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Respiratory specialists are health care professionals who focus on providing care to people with pulmonary conditions. Both doctors and nurses can work as these types of specialists, as can technicians who are trained to perform certain types of procedures, including diagnostic tests used to collect information about respiratory conditions. In order to work as a respiratory specialist, it is usually necessary to complete basic medical training, followed by advanced training in the management of pulmonary conditions.
Many hospitals retain respiratory specialists on their staff to assist patients who are experiencing respiratory problems. Respiratory complications are common among patients in intensive care and patients with certain chronic conditions. Hospitalization can exacerbate respiratory problems as patients feel stressed, and a respiratory specialist can be part of the care team working to keep the patient as healthy as possible. If a patient is hospitalized specifically for a respiratory complaint such as asthma, the specialist may be the lead doctor on the patient's team.
Other respiratory specialists may work in standalone clinics. It is also not uncommon to see sleep clinics working with these types of specialists, since some sleep disorders are related to apnea and other breathing problems, in which case they can help identify a patient's specific condition and make treatment recommendations. People may be referred to such specialists, or seek appointments on their own, depending on their situation.
Respiratory specialists can be involved in the assessment of a patient who presents with a respiratory problem. They may conduct a patient interview, perform some lung function tests to learn more about the patient, and order medical imaging studies to get a look inside the patient's lungs. With this information, respiratory specialists can make treatment recommendations, including both short and long term plans for management of respiratory conditions. Treatments can include the use of devices such as CPAP machines for apnea, or the administration of medications to manage respiratory function.
These medical professionals can provide care for acute and chronic conditions. They can also manage patients while they are hospitalized, monitoring their lung function and providing interventions if they become necessary or are deemed appropriate. Respiratory specialists also commonly stop by to visit with patients after surgery, since the intubation and delivery of anesthesia sometimes cause respiratory complications. The specialist assesses lung function, gives the patient some advice on monitoring and improving lung function, and makes sure to document any findings for the patient's file.