Life as a New Respiratory Therapist

Life as a New Respiratory Therapist (Explained)

by | Updated: Jan 28, 2023

Respiratory therapy programs aim to develop students into successful respiratory therapists. Sure, there are specific standards that accredited programs must uphold, such as:

  • Teaching the required content
  • Providing students with clinical experience
  • Ensuring competency requirements at met
  • Helping prepare students for the board exams

But at the end of the day, they are also responsible for teaching new respiratory therapists how to be successful in the real world. And that leads to the question:

What is Life Like as a New Respiratory Therapist?

Kenzie Daniels is a registered respiratory therapist from Fort Worth, TX. We asked her a series of questions about respiratory therapy school and her experience as a new respiratory therapist. Here’s what she had to say:

Where Did You Go To Respiratory Therapy School?

I attended Weatherford College, which recently won the CoARC President’s award for its 100% credentialing rate for new respiratory therapy graduates.

How Was Your Experience in Respiratory Therapy School?

My experience in respiratory therapy school was unique. I was accepted into the program at the age of 15 and graduated when I was only 17 years old.

I had a lot to prove to my professors, classmates, clinical instructors, and, most importantly, my patients.

I learned how to apply myself in studying effectively and using the material in clinical rotations with patient-by-patient scenarios.

I also experienced a significant amount of personal growth during that time. Working in a critical care setting made me realize both the fragility and resilience of the human body, which has helped me become more mindful and grateful with each day I have.

My professors and clinical instructors were very invested in our lives and educational experience as students. They worked hard to provide the best possible environment for us to learn and grow. My classmates and I were extremely close, and working through the program with them was an honor.

In a way, I essentially “grew up” in respiratory therapy school, and I am really thankful for that!

How Difficult Were the Board Exams?

Surprisingly, to me, the board exams were a breeze! They definitely did not equate to what actual clinical practice is like. Recognizing the differences between “test world” and the “real world” was very helpful.

Did You Pass on Your First Attempt?


How Did You Prepare for the Board Exams?

I used the entire last year of respiratory therapy school to prepare for the board exams. Respiratory Therapy Zone was definitely helpful throughout the process.

How Long Did It Take You to Find a Job?

I found a job immediately after graduating from respiratory therapy school. In fact, I already had multiple job offers before graduation, which shows that respiratory therapists are in demand.

What Has Your Experience Been Like Starting a Career as a Respiratory Therapist?

My experience as a new respiratory therapist has been an absolute dream! I could not ask for a more rewarding and exciting career.

I was able to immediately start working in critical care and love facing new challenges each day. It is such an honor to work in a career that allows me to help others.

What’s Your Favorite Thing About Being a Respiratory Therapist?

So far, my favorite thing about being a respiratory therapist is having the autonomy to manage ventilators and setting up patient care plans with other members of the healthcare team.

What’s the Most Challenging Thing About Being a Respiratory Therapist?

So far, my biggest challenge has been working with providers and advocating for my patients.

For example, to put in a new order or make changes to an existing order, you must know enough about the patient to be able to express your ideas. This requires knowledge about the therapy, medication, and physiology.

It’s important not to assume that providers know all the options available to treat a patient. Therefore, you must know how to articulate your thoughts in a way that resonates with them.

Are You Glad You Chose to Become a Respiratory Therapist?

I am so glad I chose to become a respiratory therapist!

What Advice Would You Give to Respiratory Therapy Students?

My advice for respiratory therapy students is this: Just put the work in, and make that work quality work.

For example, you never want to be in a situation where you’re responsible for keeping a patient alive and not know what to do because you didn’t invest your time wisely as a student.

Another piece of advice is that it’s okay to reach out for help.

There are so many resources available. Don’t let shyness or embarrassment hinder you from getting the educational experience you need to provide quality care for your future patients.

Final Thoughts

As previously mentioned, a successful career as a respiratory therapist requires more than just clinical knowledge. You must also advocate for your patients and work collaboratively with other members of the healthcare team.

As a respiratory therapy student, it’s essential to learn and understand the material covered in school and know how to apply it in the real world. That is because, eventually, you may be the only thing standing between life and death for your patient.

And while the transition from student to medical professional can be daunting, it is also very rewarding. After all, you get to use the skills you’ve acquired to make a difference in the lives of others. Thanks for reading, and I wish you the best of luck!

Written by:

Kenzie Daniels, BS, RRT, MS1, DCS3
Kenzie Daniels is a registered respiratory therapist and Doctor of Chiropractic Medicine/M.S. functional nutrition student from Fort Worth, TX. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Liberty University, where she tri-focused in biology, behavioral science, and Biblical studies.