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Respiratory Therapist

Respiratory therapists help people who suffer from chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. People who have had heart attacks or who have sleep disorders and infants who are born prematurely might also need respiratory therapy to help them breathe more easily. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning or shock.

Respiratory therapistsʼ knowledge of the scientific principles underlying cardiopulmonary physiology and pathophysiology, as well as biomedical engineering and technology, enables them to effectively assess, educate and treat patients with cardiopulmonary disorders.

Critical thinking, patient/environment assessment skills and evidence-based clinical practice guidelines enable respiratory therapists to develop and implement effective care plans, protocols and disease management programs. Respiratory therapists practice under medical direction.

Advanced level therapists participate in clinical decision-making and patient education, the development and implementation of protocols and treatment plans, health promotion, disease prevention and disease management. Although they practice under the supervision of a physician, they exercise considerable independent judgment in providing respiratory therapy to patients.

Job Description

  • Diagnosing lung and breathing disorders and recommending treatment methods
  • Interviewing patients and doing chest physical exams to determine what kind of therapy is best for their condition
  • Consulting with physicians to recommend a change in therapy, based on an evaluation of the patient
  • Analyzing breath, tissue, and blood specimens to determine levels of oxygen and other gases
  • Managing ventilators and artificial airway devices for patients who canʼt breathe normally on their own
  • Responding to Code Blue or other urgent calls for care
  • Educating patients and families about lung disease so they can maximize their recovery

Education and Experience

Respiratory therapists typically need an associateʼs degree, but some have bachelorʼs degrees. Respiratory therapists are licensed in all states except Alaska; requirements vary by state.

Two year Associateʼs degree or Four year Bachelorʼs degree

Associateʼs degree: the associate of science (A.S.) degree program prepares students for transfer to a four-year institution, while an associate of applied science (A.A.S.) degree program is a career program preparing students for employment can choose to sit for a national exam to become a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT)

Schools in Oklahoma

Tulsa Community College-Tulsa


Rose State College-Midwest City

FrancisTuttle Technology Center-Oklahoma City

OklahomaCity Community College-Oklahoma City

Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa

Autry Technology Center-Enid

(This is not a complete list of schools in Oklahoma)


$60,280 per year or $28.98 per hour

Job Growth

Career opportunities will remain good in the foreseeable future, projected to grow 19% between 2012 and 2022. This growth is largely due to the growing percentage of older people, who have higher incidences of respiratory conditions and illnesses like emphysema, chronic bronchitis and pneumonia. These respiratory disorders can permanently damage the lungs or restrict lung function.

Career Pathway

Staff Therapist

Shift Supervisor

Department Manager

Hospital Administration


Last Modified on Mar 15, 2023
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