Consider the following definitions:
Therapist: A person who provides therapy.
Technician: A person who does procedures ordered.
By interviewing RTs who work at other institutions I know that many RTs are truly therapists. They are provided with orders such as, "RT Consult." The therapist then assesses the patient and performs the appropriate therapy.
Yet where I work we don't provide therapy at all. In short, we are simply techs doing procedures ordered. In this sense, we aren't therapists at all, we are well paid techs. In this sense, it is much more understandable how so many of my coworkers present with the symptoms of Respiratory Therapy Apathy Syndrome (RATS).
For example, yesterday I came to work and there were 14 patients on our board, and my coworker told me that none of these patients required the services of an RT. There was not one of these patients who needed breathing treatments or chest percussion.
Many of the patients would have benefited from education about their disease process, yet we "techs" are so busy doing procedures that aren't needed that we don't have time to sit down and do the job we went to school for: provide therapy.
I also had the emergency room yesterday, and I kid you not that I did at least 25 EKGs. We are doing EKGs on every patient admitted with chest pain, rickets, stroke symptoms, hangnails, diabetes, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, no blood pressure, asthma, COPD, and cough.
It's pretty much to the point we are doing EKGs on every patient who hits the ER door. Many are needed, yet there are so many ordered that I think nurses just order them out of habit. Heck, I don't even thing nurses order them any more. I think they are just ordered as part of an order set.
Where I work we are not respiratory therapists at all.
If you're a new or aspiring RT, I want you to know it doesn't have to be this way for you. When you are looking for a job, make sure you choose an institution that provides respiratory therapy. Most of your teaching hospitals provide such therapy. Many smaller hospitals do too, yet not mine.
A good way to know if your hospital provides therapy is to interview the interviewer when you are interviewing for a job. Ask questions like the following:
- Do you have RT driven protocols
- Do you have an RT Consult
- Do your doctors allow RTs to change or alter therapy without a direct order
- Do your doctors allow RTs to adjust ventilator settings without a direct order