Community Respiratory Therapists

Role of respiratory therapists in the community

The majority of respiratory therapists work in critical care but there is a growing population of respiratory therapists working in the community. The role of respiratory therapists in critical care and home care involves distinct differences but both are essential to the health care system.

Home care and community respiratory therapists can have a multitude of responsibilities ranging from oxygen therapy, airway and sleep management, to tobacco cessation, and managing chronic diseases. Home care respiratory therapists assisting with oxygen therapy focus on ensuring patients have a proper oxygen prescription, help teach patients how to work their oxygen equipment, provide airway hygiene information if necessary, inform patients of the dangers of smoking with their oxygen equipment and much more.

Respiratory therapists also work with sleep, assessing if a patient has sleep disordered breathing by recommending various sleep tests to investigate if the client would benefit from treatment. Respiratory therapists also work at sleep study facilities that perform level one and two sleep studies. The respiratory therapist works closely with community general practitioners and sometimes even specialists, to guide patients to the best treatment for their sleep disordered breathing. Treatments can include CPAP, oral appliances, and possible UPPP surgery, to name a few. Respiratory therapists are essential in not only choosing the therapy but in following up with the effectiveness of the chosen therapy.

In addition, some respiratory therapists specialize in tobacco cessation education or in asthma management in the community. Respiratory therapists have a vital role in caring for patients in the community and have the opportunity to see a large population of patients that range from infants to elderly adults.

Working in community gives the respiratory therapist opportunities to build relationships with their patients and patient’s families by going to visit the patient in their homes. Frequently meeting with patients in their homes allows the respiratory therapist the opportunity to gain more knowledge about the patient’s lifestyle and living conditions. This can help tailor the therapy to that individual person. Community respiratory therapists are essential in bridging the gap between hospital and home care as they are responsible for visiting discharged patients. These statements show the importance of respiratory therapists in the community and how their work improves the quality of life of so many people in our country.