Best Tools for Respiratory Therapists and Students Illustration

The 23+ Tools Used by Respiratory Therapists at Work (2024)

by | Updated: Apr 18, 2024

Respiratory therapists play a critical role in managing a wide range of breathing disorders, from chronic conditions like asthma and COPD to acute emergencies like trauma and COVID-19.

The tools they use are as diverse as their tasks, ranging from diagnostic devices to personal protective equipment. As the healthcare industry evolves, so does the toolkit of these vital medical professionals.

This article aims to explore some of the most important tools and equipment that respiratory therapists use while on the job.

We’ll explain how these tools aid in improving patient outcomes, ensuring practitioner safety, and streamlining the delivery of respiratory care.

Respiratory Therapist Tools and Equipment List

Here is a list of equipment that respiratory therapists use on the job, each serving a distinct purpose in diagnosing, managing, and treating breathing disorders:

  1. Stethoscope
  2. Pulse oximeter
  3. Mechanical ventilator
  4. Scrubs
  5. Lab coat
  6. Nebulizer
  7. Inhaler
  8. Clipboard
  9. Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  10. Shoes
  11. Compression socks
  12. Syringe
  13. Watch
  14. Badge reel
  15. Laryngoscope
  16. Endotracheal tube
  17. CPAP and BiPAP
  18. Nasal cannula
  19. Suction catheter
  20. Tracheostomy
  21. Penlight
  22. Egan’s textbook
  23. TMC Exam Prep Materials

1. Stethoscope

The stethoscope is perhaps the most iconic tool in healthcare. For respiratory therapists, it’s invaluable for listening to patients’ lungs and detecting abnormalities such as wheezing, crackles, and diminished breath sounds, which could indicate conditions like pneumonia, asthma, or other respiratory diseases.

Our Top Pick
3M Littmann Classic III Monitoring Stethoscope

This is our top recommendation due to its exceptional acoustic performance, durable construction, and versatility for both adult and pediatric patients, making it a reliable choice for healthcare professionals.

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2. Pulse Oximeter

This small, clip-like device is typically placed on a patient’s finger to measure oxygen saturation levels in the blood, a vital sign in assessing respiratory function.

By providing real-time data on oxygen levels, pulse oximeters aid respiratory therapists in monitoring patient status and adjusting treatments as needed.

Our Top Pick
Zacurate Pro Series 500DL Fingertip Pulse Oximeter

This pulse oximeter is our top recommendation due to its accuracy, ease of use, quick response time, and excellent affordability.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

3. Mechanical Ventilator

In serious cases where patients can’t breathe on their own, mechanical ventilators become life-saving equipment. They deliver pressurized air to the patient’s lungs, helping to maintain adequate oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.

Respiratory therapists are experts in managing these devices, adjusting settings to meet individual patient needs, and troubleshooting any issues that arise.

4. Scrubs

These are the standard uniform for respiratory therapists. Scrubs are designed for comfort during long shifts and are typically made from easy-to-clean materials to maintain hygiene.

They also play a vital role in infection control, as they are changed frequently to prevent the spread of pathogens.

FIGS Casma Scrub Top for Women
Best Overall
  • FIONx fabric: four-way stretch, moisture-wicking, antimicrobial.
  • Stylish designs: modern, tailored fit.
  • Comfort: optimal for long shifts.
  • Size range: various body types and sizes.
  • Durable: high-quality, easy maintenance.
Dagacci Scrubs Set Medical Uniform
Budget Pick
  • Affordable: budget-friendly quality.
  • Comfortable fit: four-way stretch.
  • Unisex design.
  • Functional: multiple pockets.
  • Sizes and colors: diverse options.
Adar Pro Modern Athletic Scrub Set for Women
Best Scrub Set
  • Athletic design: fashionable, functional.
  • Premium materials and comfort.
  • Four-way stretch: maximum movement.
  • Moisture-wicking: dry during shifts.
  • Tailored fit: flattering apperance.
If you click a link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

5. Lab Coat

In addition to scrubs, respiratory therapists often wear lab coats. This protective outer garment offers an extra layer of protection against bodily fluids and potential contaminants.

It also provides convenient storage with its multiple pockets for quick access to essential small tools.

Grey's Anatomy 35
Best Overall
  • Polyester-rayon blend for lightweight comfort
  • Wrinkle-resistant and easy-care material
  • Modern, slim-fit design
  • Three-button front closure
  • Multiple pockets for essential tools
Natural Uniforms Professional Unisex 40
Budget Pick
  • Affordable without compromising on quality
  • Polyester-cotton blend for breathability
  • Classic, unisex design
  • Notched lapel collar and front button closure
  • Spacious pockets for storage
Adar Universal Unisex 39
Best Colors
  • Wide variety of color options
  • Polyester-cotton blend for comfort and durability
  • Unisex design for versatility
  • Notched lapel collar and front button closure
  • Multiple pockets for added functionality
If you click a link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

6. Nebulizer

Nebulizers are used to administer medication in the form of a mist that patients inhale into their lungs.

They are particularly useful for treating conditions like asthma and COPD, where medication needs to be delivered directly to the airways to reduce inflammation and ease breathing.

7. Inhaler

Similar to nebulizers, inhalers are handheld devices that deliver medication directly to the lungs. They are compact, portable, and easy for patients to use on their own, making them ideal for long-term management of chronic respiratory conditions.

Respiratory therapists educate patients on proper inhaler techniques to ensure they’re getting the maximum benefit from their medication.

8. Clipboard

A clipboard is an essential tool for respiratory therapists. It provides a sturdy writing surface for taking notes and keeps important paperwork and patient records organized and accessible.

It’s especially useful during rounds or when therapists are moving from one patient room to another.

SC Printing World Store Nursing Foldable Clipboard
Best Overall
  • Designed for nurses or nursing students
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Foldable to fit in whitecoat or scrub pockets
  • 3-layer design
  • Quick-reference notes for nurses
  • Premium materials at an affordable price
SITHON Nursing Clipboard with Storage
Budget Pick
  • Budget-friendly price
  • Smooth surface for writing
  • Lightweight
  • Built-in storage
  • Traditional and classic design
  • No reference information
WhiteCoat Clipboard Medical Edition
Upgrade Pick
  • Medical Edition
  • Full-size clipboard
  • Foldable to fit in whitecoat or scrub pockets
  • HIPAA-compliant
  • Lightweight aluminum and powder-coated
  • Used by physicians, residents, and students
If you click a link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

9. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE includes items like masks, goggles, gloves, and gowns that help protect therapists from exposure to infectious diseases, including airborne and bloodborne pathogens.

Given the nature of their work, which often involves close patient contact and handling of respiratory secretions, PPE is crucial for the safety of both the therapist and the patient.

10. Shoes

Given the long hours on their feet and the fast-paced environment, respiratory therapists require comfortable, supportive shoes.

These shoes often have non-slip soles for safety and are made of materials that can be easily cleaned to maintain hygiene in the clinical environment.

HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 8 Women's Running Shoes
Best Overall
  • Cushioned midsole
  • Breathable upper
  • Meta-rocker technology
  • Slip-resistant outsole
  • Padded tongue and collar
Dansko Women's Professional Clogs
Best Clogs
  • Stapled construction
  • Leather upper
  • Contoured footbed
  • Slip-resistant outsole
  • Roomy toe box
HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 8 Women's Running Shoes
Upgrade Pick
  • Lightweight mesh upper
  • Compression-molded EVA midsole
  • Early-stage meta-rocker geometry
  • Reinforced eyestays
  • Extended heel crash pad
If you click a link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

11. Compression Socks

These special socks apply pressure to your lower legs, helping maintain blood flow and reduce discomfort and swelling.

For respiratory therapists, who often spend long shifts on their feet, compression socks can help alleviate leg fatigue and prevent conditions like varicose veins.

Our Top Pick
Bluemaple Copper Medical Compression Socks (6 Pack)

Bluemaple's copper-infused socks offer odor control and boosted hygiene while providing graduated compression to improve blood flow and reduce swelling.

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12. Syringe

An arterial blood gas (ABG) is a test that measures the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood to determine how well a patient’s lungs are working.

It involves the use of a syringe to draw a sample of arterial blood that is analyzed and assessed by respiratory therapists.

13. Watch

A reliable wristwatch, often with a second hand, is a must-have for respiratory therapists. It’s used to time a patient’s heart rate, respiratory rate, and keep track of the work schedule during a busy shift.

Speidel Original Scrub Watch for Medical Professionals
Best Overall
  • Visible red second hand
  • Large, easy-to-read numbers
  • Durable silicone band
  • Water-resistant stainless steel case
  • Easy-to-clean design
Blekon Original Nurse Watch for Healthcare Workers and Students
Budget Pick
  • Highly visible second hand
  • Easy-to-read dial with large numbers
  • Comfortable silicone strap
  • Stainless steel case for durability
  • Compact and lightweight design
Apple Watch Series 8 Smart Watch
Best Smartwatch
  • Customizable watch face with digital second counter
  • Fitness tracking and heart rate monitoring
  • Wide range of health-related apps
  • Water-resistant and durable design
  • Seamless iOS integration
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14. Badge Reel

Badge reels are handy tools for carrying ID cards and key access cards. They attach to the wearer’s clothing, usually the scrubs or lab coat, and allow the card to be easily pulled out for use and then retracted back into place, keeping it secure and convenient.

Our Top Pick
Zonon Felt Cute Medical Badge Reels (3 Pack)

This whimsical set of three medical-themed felt badge reels adds a playful touch to your work attire.

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15. Laryngoscope

A laryngoscope is a device used to visualize and examine the larynx and surrounding areas.

It is often used by respiratory therapists during intubation procedures, which involve inserting a tube into a patient’s trachea to facilitate breathing.

16. Endotracheal Tube

This is a flexible plastic tube that is placed into the patient’s trachea through the mouth or nose. It serves as an airway for patients who are unable to breathe on their own and need mechanical ventilation.

The respiratory therapist’s role includes inserting, maintaining, and removing the tube when necessary.

17. CPAP and BiPAP

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines are used to deliver a steady flow of air at a prescribed pressure to help patients with conditions like sleep apnea or respiratory distress.

Respiratory therapists are trained in setting up these devices and educating patients on their use.

18. Nasal Cannula

This is a device used to deliver supplemental oxygen to patients. It consists of a flexible tube, which splits into two prongs that are inserted into the nostrils.

Respiratory therapists ensure the correct flow rate and monitor the patient’s response to the additional oxygen.

19. Suction Catheter

A suction catheter is used to remove mucus and other secretions from the airways. This is often necessary in patients with certain respiratory conditions or those who are unable to clear their airways due to disease or sedation.

20. Tracheostomy

This term refers to a surgical procedure that creates an opening (stoma) in the neck, leading to the trachea.

Respiratory therapists are involved in the maintenance and care of tracheostomies, including cleaning, changing tubes, and monitoring for complications.

21. Penlight

A penlight is a small, portable flashlight often used in patient examinations. For respiratory therapists, it can be used to assess pupil response and skin breakdown, among other things. Its compact size makes it a convenient tool for quick assessments.

Our Top Pick
LUMINTOP LED Medical Penlight

This penlight offers an impressive blend of performance, durability, and portability, making it the best choice for nurses and healthcare workers.

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22. Egan’s Textbook

Officially known as “Egan’s Fundamentals of Respiratory Care,” this textbook is considered the gold standard for anyone studying or practicing in the field of respiratory therapy.

The comprehensive guide covers everything from basic science and principles of respiratory care to advanced concepts in treating respiratory diseases.

It’s a critical resource for both students and experienced therapists aiming to stay up-to-date with the latest practices in respiratory care.

Our Top Pick
Egan's Fundamentals of Respiratory Care (12th Edition)

Often referred to as the "bible of respiratory care," this textbook is a valuable resource for every student and practicing respiratory therapist.

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

23. TMC Exam Prep Materials

The Therapist Multiple-Choice (TMC) Exam is a crucial step for the credentials required to practice as a respiratory therapist.

This includes materials, such as study guides, video courses, and practice exams that provide essential information for earning a passing score.

Our TMC Exam Bundle has already helped 2,000+ students pass the exam and begin their careers as licensed respiratory therapists.

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What is Respiratory Therapy?

Respiratory therapy is a specialized healthcare field where practitioners, known as respiratory therapists, work with patients who have breathing difficulties or respiratory disorders.

This can range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients with chronic respiratory diseases like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or asthma.

Respiratory therapists assess, treat, and care for patients, manage life-supporting equipment like ventilators, and work collaboratively with doctors and nurses to improve patient outcomes.

What Tools do Respiratory Therapists Use?

Respiratory therapists use a wide array of tools and equipment in their practice.

These can include diagnostic tools like stethoscopes and pulse oximeters, treatment devices like nebulizers and mechanical ventilators, and personal items such as comfortable shoes and scrubs for long shifts.

They also rely on protective gear like personal protective equipment (PPE) and educational resources like the Egan’s textbook.

What are the Most Essential Respiratory Therapy Tools?

While the specific tools used may vary depending on the setting and patient condition, some of the most essential tools for a respiratory therapist include a stethoscope for assessing lung sounds, a pulse oximeter for measuring oxygen saturation in the blood, and a mechanical ventilator for supporting patients who cannot breathe on their own.

Tools for administering medication, such as nebulizers and inhalers, are also critical. Additionally, respiratory therapists require personal items like comfortable, non-slip shoes and protective clothing like scrubs and PPE.

What are Respiratory Therapy Instruments?

Respiratory therapy instruments” is another term for the various tools and equipment that respiratory therapists use in their practice.

These instruments can be broadly categorized into diagnostic, therapeutic, and personal instruments.

Diagnostic instruments include devices like stethoscopes and pulse oximeters. Therapeutic instruments encompass a range of devices for delivering treatments, such as mechanical ventilators, CPAP and BiPAP machines, nebulizers, and inhalers.

Personal instruments refer to items that respiratory therapists use for comfort and protection, like comfortable shoes, scrubs, and PPE.

What are Some Essential Respiratory Therapist Accessories?

Essential respiratory therapist accessories include a stethoscope for assessing lung sounds, pulse oximeter for checking oxygen saturation levels, and peak flow meter for measuring lung function.

Personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, and goggles are crucial for infection control.

Portable suction machines and bag-valve-masks for emergency situations, as well as medical reference guides for quick information access, are also significant.

Final Thoughts

In the ever-evolving landscape of respiratory care, the tools and equipment used by respiratory therapists are of paramount importance.

They not only facilitate precise diagnosis and effective treatment of a wide array of breathing disorders but also ensure the safety and comfort of the therapists themselves.

As we’ve explored, these tools range from critical medical devices like stethoscopes, pulse oximeters, and mechanical ventilators to everyday essentials like comfortable shoes and protective clothing.

As respiratory therapists continue to meet the challenges of both chronic conditions and acute emergencies, the tools they employ will remain vital in their mission to improve patient outcomes and streamline the delivery of life-saving care.

As the field advances, so too will the technology and tools at their disposal, promising even greater strides in respiratory care for years to come. Thanks for reading, and, as always, breathe easy, my friend.

John Landry, BS, RRT

Written by:

John Landry, BS, RRT

John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.