I am aware that a large portion of my readers are individuals who are surfing back and forth between RN and RT blogs trying to decide: Do I want to be an RT or an RN?
Respiratory Therapy Driven touched on this topic once. He wrote a nice post called RT -vs- RN. I wrote a humorous take on his post, What RTs can do that RNs can't.
I can rattle off the advantages and disadvantages of being an RT, and why I prefer being an RT over an RN. However, this would be skewed from an RT persective.
I can honestly say I enjoy sputum, while many nurses I talk to say they wouldn't want to be an RT because "sputum is gross."
"Well," I say, "I think handing someone a tissue is far better than wiping his butt."
But, like I just wrote, it depends on who you are. Some people might actually enjoy helping someone wipe. Besides, you are helping someone. You have a skill at taking care of sick people, and one of your responsibilities is wiping.
That, however, is a minor task as far as an RN is concerned. They also get to help the patient feel better by giving a bath. Or, perhaps, they delegate that responsibility to a nurses aide, while the RN helps the patient bandage an oozing wound.
Personally, I don't care to do that. My responsibility as an RT is with the airway, and any other holes in the body are left for the RN to take care of. Sputum is the least of my worries.
"But sputum stinks," a nurse said to me once.
"Not as much as that other stuff stinks," I said. "Besides, sputum doesn't stink very often. Poop stinks every time. And if it's of the GI bleed variety, we RTs don't have to stick around once our breathing duties are finished."
So, I've had this debate many times. Nobody ever wins.
Anyway, you don't decide RT over RN because you like sputum. And you don't become an RN because you like to wipe. It's not that simple. There is far more to the decision.
It is true that RNs get paid more than RTs, and actually get more respect nationwide because it has been a well established profession since the Civil War. RTs get paid less, but that doesn't mean we have less responsibility.
You, as an RN, have care to for the general welfare of 1-7 patients. You have to stay in one area of the hospital. You basically cannot leave your patients. We, as an RT, get a variety of patients all over the hospital. While you have to stay by your patients, we get the freedom of roaming the hospital.
That's not to say we don't occasionally have patients that need our one on one care.
RNs give the medicines, and insert the IVs, and we RTs are called when the patient cannot breath. We are the experts at knowing when to call the doctor because a patient can't breath, or simply giving a breathing treatment.
While RNs know a little about a lot of diseases, we RTs know everything about the lungs and heart, and we even know enough about the other organs as everything in one way or another is connected to the lungs: they all need oxygen.
When someone stops breathing, the page is heard loud and clear: "RESPIRATORY STAT TO ROOM 214!"
While the RNs are busy inserting IVs and inserting syringes, and taking care of any wounds on the body, we RTs are continuously managing the airway. We monitor breathing. We insert artificial airways, and run blood gases, and do EKGs and, best of all, we set up and manage ventilators.
We RTs are the team mates of the RN. We all work together. Whether or not you decide to be one or the other is basically a personal preference.
There are other advantages to being an RN beyond the job. We RTs are stuck working in the hospital setting. In Shoreline, there is only one hospital, and only one RT department. RNs can work in the hospital, and can choose between many departments of which to work.
If an RN gets tired of working on the med-surge floors, she can transfer to OB. When she gets tired of working there, she can transfer to surgery, or ER, or back to the patient floors, or the critical care.
She can also get a new job working in Grand Rapids, and can get a job doing any of the above in a busier hospital, perhaps one with a trauma center or burn unit. While working in GR, she may choose to work only with neonates and pediatrics.
An RT can work with neo and peds too, but the options of transferring are far less. An RN can also provide independent services by helping a patient one-on-one in his home. She can do home health care if she wants. She can work in a doctors office for a slight deduction in pay. She can work in a nursing home.
There are far more options for nurses than RTs. That is a simple fact. And, even while RTs and RNs can both rent their services for far more than they'd ever make in the hospital, RNs still will make more than RTs -- that's a simple fact.
Still, knowing all that, I love being an RT. I wouldn't want to do what RNs do. Another thing is, RNs are responsible for keeping all those meds straight. I certainly wouldn't want that responsibility. I'm responsible for only a few respiratory medicines.
Yes, it is true that my breathing machines keep people alive, and things I do could end a life if I made an error, RNs are inserting medicines into the IV that, if given in incorrect doses, could kill or save a life.
The challenges of being an RN or RT are phenomenal. It's the challenges, the working with each other and the doctor to find out what a patient needs. That is the most rewarding part of being in the medical field. It's the teamwork.
Personally, I would never be an RN. That's just not my thing. However, would I ever recommend anyone become an RT? Well, that depends on what your goal is in life.
Are you 28 years old, have already failed at another career, and simply need a job. That's how I became an RT. It was the fail safe for me. Despite popular belief, I did not choose this career because of my asthma. However, it was my asthma that made me aware the job of RT existed.
A lot of people become an RT for reasons similar to mine. Some go into this field because they love to work with people, but don't want the stress of being an RN, or they don't want to wait three years to get into RN school.
There is a greater chance that an RN can move up the ladder. There are simply more opportunities. RNs can get a bachelor's degree. RTs can too, but the benefits from doing so are hardly worth it (at least in my neck of the woods. It's not even offered around here.)
How hard do you want to work? How hard do you want to stress your mind. Are you good at prioritizing? These decisions come to play in both these careers. RTs can be paged three places STAT all at the same time. Which one do you go to first. This is especially important if you are working alone?
There are definite advantages and disadvantages to being an RT or an RN. For one thing, there will always be sick people, and there will always be people in need. Likewise, there will always be people who need help with their breathing.
And, on occasion, there will be people who stop breathing and need the services of both an RT and an RN.
Personally, I'm satisfied with my decision to be an RT. You can read my list of why I love being an RT if you want. Still, would I chose this career again if I had to do all over again. The answer would depend on what day you ask.
Would I recommend you be an RT? Again, it would depend on what your goals are in your life. If you want to be the sole income for your family, you better find some other career. This is not the most financially rewarding job in the world. Still, you could do far worse.
Personally, if I were advising my child, and he were vying RN or RT, I would tell him to be an RN. Why? Because RNs get paid better, and there are far more opportunities available for RNs than RTs.
Still, he might be like me, and simply prefer the RT rought.
Both of these careers can be rewarding. Both can be frustrating as any job.
And both have their advantages and disadvantages. Which one you choose depends on your preferences, your personality, your location, and your goals in life.