A respiratory technician is an entry-level medical professional who helps patients experiencing difficulty breathing learn to use various equipment and techniques to aid in clearer and more efficient breathing. The technician works under the direction of a respiratory therapist or a respiratory physician, and may be guided in his or her work by following specific procedures prescribed by a cardiopulmonary doctor. People in this position are allowed to assist with testing such as measuring a patient's lung capacity to diagnose respiratory ailments. They are also qualified to administer oxygen and various aerosol medications.
One of the most important aspects of the job performed by a respiratory technician is patient education. This may include the benefits of quitting smoking, information on preventing further respiratory disease, and the process for recovery from the patient's current ailment. This type of technician may be found working in almost any medical setting, although they are commonly found in emergency rooms, neonatal or pediatric intensive care units, and surgical units.
Other duties of a respiratory technician may include keeping accurate records of a patient's therapy and progress, setting breathing equipment to appropriate levels to control the flow of oxygen, and preparing various respiratory-oriented medical devices for use. Some of the tools used by a respiratory techs include a blood gas analyzer, oxygen tents, oxygen masks, sputum collectors, suction kits, and nebulizers.
One typical task performed by a respiratory technician is to have a patient blow into what is called a peak flow meter, which measures the patient's breathing ability. He or she may also teach patients proper breathing techniques through various breathing exercises. This is done frequently when a patient is recovering from surgery, but can also be a part of a patient's routine care if he or she suffers from breathing disorders such as asthma.
Respiratory technicians may also work in clinics that specialize in diagnosing sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea. In this type of clinic setting, he or she monitors testing equipment and the patient's breathing during the testing in order to provide sufficient data for diagnosis.
In the United States and Canada, an associate's degree from a post-secondary school is required to become a respiratory technician. Training programs are often available in hospitals, community colleges, vocational schools, and universities. Licensing to work in this field is required in every state except for Alaska and Hawaii, and in Canada, a national test is administered by each province for licensing purposes. European nations have similar standards, but vary from country to country.