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How to Become a Respiratory Care Assistant

Learn how to become a respiratory care assistant. Research the education and career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in respiratory care assisting. View article »

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  • 0:40 Career Requirements
  • 1:42 Step 1: Respiratory…
  • 2:50 Step 2: Obtain Certifications
  • 3:19 Step 3: Obtain an…
  • 4:19 Step 4: Continue Education
  • 4:44 Step 5: Respiratory Therapist

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Video Transcript

Respiratory Care Assistant

So you think you might like to become a respiratory care assistant? Respiratory care assistants are usually students who work under the supervision of licensed respiratory therapists, getting hands-on training and building upon the skills to care for patients with breathing disorders. They might also help to maintain patient records and equipment. This work may involve standing for long periods of time and moving or lifting patients who need assistance. Those who work in facilities that are open around-the-clock may be scheduled during weekend, evening, or night hours.

Career Requirements

So what are the career requirements?

Degree Level Associate's degree most common; bachelor's degree available; respiratory care assistants must be currently enrolled in respiratory program
Degree Field Respiratory therapy
Experience Experience acquired through clinical portion of program
Licensure and Certification Licensure required in nearly all states to eventually work as a respiratory therapist; certification often required to obtain licensure includes cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic live saving (BLS) or basic cardiac life saving (BCLS) certification typically needed
Key Skills Active listening, critical thinking, problem-solving, monitoring, interpersonal, science and math skills, compassion, patience
Salary $48,800 per year (median salary for respiratory therapy technicians)

Sources: Online Job Postings (August 2015), O*NET OnLine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Respiratory Therapy Program

Many community colleges offer associate's degree programs in respiratory therapy, which are the most common programs for preparation to work as a respiratory therapist. Courses may cover anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, pulmonary rehabilitation, airway management, pulmonary function testing, and respiratory care. These programs also include a series of clinical practicums. Aspiring respiratory therapists might also choose a 4-year bachelor's degree program in respiratory therapy. The coursework is similar to 2-year programs but involves more in-depth instruction in the health sciences and more extensive clinical training.

Tip for Success

Join a student organization. Student organizations, such as the Respiratory Therapy Students Association, can help aspiring respiratory care assistants form networking connections and meet with other students pursuing careers in respiratory therapy. Some colleges offer their own student organizations in respiratory care and therapy.

Step 2: Obtain CPR and Life Support Certifications

Most respiratory care assistant positions require the participants have cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as well as basic life support or basic cardiac life support certification. Individuals can obtain CPR and BLS or BCLS certification by passing courses approved by the American Red Cross, which are generally offered through colleges and employers.

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Step 3: Obtain an Assistantship

Individuals looking to serve as respiratory care assistants can seek help from advisors in their respiratory therapy degree programs or seek assistantships independently through job boards. The amount of education required to obtain a student respiratory care assistant position varies by employer. Some positions require the applicant to be in their senior year, while others accept applicants who have only been enrolled for a single semester or are just beginning their respiratory care education. A few positions may require candidates to already have a degree in respiratory therapy.

Tip for Success

Participate in a job shadow. Shadowing a respiratory therapist can help an aspiring respiratory care assistant learn more about the daily duties involved in this position. A job shadow also enables participants to ask questions and learn directly from a licensed respiratory therapist.

Step 4: Continue Education

A respiratory care assistant's education continues throughout a degree program. There are generally no specific requirements beyond staying in school for respiratory care assistants, though some positions may require participants to sign a contract agreeing that they will finish a degree program while working as a respiratory care assistant.

Step 5: Advance to Become a Respiratory Therapist

Once a respiratory care assistant completes a training program, the next step is to become licensed as a respiratory therapist. Practically all states require licensure for respiratory therapists, and obtaining certification is often necessary to become licensed. In addition, employers typically hire respiratory therapists who are certified. The first level of certification for this profession is the Certified Respiratory Therapist credential offered through the National Board for Respiratory Care.

Enroll in a respiratory therapist program, obtain certifications, obtain assistantship, continue your education, and advance to a respiratory therapist, are the steps to follow to make the most of a career as a respiratory care assistant.

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