Switching from Nursing to Respiratory Therapy

  1. I am considering switching from nursing to respiratory therapy after a bad experience with nursing school at a small private college. After two semesters of nursing school I was really turned off to the whole career. Felt like I wasn't learning anything.. the professors just stood up there and talked out of their a**, and very little of what was said in lecture ended up being important for exams. Felt like I just had to be a very good guesser on exams to pass... was doing ok in some courses and struggled with two.. my grades were dropping and I was becoming a "C" average student (which I had never been in my life) this was causing me to feel very depressed. The Professors were very negative people and most would turn you away and tell you to change your major if you struggled with ONE class... I didn't want anything to do with nursing anymore. Plus I feel like nurses are held accountable for too much a lot of the time.

    I want to remain in the healthcare field so I have thought of respiratory therapy. I just applied to two different programs in my area, and I think this is good because I do well learning a lot about one thing as opposed to nursing where you're learning a little about everything. I'm receiving negative feedback from friends that I made in nursing school, saying things like "you're not gonna make any money", "that's a dying field, nurses will replace RT's one day". So I wanted to know, is respiratory therapy a good career? And how are they viewed by nurses? Correct me if I'm wrong but aren't RT's trained to use a ventilator while nurses are not? Any insight is appreciated, thank you.
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    About MykRTstudent

    Joined: Jan '13; Posts: 31; Likes: 13
    Student; from US

    14 Comments

  3. by   dishes
    Respiratory therapists are a valuable part of the interdisciplinary team and work in many settings; ICU, Emerg, OR, neonatal,rehab, specialized medical centers such as sleep labs and in patient's homes. Like nurses, respiratory therapists go through job shortage and surplus cycles, there may be a surplus of RT grads currently competing for jobs in your area, but it will more than likely change to a shortage cycle in the future. There is a rising incidence of obstructive sleep apnea in North America and nurses are not qualified to conduct the sleep studies nor are they authorized to fit the patient with the right CPAP equipment, the RTs are not going to be replaced by nurses.
  4. by   MykRTstudent
    Quote from dishes
    Respiratory therapists are a valuable part of the interdisciplinary team and work in many settings; ICU, Emerg, OR, neonatal,rehab, specialized medical centers such as sleep labs and in patient's homes. Like nurses, respiratory therapists go through job shortage and surplus cycles, there may be a surplus of RT grads currently competing for jobs in your area, but it will more than likely change to a shortage cycle in the future. There is a rising incidence of obstructive sleep apnea in North America and nurses are not qualified to conduct the sleep studies nor are they authorized to fit the patient with the right CPAP equipment, the RTs are not going to be replaced by nurses.
    Good to see that not all nursing students/nurses look down on RT's with an attitude of superiority like I was hearing from my former classmates. While respiratory therapy may not be as flexible a career as nursing, they are certainly a vital part of the healthcare team and must take on tasks that nurses are nowhere near qualified to do. Thank you.

    Any further her insight on this topic is welcome
    Last edit by MykRTstudent on Apr 2, '17
  5. by   Here.I.Stand
    Your friends are straight-up ignorant. Like dishes said, they are invaluable to critical care. RRTs are extremely knowledgeable about mechanical ventilation. I work in an ICU, and when my intubated pt's pulmonary status is declining, the RRT is who I call for advice first. The ICU residents even will ask the RRT for recommendations; also will enter orders for the vent changes that the RRT had just made.

    Also, in my hospital an ICU-trained RRT goes to the ED to assist with the stabilization cases. They respond to code blues too.

    In fact, if time or money weren't issues I would seriously consider become an RRT myself -- not because I want to leave nursing, but to expand my pulmonary knowledge.

    The ones I work with, as well as the my cousin who is an RRT all enjoy their work.
  6. by   cleback
    There isn't a wrong choice here... both are good fields. However, the first part of your post sounds like you're frustrated with a particular nursing program, rather than nursing itself. There are costs to switching programs, so just make sure youre switching for solid reasons.
  7. by   offlabel
    Just depends on where you want to fix your horizon. A BSN can take you places that RRT just can't. Don't confuse procedures with upward mobility. Not related in the least.
  8. by   MykRTstudent
    Thanks for all of your input!! And Cleback, yes, I was frustrated with that particular nursing program that I was in, and I do think that was a big part of what turned me off to nursing. However, I have looked more into respiratory therapy and got the chance to shadow a RT at a hospital, and am now happy with my decision and looking forward to starting this new journey. Happy to share that I just received my acceptance letter to a RT program yesterday and will be starting in September!
  9. by   meanmaryjean
    The nice thing about RT is that if you have a jerk of a patient- you re not stuck with them all day. Go in- do your thing- walk away until you get called or have need to return. THAT part of the job has always tempted me.
  10. by   heinz57
    Quote from dishes
    There is a rising incidence of obstructive sleep apnea in North America and nurses are not qualified to conduct the sleep studies nor are they authorized to fit the patient with the right CPAP equipment, the RTs are not going to be replaced by nurses.
    That is not true. Many sleep technologists are EMTs and LPNs who got trained for sleep lab and then got certified as sleep techs. Not that many RTs are sleep techs since they separated the licenses and Sleep now has its own board. Many states also require an RN to oversee sleep labs and do the assessments for each sleep patient.

    There are several hospitals which have cut back on RT staffing. RNs can do treatments, ABGs and manage ventilators especially in NICU, PACU and on transport. Our CVICU have the nurses actively managing the ventilators during the weaning process. There are also fewer RTs in out of hospital situations such as rehab and LTC since they are not covered under Medicare for many situations outside of the hospital. In several states RTs are also not allowed to do any outside of the hospital transports which is why it is not common to see RTs on transport. RT was once the golden goose and were everywhere but they have not keep up with others.

    OP, Have you considered EMS? Paramedics can do a lot more than an RT can and now do much more than just work on the ambulances. They are in the ERs, Cath Labs and in home care managing CHF, surgical, COPD and asthma patients.
  11. by   yahoomagoo
    I mean, if this isn't overall RRT bashing idk what is. Yes there are several states where an RRT cannot do this or that. There have been studies on overall patient safety and outcome through the Bureau of Labor Statistics as far as RRT not being required for critical care transports and the studies show that in the states that allow RRT to be part of the team have a more positive outcome in patient safety incidents. Especially in pediatric critical care. Many institutions have expanded the role of RTs for transport. "In North Carolina, a transport RT can administer over thirty-five IV medications, place femoral and external jugular IV lines, needle chest decompression, intubate and perform other procedures on transport"...you pick out only the bad and leave out the good.
  12. by   BreatheDeep
    Quote from heinz57
    That is not true. Many sleep technologists are EMTs and LPNs who got trained for sleep lab and then got certified as sleep techs. Not that many RTs are sleep techs since they separated the licenses and Sleep now has its own board. Many states also require an RN to oversee sleep labs and do the assessments for each sleep patient.

    There are several hospitals which have cut back on RT staffing. RNs can do treatments, ABGs and manage ventilators especially in NICU, PACU and on transport. Our CVICU have the nurses actively managing the ventilators during the weaning process. There are also fewer RTs in out of hospital situations such as rehab and LTC since they are not covered under Medicare for many situations outside of the hospital. In several states RTs are also not allowed to do any outside of the hospital transports which is why it is not common to see RTs on transport. RT was once the golden goose and were everywhere but they have not keep up with others.

    OP, Have you considered EMS? Paramedics can do a lot more than an RT can and now do much more than just work on the ambulances. They are in the ERs, Cath Labs and in home care managing CHF, surgical, COPD and asthma patients.
    This goes both ways. Yes, some states have opened sleep up to EMT's and LPN's - typically states with overall weak regulatory environments.

    In contrast, there are other states where sleep has been moved 100% within the realm of RT. RT has it's own sleep credential, the Sleep Diagnostic Specialist, and in certain states the PRSGT credential has been limited to RT's only.

    For every state that has RN's giving treatments and weaning ventilators you have another where RT's manage ECMO and IABP's, intubating and inserting central lines.

    RT has also, finally, formalized the move to a Bachelors entry, which in the works and expected to be live in the 2020's. The key here being that once a Bachelors entry is achieved, this opens up CMS classification as a provider - allowing for independent billing, solving the problem of outpatient RT services.

    With the ACA also came "incident to" billing for RT services furnished outside the hospital. So even now RT's are authorized to perform therapy in the outpatient setting when a physician is present.

    Also, in comparison to LPN's and Paramedics - in some places they may "do" more, but RT's licenses are almost always wider in scope Paramedics, and in some states wider than LPN's too. Not to mention than an RT will make more than either of them too.
  13. by   sallyrnrrt
    I am both RN & Reg.Resp. therapist
    I decided to take a break from nursing and completed an associate degree respiratory program, I was registered 10 days from graduation...

    I did not find nurses look down on nurses, maybe just my perspective...

    One day in ICU, a newer RN, told me patient xyz needed a breathing treatment, I went and assessed patient, they were in full blown pulmonary edema.......no bronchial constriction, I placed patient at 90 degrees, and increased oxygen to 100%.... I informed the RN it was pulmonary edema....its in scope of my practice to make assessments and give recommendations...I told her to contact provider, report findings, and ask for diuretic, a little morphine and chest X-ray....she ask me how I could tell, I explained listen to breath sound, see jugular veins dilated to mandible, and increased work of breathing... She thanked me , and got the appropriate intervention done, fortunately patient responded positive...... She then as me to help her learn different breath sounds , I told lets go listen to all 12 patients on the medical side of ICU.....

    She went on to evolve as a more capable nurse...... But for me it was the tipping point to return to nursing....

    Salary, for registered Resp. Therapist near the upper end of experienced lvn, sorta between lvn, but less than newer RNs in most instances
  14. by   tara07733
    I am in my final semester of nursing school and last semester, in particular, I got to experience how RTs fit into the team of healthcare professionals who take care of patients. I was in the ICU a couple of days and the RTs there are like gods (okay, I know that's hyperbole but you get it). They really, really know their stuff and were consulted often in that department. Prior to that I really never considered the job of the respiratory therapist but I was very much in awe and remember hoping that I can be as good at my job as they are when the time comes.

    As far as job prospects go I have no comment, as I have zero experience.

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