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Helping patients breathe easy

Manu Anand

Respiratory therapists (RTs) or respiratory care practitioners are specialised health care professionals who diagnose, monitor and treat patients suffering from breathing problems. Respiratory therapists are important members of the health care team who work under the medical direction of specialised doctors.Patients with acute and chronic respiratory problems require direct care of respiratory therapists.

What they do: Their knowledge of scientific principles underlying cardiopulmonary physiology and pathophysiology as well as biomedical engineering and technology enables them to effectively assess, educate and treat patients with cardiopulmonary disorders. A respiratory therapist is responsible for diagnosis, monitoring and treating patients with asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, cardiovascular disorders and trauma. People who have had heart attacks or who have sleep disorders and infants who are born prematurely might also need respiratory therapy to help them breathe easily. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning or shock.

Job profile: Duties and responsibilities of a respiratory therapist might include analysing breath, tissue and blood specimens to determine levels of oxygen and other gases; conducting diagnostic tests; diagnosing lung and breathing disorders; educating patients and families about lung disease; evaluate patients’ lung capacity; implementing treatment programmes; managing ventilators and artificial airway devices; measuring the concentration of oxygen and other gases in one’s blood; providing emergency care and testing people for lung abnormalities.

Respiratory therapy courses in India: Advanced PG diploma in respiratory therapy technology, BSc respiratory therapy, diploma in respiratory therapy technician course, diploma in respiratory therapy training, fellowship programme in respiratory therapy, MSc respiratory therapy, PG diploma in respiratory therapy technology, postgraduate programme in respiratory therapy and respiratory therapist training.

BSc respiratory therapy: The course duration is three years including a six-month or one year internship. Candidates who have passed 10+2 with physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics with a minimum of 60 per cent marks can apply. After that one can do two-year MSc respiratory therapy or postgraduate programme in respiratory therapy.

Lateral entry: Candidates who have secured a diploma in respiratory care therapy from a board recognised by the Government or any other equivalent authority can gain entry to second year of the course.

Diploma respiratory therapy: Scinece students can pursue a diploma in respiratory therapy. There are several institutes in India offering one-year diploma courses, two-year postgraduate diploma and advanced postgraduate diploma courses in respiratory therapy.

Fellowship programme in respiratory therapy: Med varsity Online Limited, Hyderabad offers a six-month fellowship programme in respiratory therapy. Health care professionals are eligible for this course.

Course subjects: Medical terminology, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, cardiovascular system, respiratory-based therapeutics, pulmonary care, mechanical ventilation and pharmacology.

Institutes: Amrita Centre for Allied Health Sciences, Kochi; Dr Durgabai Deshmukh Hospital and Research Centre, Hyderabad; Christian Medical College, Vellore; JSS University, Mysore; Kasturba Medical College, Manipal; KMCH Institute of Health Science, Coimbatore; Manipal College of Allied Health Sciences; MediCiti Hospital, Hyderabad; NRI Academy Of Sciences Guntur; Respiratory Care India, Hyderabad; Rhythm College of Paramedical Sciences, Guntur; Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, Bangalore; Symbiosis Institute of Health Sciences, Pune; Yashoda Academy of Medical Education and Research, Secunderabad.

Career prospects: Graduates can start their careers as junior respiratory therapists. After obtaining sufficient work experience they can get promoted to the position of respiratory therapist, respiratory therapy technicians or pulmonary function technologists.

Different roles: Respiratory therapist, respiratory care practitioner, respiratory scientist, respiratory nurse, respiratory physiotherapist, clinical respiratory physiologist, clinical application specialist, product manager, consultant pulmonologist, product trainer and asthma educator.

Specialisations abroad: Certified respiratory therapist, registered respiratory therapist, respiratory care practitioner, cardio-respiratory physiotherapist, cardio-respiratory occupational therapist, certified case manager, surface and air transport specialist, pulmonary research scientist, asthma specialists, cardiovascular perfusionist and Sleep disorder specialist.

Salary: Salary depends mainly on work experience, educational qualification and location. Graduates can start their career with an initial salary of around `12,000 to `15,000 per month. Those with a master’s degree in respiratory therapy

can earn between `23,000 and `35,000 per month at the beginning. Self employed respiratory

therapists can earn more than

`1 lakh per month.

Skills required: One should possess written communication skills, patience, persistence, dedication, good hand eye coordination, critical thinking, compassion, active listening, problem solving and decision-making skills, excellent organisational skills, interpersonal skills, and physical and emotional strength.

The occupational outlook for respiratory therapist jobs is good because with the aging population and wide spread smoking across society the incidences of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) are on the rise. Other diseases such as asthma are also increasing in number. Jobs will be on the rise but so will be the risk in society.


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