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Respiratory Therapy


Respiratory Therapy Career Opportunities

Respiratory Therapy is an exciting high tech health care field. Respiratory Therapists manage the ventilation of critically ill patients as well as provide acute and chronic care to patients with pulmonary disease. In 2011, experienced Respiratory Therapists earning $80,000 to $90,000 per year typically work with physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals in the areas of preventive care, treatment, management, and rehabilitation of people with lung and heart problems.

Working as a Respiratory Therapist

Much of the work for respiratory therapy is located in the intensive care unit. In this setting, the respiratory therapist monitors mechanical ventilators which help critically ill patients breath. The respiratory therapist may also give breathing treatments to assist patients with pulmonary problems. He routinely works with a variety of medical personnel under high stress conditions. Therefore, the respiratory care professional must be a special kind of person. In addition to the respiratory critical care, the therapist can also choose to work in respiratory therapy management, respiratory therapy education, pediatric or neonatal respiratory care, pulmonary function testing, cardiac stress testing, bronchoscopy assisting, emergency respiratory care, respiratory therapy home care, and pulmonary rehabilitation. The Respiratory Therapist may be employed on the day, evening or night shift.

A typical shift for a therapist might involve resuscitating a trauma victim in the emergency room, attending the delivery of a premature newborn with fragile lungs, easing the breathing of a fifteen year old with asthma, and caring for a patient in the intensive care unit who underwent open heart surgery earlier in the day.

After earning your AS degree from Foothill College, you can expect to make $27-$34 per hour. In 2005, experienced therapists in the bay area earn up to $80,000 per year. Since therapists are essential to patient care, they are present in the hospital 24 hours a day like doctors and nurses. Therapists typically work 8 or 12 hour shifts. Full time and part time benefited positions are available. Many young therapists find the flexibility of 12 hour shifts makes it possible to complete a bachelor's degree while still working. The Bay Area (and the entire US) is presently experiencing a shortage of therapists so the long term outlook for the profession is great!

All graduates become eligible to take the National Registry Examinations (including the California State licensure exam) for registration as a Respiratory Therapist.

Career Opportunities in Respiratory Therapy

The Foothill Respiratory Therapy Program prepares you for entry-level positions in the field, as a registry-eligible graduate therapist. Jobs include hospital staff respiratory therapist and independent home care respiratory therapist. Average salaries for San Francisco Bay Area Therapists in May of 2011 were approximately $80,000 - $90,000 per year. The average starting salary range was $34 to $36 per hour. Shift differentials and job duties can raise these salaries. Therapists can choose to specialize in newborn, pediatric or adult intensive care depending upon where they are employed. With experience, supervisory and educational opportunities are available.

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