Respiratory therapists often do not get the credit they deserve. RTs are essential members of the healthcare team who treat patients with breathing disorders.

A career as a respiratory therapist is often described as “rewarding,” “challenging,” and “life-changing.”

But what makes respiratory therapy so great?

We asked a few professionals to share their thoughts on why they love being a respiratory therapist, and what makes it such a great career choice. Here’s what they had to say:

“As a student respiratory therapist (SRT), I love respiratory therapy because I enjoy learning about the cardiopulmonary system and the rewarding feeling I get from helping in a code blue (e.g., cardiac/respiratory arrest).”

“RT is a great field because it is so new compared to other allied health professionals, which means the field is evolving very quickly as technology advances. It’s exciting seeing a brand new ventilator and learning about its unique features.”

“My favorite thing about being an SRT is the diverse age range of the population we get to give therapy for, from micro-preemies to centenarians, and everything in between.”

“I love the friends I have made during RT school. My group of friends and I did our undergrad at the same university and moved to a new city for RT school without knowing each other when we began the program. We met on the first day of RT school and have stuck together since. My favorite thing is that we always have RT jokes and memes to laugh about.”

“The hardest part about RT school is the intense schedule; for example, in the first semester, we had six courses and five labs during the weekdays and even went to open labs on the weekends. Clinical year is also tough because we are in the hospital for 40 hours/week and have tests/assignments/projects on top of that. What motivates me is the youtube videos and Instagram posts from Respiratory Therapy Zone to reach my goal of becoming an RRT.”

Polly A Dendy, BSRT-NPS, RCP

“Our scope of practice is expanding. We have so many different and interesting specialties to choose from. I have helped people from their first breath to their last, from NICU to flight, adult care, procedure labs, education, and in both small and large hospitals, anywhere in this country and in the world.”

“I have never been unemployed, and I have never been bored. I love the professional collaboration between therapists and other members of the hospital team. I love that we are most interested in doing the right thing for our patients.”

“I am an educator now, and my favorite thing is witnessing my students, a new generation of amazing, dedicated, and successful respiratory therapists advancing in the field.”

“Respiratory therapy is a precious part of the medical field. Since I have chosen to become a respiratory therapist, my knowledge has expanded, and it has given me countless opportunities to help many patients.”

“Even as a student, I was able to help patients and contribute to their pending prognosis. Helping patients identify their condition and receive specialized care to return to their optimal health is a strong passion of mine that pushes me to become better in this specialty.”

“Respiratory therapy requires individuals to be skilled and spend countless hours monitoring patients with the ability to think quickly on their feet and be extremely observant over any changes in their care, no matter how minimal. Respiratory therapy is an excellent field for hands-on experiences.”

“One of my favorite aspects of respiratory therapy school is that we learn an extensive amount of information and are introduced to the profession early on, unlike other medical specialties. The material overload within a short period has molded me into a stronger and brighter student, which allows me to take on more knowledge than I ever did before.”

Angelica Mah, RCP

“What I love most about respiratory therapy is that I’m making a profound and tangible impact in the lives of the vulnerable population. Every day is purposeful, knowing that I’m contributing to the greater good of the community and promoting health and wellness through this fulfilling profession.”

“Every shift, you’re able to make a real difference in the lives of people from diverse backgrounds and all age groups, from pre-term infants to young children with asthma to teenagers with cystic fibrosis and elderly COPD patients. It brings me tumultuous fulfillment knowing that, through small acts of compassion, kindness, and clinical competence, I can touch people’s lives through respiratory care.”

“Respiratory therapy is a great field because it’s so dynamic in that it’s always evolving. Every year there is new research and technological innovations that come out in order for us to provide better care for our patients. We learn new things constantly and gain meaningful clinical and practical knowledge and skills as we grow along with this profession.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic brought respiratory care to the forefront of the healthcare workforce, and it’s important to note that ventilator management is something we are educated in. We are unmatched in that sense, and I’m very proud to have chosen this fulfilling and exciting career path.”

“My favorite thing about respiratory therapy is that every day is a learning experience, we always encounter unique cases, different approaches, collaborative approaches with the rest of the medical team in managing a plethora of disease processes, so it never feels boring, mundane or routine.”

“There is also a wide range of avenues we can explore in terms of personal and professional development. As respiratory therapists, we can get trained in ECMO, do transports locally and internationally, do homecare, or become clinical educators. We aren’t bound to floor care or critical care alone, as there are many career paths laid out for us. This includes becoming a traveling RT, doing contracts, asthma clinics, or even home care and PFTs.”

“There is never a dull day in the rewarding and purpose-driven world of being a respiratory care practitioner, and the multitude of opportunities to expand our knowledge, experience, and skillsets seem to be infinite. I personally find it immensely fulfilling.”

Eunice Alfaro Tan, RRT

“I love respiratory therapy because we are trained to help patients overcome breathing difficulties and enhance their lives despite cardiopulmonary disorders.”

“My favorite things about being a respiratory therapist are helping patients with breathing difficulty, providing oxygen support, and collecting an arterial blood gas to determine the patient’s acid-base balance and oxygenation status.”

“Some other great things about the job are responding to code blues, assisting with intubation, and managing patients who are on the mechanical ventilator. So challenging. So proud. So worth it.”

“I love respiratory therapy because it has allowed me to be part of a unique profession. The profession is growing, and current demand is at an all-time high.”

“Flexible work schedules have given me the ability to have more time with my family and help increase the quality of health of people suffering from chronic lung disease.”

“My favorite thing about being a respiratory therapist is educating patients and their families about all the skills we process as a therapist and saving lives.”

Summer Kirkland, CRT

“I love respiratory therapy because it allows us to dive deep into how amazing the cardiopulmonary system is. It gives us keen insight to better evaluate a patient’s overall health status.”

“Respiratory therapy is a great field because you have the opportunity to work alongside the physicians and nurses to provide the best possible care.”

“My favorite thing about being a respiratory therapist is the look my patients give me when they finally are able to take that first deep breath without any trouble.”

Cher Buchanan, RRT

“What makes me love respiratory therapy is knowing that I’ve either saved a life or played a role in making one better.”

“What makes respiratory therapy such a great field is the diversity and specialty of what we do.”

“My favorite thing about being a respiratory therapist is that, even after 17 years in the field, I still learn something new daily.”

“I love respiratory therapy because I am able to make a difference in a sick person’s life. I am able to use my knowledge and skills to aid in the recovery of a patient’s health status.”

“Respiratory therapy is a great field because there are various aspects. The field is continuing to grow, which opens up opportunities for advancement.”

“My favorite thing about being a respiratory therapist is being able to assist in improving a patient’s quality of life.”

“I knew I did not want to be a physician, nurse, or tech partner. After researching different healthcare roles, I settled on respiratory care. I was immediately drawn to this field as it is the perfect balance of patient interaction, compassion, and technology.”

“I love the freedom and autonomy I am allowed in the hospital, and the fact that RRTs are viewed as the “go-to” person for cardio/pulmonary issues.”

“I believe that being a respiratory therapist is the perfect balance of patient interaction, compassion, and technology.”

“I love respiratory therapy because we are allied health professionals who care for all kinds of patients, and I love this profession.”

“This is a great field because respiratory therapists are in high demand and can work with all kinds of patients and departments.”

“My favorite thing about being a respiratory therapist is helping patients who are struggling.”

Sussan Castro, SRT

“I’m 100% sure that I choose the right career path. Being a respiratory therapist is not only about knowing the numbers and settings for a ventilator. It’s about taking care of another person with integrity.”

“A good RT will always do a complete assessment of every patient. The lungs do not work by themselves—the entire body is involved. So, for me, it’s very enriching to have the opportunity to assess a patient from their toes to how they’re breathing.”

“Critical thinking is the best skill that we must develop, so pay attention to every detail and trust yourself!”

Peta-gay Thomas, SRT

“I have always wanted to be an RT, but my family pushed me toward nursing. However, now I am finally getting the chance to do what I love.”

“My favorite thing about RT school is that I am almost finished, and I will be able to go out in the world to help others. The hardest part is being a full-time mother, student, and employee. Learning mechanical ventilation was also a little rough.”

Chaya Friedman, RRT-NPS

“I love being a respiratory therapist. It gives me an opportunity to help people in their most challenging situations. Contrary to what many think, it’s a field with many dimensions.”

“For example, I worked for years as a pediatric therapist. I worked with tracheostomies and mechanically ventilated children, including weaning and bronchial hygiene. Currently, I work in an acute care setting where many of my patients are senior adults.”

“My favorite place to work is in the emergency room. I love being part of the team and having a defined role in the resuscitation team.”

Paulína Raučinová, Respiratory Physiotherapist

“I love to work with respiratory patients because I can see their breathing improves after only a few treatments. We help patients breathe better, but also provide education.”

“I work in Slovakia, and our respiratory program uses climate and a vertical walking concept + respiratory therapy. This is how we educate patients about their breathing and what they can do better.”

“I love respiratory therapy because of the diversity of patient cases that we see: patients with chronic illnesses like COPD, asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and environmental exposures, acute pneumonia, post-operative recovery, neuromuscular, and acute chest injuries.”

“It is wonderful to work as part of a team where there is recognition and appreciation for the contribution of every discipline and to make a life-saving and life-enhancing difference in the lives of patients and families.”

“I love the clinical challenges of caring for patients, the opportunity to educate and advocate for patients and families, and mentoring students and new respiratory therapists.”

Sage Pulver, RRT

“I love respiratory therapy because you can specialize in one thing, which everyone else asks you questions about. The career is consistently growing for the better!”

“This field is so great because you can gain respect from just about everyone in the hospital because respiratory therapists are so needed.”

“My favorite thing about being an RT is being able to voice my option and having leeway in what I can do on the job. Also, you may have a mix of action-packed days or more chill days. Honestly, it was the best decision of my life!”

Jesus Solis, CRT

“I have the distinct pleasure of being a clinical instructor for a joint RT program with the Army and Navy. I love that I not only get to maintain and practice my skills, but I get to pass on some of my knowledge, skills, and experience with students as well.”

“On top of that, I’m working with the best RTs the Army and Navy have to offer in my fellow instructors!”

“The field itself is extremely rewarding, and I hope I can continue to serve in this capacity even after I retire from the military and transition to a civilian while still shaping the future of military RTs.”

Wafa Batool, RCP

“Respiratory therapy requires professionals to be active and creative at the same time. It has a hold on life’s most important criteria and management. It requires life-saving knowledge and the ability to make quick, critical decisions.”

“Being a respiratory therapist takes a lot of responsibility. The best thing we do is to take a patient out of danger regarding their critical condition and oxygen dependencies.”

Jane Reynolds, MS, RN, RRT, RCP

“I was a nurse first and really did not like it. I had worked as a student nurse on weekends while in nursing school and really admired what I saw in RTs. Their knowledge, skills, and ability to interpret lab data and make the changes on ventilators calmed the patients and all stakeholders in the room. I worked for less than a year as a nurse and transferred to the respiratory therapy department.”

“I knew I had to go to respiratory therapy school, so I attended a nine-month accelerated program, and I loved it. There, I found the answers to so many questions regarding the many things I had seen, done, and observed but did not understand about equipment, blood gas instrumentation, ventilators, patient responses, adverse reactions, and more.”

“The field of respiratory care offers so many opportunities that could vary on a daily or weekly rotation, including pediatrics, adult care, critical care, diagnostics, home care, management, and education. I especially liked not being regularly located in one area. I love to learn continuously.”

“And where RTs can work with protocols, our specialization and optimal patient outcomes can really be seen and appreciated. When RTs can carry out protocols, these best practices result in optimal patient outcomes, patient teaching, practitioner satisfaction, and healthcare dollars saved. We are specialists. I feel we are just now beginning to be seen as such.”

Final Thoughts

Respiratory therapy is an amazing career for anyone passionate about helping others and making a difference in the lives of those around them.

With plenty of growth opportunities, respiratory therapists can find themselves working in various settings, from critical care to home health.

Whether you’re interested in the technical aspects of the job or enjoy working with patients, respiratory therapy is a great career choice! Thanks for reading, and, as always, breathe easy, my friend!

Written by:

Respiratory Therapy Zone

Respiratory Therapy Zone was founded in 2016 and is the world's #1 education platform for RT students. Their videos and study materials have helped develop thousands of students into successful respiratory therapists.

References

  • We asked several dedicated, hardworking respiratory therapists and students what makes respiratory therapy such a great field. This article breaks down what they had to say.
  • Therefore, the Respiratory Therapy Zone community, which is filled with amazing respiratory therapists and students, makes up the sources and references for this article. 

Recommended Reading

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.