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7 Reasons Respiratory Therapy Is Lifting Off

Posted by Lisa Fuchs, MHA, RRT, CTTS, CHWC Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2016

A Respiratory Therapist demonstrates to a patient how to use his inhalerRespiratory therapy is the most in-demand healthcare career no one seems to be talking about. Despite a fantastic job outlook and evidence of a continued need for qualified individuals, respiratory care just doesn’t get the buzz it deserves.

Respiratory care will only continue to expand in the next ten years, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics pegging growth at 12%, which may not sound like much but is actually faster than the average across all occupations.

So why exactly is respiratory care thriving in the modern world? I'm glad you asked. Here are the top seven factors that will show you precisely why a respiratory therapy degree is the right choice for someone seeking a career filled with stability and possibility in equal measure.

1. The Environment

Believe it or not, changes to the environment are playing a huge factor in the need for respiratory therapists. I won’t go on a lengthy rant about global warming, but what I will tell you is that air quality is not what it once was.

As the atmosphere becomes more polluted, more and more people will experience a range of breathing problems as our bodies try to cope with not-so-fresh air. Although society is making progress in terms of the consumption of fossil fuels, we still have a long way to go.

When air quality changes, so does respiratory capability, with asthma and other respiratory conditions becoming more prevalent. A respiratory therapist ensures that the proper care is given inside the hospital setting and education is provided to the community.

2. Prevention

There used to be a time when you wouldn’t report to a clinic for help until you had already experienced some type of breathing issue. Then, once it was corrected and things were brought back to normal, not much thought was given to the future.

Now, we as a society are a little more forward-thinking. The focus in the respiratory care community and in healthcare in general is to prevent problems from occurring in the first place.

After an initial diagnosis and treatment, the modern respiratory therapist will work with a patient to outline an educational prevention plan that will help reduce potential risks in the future. This may include medications, breathing exercises and routine checkups in order to avert more serious damage that could otherwise take place later on.

In fact, this prevention model has grown so popular that it’s become the chief focus of many Bachelor’s-qualified Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRTs). Nebraska Methodist College actually offers a respiratory care degree completion option with the goal of providing the practicing RRT with even more extensive knowledge in order to better assist patients, influencing future behavior to provide the best level of care possible. 

This is accomplished via wellness coaching that can motivate the patient to achieve success. The bachelor’s degree with respiratory therapy also includes courses on case management so the RRT can reinforce well-rounded care of the pulmonary patient.

3. Vaping

Contrary to popular belief, vaping is not a healthy alternative to smoking. In fact, it might even harm you in completely different ways.

Have you heard of popcorn lung? It’s not as delicious as it sounds. It compromises your airway and makes it harder to breathe, and if things get bad enough, you could die or be forced to seek a lung transplant.

Well, Environmental Health Perspectives recently published a study out of Harvard that links the flavoring in e-cigarettes to the types of chemicals that could cause this condition. If people insist on vaping, their risk of popcorn lung could go up, and that means respiratory therapists may be needed to combat the issue.

Remember that the next time you try to look cool while vaping in a bar (Hint: You don’t look cool. Stop it)

4. Coverage

The Affordable Care Act has had a dramatic influence on healthcare, and the world of respiratory therapy is certainly not exempt.

The respiratory care field has grown dramatically in recent years due to the simple fact that more people are covered for treatment options, preventive or otherwise, than ever before.

Previously, a patient may have turned down regular check-ins with a respiratory therapist if they were not covered for that care. That’s even if he or she was presented with scenarios describing how, over time, this is the safest option. But now, with such care falling under the insurance umbrella, he or she is more likely to accept that advice and meet with an RRT regularly.

5. The Payment Model

One other nifty wrinkle of the Affordable Care Act has been a change to how hospitals and clinics actually get paid. It’s not enough to just treat someone initially and then send them on their way. Now, systems are being judged on their ability to keep a person out of the hospital after they leave. If he or she checks back in for an issue that wasn’t taken care of the first time, that hospital will receive a hit to its bottom line.

What does that mean for respiratory therapists? Referrals.

If there’s a good chance that sending a patient to a respiratory therapist for a series of check-ups will keep that individual out of the hospital for a more serious issue, you can bet that a doctor won’t hesitate to make that decision. And because the patient now has insurance coverage he or she never had before, they’ll be more likely to accept that referral.

It all comes back to prevention. It really cannot be overstated just how much healthcare is changing, and many respiratory therapists (and patients) are benefitting from preventative medicine.

6. An Aging Population

The elderly demographic in the country increases with each passing year. In general, the older you are, the higher your risk for respiratory issues, which therefore means more people could end up suffering from respiratory issues. When combined with the other points addressed in this blog, it’s easy to identify a need for respiratory therapists to help patients cope with the problems they’ll face as they age.

7. Sleep Disorders

Sleep apnea occurs when an individual has his or her airway obstructed while they sleep. While it may sound like snoring, that gasping noise the person makes is actually their body jerking awake violently, the brain sending an alarm that it needs air.

This impedes proper rest and can lead to a host of medical conditions, and because it’s a breathing issue, respiratory therapists are sometimes needed to help the patient.  They can speak with the patient about potential options and offer guidance on CPAP, a machine that the sufferer wears in order to breathe easily while they sleep.

The Future Is Here

Respiratory care is a more dynamic field than people give it credit for. For the reasons addressed, it’s clear that opportunities are there for anyone willing to devote himself or herself to this field of study.

Are you ready to join those ranks?

Respiratory Care Degree Guide          download now

Topics: healthcare education, allied health career, respiratory care