Respiratory therapy is a growing field that is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. This means that respiratory therapists are in demand now more than ever.

In this article, we will explore the top reasons why respiratory therapists are in demand now and for the foreseeable future.

Reasons Why Respiratory Therapy is a Growing Field

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of respiratory therapy is projected to grow by 23% throughout 2030. This is a much faster growth rate than the average for all occupations.

There are several reasons why respiratory therapists are in demand, including the following:

  1. Humans are Living Longer
  2. Sleep Disorders are Becoming More Prevalent
  3. Smokers are Transitioning to Vaping
  4. People Want to Prevent Diseases
  5. Our Environment is Changing
  6. Respiratory Care is Becoming More Accessible
  7. Increased Lung Infections
  8. High Burnout in Healthcare Workers
  9. Respiratory Therapy is a Rewarding Career

Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at each of the reasons why the need for respiratory therapists is expected to grow over the coming years.

Humans are Living Longer

One of the primary reasons why respiratory therapists are in demand is that humans are living longer than ever before. This is due to advanced technology and improved treatment modalities in the healthcare field.

As people live longer, they are more likely to experience age-related respiratory problems such as COPD, asthma, and emphysema.

Until science can manipulate how humans grow old, more people will reach a higher age, which means that more respiratory therapists will be called upon to treat the aging population.

Sleep Disorders are Becoming More Prevalent

Another reason why respiratory therapists are in demand is that sleep disorders are becoming more prevalent in our society.

Sleep apnea is a disorder that is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. It’s a condition that affects an estimated 25 million Americans. When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious cardiopulmonary health problems.

As the prevalence of sleep apnea increases, more respiratory therapists are needed to provide care for patients with this condition.

obstructive sleep apnea illustration

Smokers are Transitioning to Vaping

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. While the number of smokers is on the decline, there has been an increase in the number of people who are using electronic cigarettes (i.e., vaping).

Vaping is not without its risks and can lead to respiratory problems such as bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as “popcorn lung.”

As the number of people vaping increases, the need for respiratory therapists is also expected to increase in order to treat the potential long-term effects on the lungs.

People Want to Prevent Diseases

In recent years, there has been an increased focus on prevention and wellness. People are becoming more aware of the importance of taking steps to prevent chronic respiratory diseases, such as COPD.

This has led to an increase in the demand for respiratory therapists who can provide education on how to prevent these diseases.

The prevention model has become popular in the healthcare industry, and it is expected that this trend will continue in the coming years. This means that respiratory therapists who are skilled in disease prevention will be in high demand.

Our Environment is Changing

The environment is changing, and this is having an impact on respiratory health. Air pollution is a leading cause of respiratory problems, and it is expected to get worse in the coming years.

As the air quality continues to decline, the number of people with respiratory problems is expected to increase. This means that more respiratory therapists will be needed to provide care for these patients.

climate change respiratory health

In addition to air pollution, climate change is also expected to have an impact on respiratory health. As the Earth’s temperature continues to rise, the number of people with heat-related respiratory problems is expected to increase.

For example, inhaling hot, humid air can cause an increase in acute episodes of people with asthma.

This is especially true for people who live in urban areas where the “heat island” effect is more pronounced. This is when the temperature in an urban area is higher than the surrounding rural areas.

As the number of people affected by the environment increases, the demand for respiratory therapists is also expected to increase.

Respiratory Care is Becoming More Accessible

The awareness of respiratory care has increased over recent years; therefore, it is becoming more accessible to those who need treatment for lung diseases.

As the prevalence of lung infections and breathing disorders has increased, the size of respiratory care departments in hospitals around the world has grown to follow suit.

This means that there are now more respiratory therapists than ever before. As such, this is yet another reason why respiratory therapists will continue to be in high demand for years to come.

Increased Lung Infections

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of lung infections has been on the rise. This is due to the fact that the virus primarily affects the respiratory system.

As a result, there has been an increase in the number of people who need treatment, and thus, an increase in the demand for respiratory therapists.

The lingering effects of COVID-19 can also lead to other types of lung infections, such as pneumonia. And it just so happens that respiratory therapists are one of the primary healthcare professionals who treat patients with these types of conditions.

covid-19 lung infection illustration

High Burnout in Healthcare Workers

Burnout is defined as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. It is a common problem among healthcare workers, and respiratory therapists are no exception.

In fact, a poll conducted by the AARC found that nearly 80% of respiratory therapists who participated admitted to some level of burnout.

This high level of burnout among the healthcare industry is due to the fact that professionals often work long hours and deal with a lot of stress. Therefore, this means that there are plenty of job opportunities available.

This also gives respiratory therapists the ability to potentially find a position that offers better working conditions and a good work-life balance.

Respiratory Therapy is a Rewarding Career

Last but not least, it’s important to mention that respiratory therapy is a rewarding career that offers the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.

A respiratory therapist who requested to remain anonymous stated that, “There is no better feeling than helping a patient breathe.”

This can be an extremely rewarding experience, and it’s one of the main reasons why many respiratory therapists continue to work in this field. It is also one of the primary reasons that prospects choose to enter the field of respiratory care in the first place.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why respiratory therapists are in high demand. As the prevalence of respiratory conditions increases, and the environment continues to deteriorate, the need for respiratory therapists is only expected to grow.

This means that if you are interested in a career in respiratory therapy, now is the time to get started.

Check our our guide on how to become a respiratory therapist if you want to learn more. Thanks for reading!

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.

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Medical Disclaimer: The information provided by Respiratory Therapy Zone is for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with a physician with any questions that you may have regarding a medical condition.