be a certified pulmonary function technician in the United States.
Outside of clinics and hospitals, respiratory therapists often manage home oxygen needs of patients and their families, providing around the clock support for home ventilators and other equipment for conditions like sleep apnea.
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