Respiratory therapists are trained health care professionals. They specifically treat patients who have breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders. Respiratory therapists work with patients across the lifespan, from premature infants to the elderly. Therapists assess respiratory needs, consult with other medical staff, and provide treatment and relief of respiratory distress. Respiratory therapists also provide education and assistance for learning how to use various treatment options, such as artificial breathing and oxygen use.
Generally, respiratory therapists require specified training and certification to practice in their field. The only states that do not require respiratory therapists to have a license are Hawaii and Alaska. You can consult the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) in the United States if you are seeking a licensed respiratory therapist in your area [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics]. You can also consult the American Association for Respiratory Care or the Canadian Society for Respiratory Specialists for more details about qualified therapists in your area. Most other countries have similar regulatory bodies and societies that govern the profession of respiratory therapy. There are over 100,000 respiratory therapists in the United States [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics].
Most respiratory therapists work in hospitals, as most cases that require respiratory care are severe. Respiratory therapists are found in intensive care units, emergency departments, neonatal units and general units of most hospitals. You can also find respiratory therapists for less severe breathing issues in outpatient clinics and specialized centers. Respiratory therapists also do home care visits for individuals who need help with breathing ventilators and life-support systems. You can also find respiratory therapists in specialized programs, such as smoking cessation programs, sleep clinics, pulmonary rehabilitation programs and disease prevention programs [source: CSRT].