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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is the job of respiratory therapy right for you? .... My humble answers to your RT queries

I have received the following questions from RT student or students trying to decide if the job of RT is right for them. Here are my humble answers:

1. Do most RT's start off on night shift? This basically depends on how lucky you are or how picky you are where you want to work. Most RTs start out on the night shift because few people want to work that shift. However, on occasion, a day shift comes open that none of the current RTs are interested in. I imagine it would be easier to start out on days at a larger hospital than a small one like where I work. Personally, I have been on nights for all 12 years I've worked here because not one day shift RT has quit, been fired or retired since I was hired.

2. Do RT departments do 8 or 12 hour shift? Currently, I know of no RT Caves that have 8 hour shifts. Most of them do 12 hour shifts.

3. Do most RTs intubate? No. Most of the hospitals where I work in Michigan do not have RTs intubate. It's not that we cannot do it, it's more that we are usually busy doing other things. However, if the opportunity allows, RTs are allowed to intubate. However, I usually do not even try because intubating is something you either need to do often or not at all. There are plenty of hospitals that allow RTs to intubate if that's something you are interested in.

4. Is intubating stressful? Anything you are new to, or seldom do, especially under stressful circumstances can be stressful. At the same time it can be a very rewarding feeling having successfully intubated.

5. Is intubating easy to learn to do? Yes. You should learn proper technique in RT school and during biannual ACLS courses.

6. Are the vocal chords easy to see? Yes. When you see them you will know.

7. Is it hard to intubate a baby? Yes. I would defer this to a doctor. I suppose it it came right down to it I would try if there absolutely was no other option.

8. Is it easy doing chest compressions? Yes. You should get plenty of practice during BLS.

9. Do you ever break the ribs and do you hear them actually crack? Usually ribs don't break unless a patient has some disease that weakens them. Some very elderly and cancer patients can have weak bones that crack. It's a very strange feeling knowing that you are breaking someones ribs. But at the same time doing nothing usually means guaranteed death for the person.

10. Are vents very hard to manage? If you do your homework and go out of your way to do as much as you can during your ventilator rotation, you should do just fine managing vents. Just remember to always look at the patient first when the alarm sounds before looking at the vent.

11. What are some pros and cons of the job of RT? RTs are allowed to roam the entire hospital, and are not couped up doing the same thing all day. The RT is the first person called in any life threatening circumstances in the hospital, and our expertise is often called upon to save lives. On the contrary, sometimes doctors and some hospitals fail to allow RTs the discretion to make decisions on who needs RT services when the doctor is not in house. Follow my blog and I will answer this question further in the days to come. Still, every hospital is different and allows RTs to have different degrees of responsibility (as is true of any job).

Here are some links that may be of interest: Here is a list of the things I like about being an RT, The greatest joy of being an RT, The best perk of being an RT, small RT caves live 20 years in past, the 6 different types of RTs, the reality of small town hospitals,

12. Would you rather be an RN or RT? check out this link.

13 Would you rather be an RT or an x-ray tech? X-Ray techs have to do the same thing all day for basically the same pay as an RT. I'd rather have the more flexible job of RT.

14. Do I want to work for a small town hospital or a large hospital? That depends on your location, how far you want to drive, how hard you like to work. If you like to be very busy all the time, if you want to see a lot of action, then you will want to work for a larger hospital. If you would be content to take the busy times with the slow, then perhaps a small town would be better. Scope out the hospital, because they are all different.

15. What do you think about protocols? Well, personally I like to use my RT knowledge and experience to make decisions that are best for the patient, as opposed to doing therapies that aren't needed just because the doctor ordered them. Protocols make this possible. Do you like the challenge of making decisions, then you may want to work at a hosp. that has lots of protocols. If you are content to go to work, do what you are told and collect a pay check, then you may want to choose a hosp. with no protocols.

16. Any further advice on seeking an RT job? Personally, I work at the hospital that so happens to be near where I live. It works best for my family. I tolerate what this hospital offers. If you have no family or travel limitations, you may want to not just ask about hours, shift and pay, but protocols too. You may want to ask: "How much respect do RTs have at this institution. If I work here will I get to use my education and expertise? Don't simply take "YES" for an answer. Have the interviewer prove it. Proof is in the protocol.

That is all the questions for today. Any further questions you may contact me at


Anonymous said...

Just want to leave a big "Thank you!", for all that you do. I am just switching to RT school, from Nursing Prereqs & was so stressed about the decision. You have shared so much helpful information and really make your experiences "real" for us. Keep up the good work!


Tina S. said...

Thank you very much for answering my questions!! I am now really leaning towards Respiratory Therapy!!! I appreciate your input and love your blog, and will continue reading, THANK you!! :)

Diana Lyn said...

There are hopspitals that still have 8-hr RT shifts, like Kaiser here in California (not sure about the other states). It's really the only hospital I know of that does this...