Jump to content

RT vs. RN? Is RT a useless profession?

AspiringRN27 AspiringRN27 (Member)

What is the purpose of Respiratory therapists when nurses can do all of the same things that they can do. Is there anything that a respiratory therapist can do that an RN cannot?

xoemmylouox, ASN, RN

Has 13 years experience.

I LOVE good R/T. Their main focus is your patient's airway, while the Nurse has to focus on the patient as a whole. I would say they are F-A-R from useless. They can teach you a ton of things like vent settings on different vents, best ways to work with patients on vent weaning, and they are great in decannulation emergencies. I have worked with some great R/T that have been a huge help especially when I had a tach pt who needed to be suctioned constantly. Granted there are some lazy ones out there, but the same can be said about every profession.

hope3456, ASN, RN

Specializes in LTC, Psych, M/S.

Ok but what about those on M/S units? I can understand their value in ICU but.....

I worked in a rural hospital where the RNs were expected to do all the duoneb tx's on night shift. However, there were 2 RT's scheduled on day shift. While the NOC RN was stretched to the max to get all these tx's done, they seemed to have plenty of time to scrutinize your charting of them and seemed to find pleasure in writing up nurses over them if they thought the RN didn't do them, ect. The CNO always took their side.

HouTx, BSN, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Critical Care, Education. Has 35 years experience.

If your job involves dealing with mechanically ventilated patients, a qualified RT is an essential member of the team. Why in the world would we want to take on respiratory therapy treatments as well as everything else? You can be sure that we wouldn't get any extra 'nursing hours' for it & the nursing department wouldn't see any revenue generated by those treatments..... sheesh.

Respiratory therapy may have originally emerged out of nursing (anesthesia techs), but it has evolved into a profession - with specific areas of expertise that are no longer part of nursing curriculum. Yes, nurses are perfectly capable of performing basic RT tasks if they have been trained to do so, but how would that impact the quality and safety of patient care?

meanmaryjean, DNP, RN

Specializes in NICU, ICU, PICU, Academia. Has 40 years experience.

Imagine intubating your almost dead ICU patient, having to bag them AND set up the vent.

See the value????

Pepper The Cat, BSN, RN

Specializes in Gerontology. Has 34 years experience.

An RT is a huge help when your pt is having Respiratory issues. They have years of learning focused just on the resp system.

You can go ahead and take on all that responsibility if you feel so inclined, super nurse.


Specializes in L&D, infusion, urology. Has 2 years experience.

Sure, a nurse can do a variety of interdisciplinary tasks, but having a RT, phlebotomist, and other interdisciplinary help sure makes a difference. Also, a good RT REALLY knows their breath sounds and what's going on with this body system. They are specialists.

lifelearningrn, BSN, RN

Specializes in School Nursing. Has 6 years experience.

RT's have extensive knowledge in the respiratory system- that is their main focus-- while LVNs and RNs are learning about every system some, RTs are learning everything about one system in depth. No, they can not do everything an RN can do as they are specialized in just one area of therapy... but I don't believe as an R.N., BSN that I have even a fraction of the knowledge in respiratory system as a RT does. Yes, there are an important part of the team.

WoosahRN, MSN, RN

Specializes in PICU. Has 10 years experience.

The RTs are mine and my patient's lifeline. I would never want to do their job, even the "lowly" task of doing treatments. And I'm insanely grateful for their presence. They assess, recommend treatment, intubate, and they do ECMO with me. Their respiratory knowledge has majorly helped me with learning that task/machine. They teach new nurses ventilators and some serious respiratory pathophysiology. It's not just about pushing buttons and adjusting settings. They troubleshoot with me when my patient is swirling down the tubes. They manage my airway, which without it, my patient is dead. I trust they have that taken care of while I can focus on other priorities like pushing meds. Oh yeah, and they do treatments too.

This is like seeing a nurse making a patient's bed or getting them water and thinking that's all they do. "You're just the doctor's assistant, right?" Unfortunately too many people learn what a nurse or RT do when they are having to experience it in their own crisis. Don't be one of them.

RT is a very important job. My sister in law is a respiratory therapist. I also had a chance to follow a RT for one day during nursing clinical. I had to follow him throughout the hospital watching him give breathing treatments. This guy did not believe in elevators lol. He would use the stairs. I had a hard time following him because my legs hurt so bad! I also got a chance to meet all of the RT working that day. They were extremely nice and cool.

Like the poster above stated they are the lifeline to some of the patients with trach. When you have a patient that is steadily going down the RT is your best friend.

roser13, ASN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg, Ortho, ASC. Has 17 years experience.

Oh my. I hope that you take all of the above posts to heart as you have been seriously mis- or under-informed.

Nurses can also perform some of the functions of PT, OT, the IV team, the Code team, the Unit Secretary, Housekeeping, Dietary, & Pharmacy. Would you do away with all of those specialists as well?

imintrouble, BSN, RN

Specializes in LTC Rehab Med/Surg. Has 16 years experience.

I always had a hard time with resp/metabolic, acidocis/alkalosis. I whined to an RT once because I felt so stupid about it. She very kindly told me she'd not spent classroom hours or days on those issues, she'd spent semesters.

I really like that RT. I still work with her.

I can't even begin to describe what she can do and I can't.

RTs are legit, it baffles me people on this site huff and puff about RTs, lab techs and MAs getting more responsibility. You want to handle all breathing issues, art sticks and lab draws go right ahead.....

Nurses once again trying to be the jack of all trades....

On the M/S unit I worked on, we had a lot of CF pts, and RTs seemed to be helping them the most, all I ever did was hang an IV abx or 2 during the shift. In ICU, I think RTs know more than the doctors! All I know how to do is silent the vent when I am suctioning. I would say they are VERY valuable to the pt as well as the doctors and nurses. You dont know what you dont know in regards to RT unless you are one, just like a nurse, or a doctor, or any other professional.

roser13, ASN, RN

Specializes in Med/Surg, Ortho, ASC. Has 17 years experience.

RTs are legit, it baffles me people on this site huff and puff about RTs, lab techs and MAs getting more responsibility. You want to handle all breathing issues, art sticks and lab draws go right ahead.....

Nurses once again trying to be the jack of all trades....

Note: OP is not a nurse or a nursing student.

If you'll notice, 100% of the responses have been pro-RT's. Not one actual nurse has huffed or puffed regarding an RT's value.

/username, BSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care.

Your post itself betrays a lack of knowledge about what RTs do.

RNs do not learn about the respiratory system, the physics of mechanical ventilation, and the physiology of bronchodilators for example, in much detail.

Edited by sirI
removed link