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What is a Hyperbaric Technician?

Kathy Heydasch
Kathy Heydasch

A hyperbaric technician is certified to administer oxygen treatments to persons needing high-oxygen or hyperbaric — high pressure — treatment, whether through a mask or in a hyperbaric chamber. The technician works with medical staff under the supervision of a physician to administer hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). The foundation of knowledge necessary for a hyperbaric technician to operate a hyperbaric chamber includes a full understanding of gas systems as well as mathematical calculations and conversion factors, methods of identifying and testing for gas impurities, requirements for the calibration of gas equipment, and the reporting of medical data. In addition, a hyperbaric technician must also be familiar with all general clinic skills, including obtaining medical histories, assisting in patient care procedures like reading vital signs, operating basic medical equipment like gurneys and wheelchairs, reading EKG stats, and administering life support.

In the US, an organization known as the National Board of Diving and Hyperbaric Medical Technology (NBDHMT) offers Certified Hyperbaric Technologist (CHT) training programs. A CHT is not an entry-level certification program, however. In order to begin training, one must have completed a minimum certification such as nurse practitioner, registered nurse, or emergency medical technician, for example. Basic life support courses are required for most international training programs.

A hyperbaric chamber.
A hyperbaric chamber.

A number of hospitals offer hyperbaric medicine training courses for health care professionals. Topics covered by a formalized training program may include the physics related to pressure exposure, signs and symptoms of decompression illness and the capability to provide assistance in the prevention or management of pressure-related illnesses. Additional certification in this field may include training as a diver medical technician.

Hyperbaric oxygenation therapy may be used to treat severe burns.
Hyperbaric oxygenation therapy may be used to treat severe burns.

Recipients of hyperbaric treatment include divers training for high-pressure, low-altitude dives or persons suffering from decompression sickness. Historically therefore, most recompression chambers, or hyperbaric chambers, were located at or near diving sites. In recent years, health professionals tout the benefits of HBOT as therapeutic, and many hospitals and private clinics contain hyperbaric physicians, technicians and chambers.

Hyperbaric conditions exist at levels of very low altitude, when the ambient air pressure is high. In contrast, hypobaric conditions occur at high altitudes, when oxygen is low and so is the ambient air pressure. Hyperbaric medicine is the use of high levels of oxygen as medical treatment for patients with decompression sickness as well as other ailments. Patients breathe nearly 100% oxygen inside a hyperbaric chamber or through a hyperbaric mask, with periodic breaks to reduce the risk of oxygen toxicity. A hyperbaric technician supervises patients and helps administer these treatments under the supervision of a medical doctor.

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    • A hyperbaric chamber.
      By: Steve Simpson
      A hyperbaric chamber.
    • Hyperbaric oxygenation therapy may be used to treat severe burns.
      By: OlegD
      Hyperbaric oxygenation therapy may be used to treat severe burns.