a child undergoes a respiratory therapy session

The Main Duties of a Respiratory Therapist

There are several responsibilities that the respiratory therapist will have on the job. Some of them involve clinical actions while others simply involve the paperwork of patient medical records.

Medical Records

One of the primary duties of a respiratory therapist is to enter the medical records of the patient in relation to the therapy received. All histories of the patient are to be included, such as past illnesses, surgeries and the general health. It is also important to include any lifestyle activities that might affect therapy including smoking or drinking. The plan of treatment as discussed between the therapist, the patient, other doctors and family members will be added to the chart as well.


When the therapist works with the patient, he will need to see that all of the proper tests are completed. The therapist will assist in diagnosing the condition of the patient based on information that is collected from tests and while in the office. Vital signs are monitored while the patient is with the therapist. These include blood pressure, pulse and other psychological responses. Any changes in the chemistry of the blood need to be reported. The therapist will monitor the prescriptions that the patient takes as well as provide new ones if they are needed. Arterial blood gases are taken and recorded to best determine the proper method of treatment for the patient.


In the event of an emergency while the patient is in the care of the therapist, the therapist will provide artificial respiration, CPR and external cardiac massage until other help arrives. All emergency related information is to be documented in the patient's file.


In the event the patient has to be transported by helicopter or ambulance to a larger hospital, the therapist will be one of the people who goes along. The therapist will do everything possible to keep the airway open. A tube may have to be placed so that oxygen is delivered to the lungs. A constant surveillance of the vital signs is needed during transport in order to quickly provide care if needed. The therapist must have a knowledge of the equipment in the vehicle. If some malfunctions during transport, the therapist needs to know how to fix the equipment. Some therapists can begin intravenous lines, perform blood draws and take a blood sample analysis during transport. These practices are considered advanced treatments, and some additional classes may be needed to perform these duties.

Last Updated: April 15, 2015