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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Why is the RT program is so hard?

Today I would like to take the time to answer some questions about respiratory therapy that my readers have sent me.

Question: I know that you've commented before about how respiratory school is hard, but would you mind if I asked you some specifics? I, like most new Resp. students, am wondering exactly what I'm going to be getting into...

I used to work as a CNA/Monitor Tech at a large local hospital here and whenever I asked the Respiratory Therapists/Students how school was, they would say it's no big deal. I always got the, "don't worry, you'll be fine..." or "it's not that hard..." or "nursing school is much worse, don't worry..." But then other points of view I read online are, "It's HARD!" I'm curious what makes it hard? Is it the scheduling? Because you're in school everyday and you have labs and clinicals and you're just going, going, going, and you get tired. Or is it the actually coursework? Very complex and hard to understand? Is the work not so bad but it's the AMOUNT of work? There's so many different aspects to what makes something hard.

Any heads up or info would be appreciated.

My humble answer: I think RT school is extra hard because RT schools, and the AARC, want to make sure RTs are prepared and able to be excellent critical thinkers, along with having the basic skills of managing RT equipment. For that reason, RT students are inundated with as much information as possible, and forced to learn it in a short period of time. When I was in RT school, other prerequisites, balancing my time between studies, clinicals and home life very difficult. It was a very intense 2.5 year program.

I have many friends who went to RN school and all of them say the first year was intense like this, but the second year was pretty easy. And my friends who went to RN school and RT school all say the RT program was far more difficult. They say the main reason is that in RN school you learn the basics of a lot of stuff, but in RT school you have to go very in depth on on everything pertaining to just respiratory. When you have to know so much depth into one subject area, the classes are bound to be harder. Plus you have to learn all the equipment for adults, peds and neo.

Yes, the scheduling is hard but doable. The coursework is hard, but doable. It's just a lot is thrown at you all at once. Basically, when I was in RT School, my personal life took a standstill. All I had time to do was attend classes, study, eat, shower and study.

Quite frankly, I have never met an RT who said the program was easy. Even the people who got the best grades say the program was hard.

Still it is a challenge worthwhile, because when you get through it you will be among the elite brand of RRTs.

Question: Is there a difference between respiratory care and cardiopulmonary sciences. Are these two different programs?

My humble answer: I am under the impression they are one and the same. Some people, I think, believe cardiopulmonary sounds more professional. Or, as is the case where I work, cardiopulmonary covers both aspects of the RT department, which in our case consists of both the respiratory end that included breathing treatments and ventilator therapy, and the cardio end that included EKGs and stress testing. Many hospitals, including where I work, refer to the RT department as cardiopulmonary, or simply cardio for short. Some schools do too.

Question: What's the most annoying part of being an RT?

My humble answer: That would be doing breathing treatments not because they are indicated, but because insurance companies will reimburse for them. Likewise, many of the treatments I do are done not because they are needed, but because someone sitting in a chair in Washington D.C. decided they will not reimburse the hospital unless a treatment is given for such and such a disease. I would say about half of all the breathing treatments I do are for this reason, and the majority are unindicated. This, to me, is a perfect reason to keep government out of the healthcare business. But that's just my humble opinion.

Question: What is the most enjoyable part of being an RT?

My humble answer: The best part of the job is doing critical thinking on very challenging cases. I like it when an idea I come up with helps a doctor (or patient or nurse) make a decision. Likewise, I love spending time with my patients educating them on how they can better their lives. Likewise, I enjoy sharing my asthma experiences. I think it's neat that I get to know some patients at the end of their lives, and yet by their stories I know about their entire lives and experiences.

Oh, and my favorite part of the job is when I go into a room of two little old ladies to do a breathing treatment and, just after I exit the door and am still within earshot, one of the ladies says to the other, "Now, wasn't that a fine young man."

Hey, any further questions for me please email them at Or, if you have criticism or a comment, or further information to add, please email or leave a comment below.


Dustin said...

i really enjoy reading your blog! you always have so much useful and relevant information about the field of RT. Keep up the great work!!


Unknown said...

Hey, Just wanted to make a comment on the critical think you mentioned that RTs have to have. I am 4 months out from graduation (I think I just might live though this.) One constant thing I hear from my professors is "It is a puzzle! And we get to put it together!" It is so true. Does not matter if it is "Why is the patient not wanting to do IS" "Why is the vent not working properly" ect. And we get to play and put it together to take care of this patient. I love it!!