Respiratory Therapist

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What is Your Job Title?

Registered Respiratory Therapist

What Does a Respiratory Therapist Do?

We work in Acute Care, Long Term Care, Home Care, and private companies. We work in all areas of the hospital but primarily in the Intensive Care units and the Emergency Room (ER) providing care to all ages, from newborns to seniors. Our responsibilities include:

  • Attending premature and high risk deliveries
  • Inserting ETTs (breathing tubes)
  • Placing patients on ventilators (life support) and adjusting those settings with the goal of getting them off life support
  • Attending traumas in the ER
  • Providing support to patients with increased work of breathing, or impending respiratory failure such as asthmatics or people with COPD
  • Participating on the Pediatric Transport Team, which takes us all over the province to pick up critically ill children, either by ground ambulance or airplane, and bringing them back to Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. We also transport these children out of Province when required for specialty procedures
  • Attending code blue calls in the hospital when patients go into cardiac/ respiratory failure
  • Working with home care companies taking care of patients who require CPAP to treat sleep apnea, or oxygen while at home
  • Taking care of patients who require the use of a ventilator at home, Long Term Care patients, and patients with a Tracheostomy
  • Working in sleep labs where people are tested for sleep apnea
  • Educating patients on all aspects of breathing and wellness with (but not limited to) Asthma education, COPD education, and smoking cessation
  • Once becoming a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), with further education and training, we can move into roles such as Anesthesia Assistants and Perfusionists

What Training is Necessary to Do Your Work?

Respiratory Therapists in Canada graduate from three-year training programs offered by Community Colleges and Institutes of Technology. Some Universities also offer four-year respiratory therapy degrees. The training program includes two years at the educational institution, and one year of clinical training in the hospital and home-care settings.

Following graduation from Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists (CSRT)-approved programs, students are eligible to write the CSRT National Certification Examination. Successful candidates earn the CSRT Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) credential.

Where Do You Work?

We work in Hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU), Neonatal ICU, Pediatric ICU, ER, Critical Care Unit, various hospital wards. We also carry out our duties in a ground ambulance or air ambulance (airplane) when needed. Additionally, we can be found in Long Term Care facilities, and Home Care.

Who Needs Your Services and Why?

We assist any person who is having difficulty breathing through education, temporary support or long-term support. Our patients may be unable to independently support adequate ventilation, requiring the use of a Ventilator. Our patients may also present with needing above normal levels of Oxygen, or with Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

What is Your Favourite Part of Your Job?

Everyday is different; it is never the same. We also enjoy working with all the different patient populations, including children. Our best days are when a child, who had been ill, is well enough to go home healthy.

What Challenges Do You Have in Your Job?

We always have the same level of staffing (not enough people to do the work) so if there is an increased number of patients requiring our services, we have to prioritize as to where we need to be, potentially not being able to reach a patient at the moment when we are needed.

Due to the low levels of staffing, we are unable to work to our full scope of practice. We aren’t able to utilize many of the skills we are taught in school and other professions have to pick up the extra work that we are unable to do.

In comparison to other provinces, we have a higher Patient to Therapist ratio, which means we don’t have as much time to spend with each individual patient as needed.

When we go out on the Pediatric Transport Team, we are placed in situations of limited resources and limited access to other health care professionals. Significant responsibility is put on us to treat the patients until arrival at the hospital.

What Are the Consequences When There Are Not Enough People with Your Training to Provide Service?

Because we cover multiple areas of the hospital at once, we have had to make decisions as to which patient we are able to treat at that time, leaving other patients without service. As a result, patients do not receive the amount of care they require, and because of that, don’t progress as quickly as possible, and take longer to recover or spend longer on a ventilator than would otherwise be needed.