How Does Respiratory Therapy Work?

People who have advanced lung conditions often need respiratory therapy to learn better breathing skills to improve their function and live higher quality lives. This can sound daunting to someone who is suffering from a debilitating condition, because it requires a lot of hard work, but it has been shown to be effective in helping people with all sorts of conditions.

Which conditions need respiratory therapy?

Some conditions that people have are long term, such as COPD or asthma, which both disturb pulmonary function and can make it difficult to breathe, especially when doing strenuous work. Efforts to manage the condition can make a huge difference in long term function. Other conditions that might require respiratory therapy are short term, such as getting over a bout of pneumonia. This is something that might make breathing easily challenging, but that can be surmounted with focused therapy efforts, and people can get back to a normal life more quickly.

How does it work?

There are two ways to get respiratory therapy. One is when a patient is already in an inpatient setting, perhaps recovering from illness. The inpatient facility has a respiratory therapist on staff to provide treatment. The other possibility is that the patient is managing at home, but sees that it won’t work for too much longer without direct intervention.

In either case, a respiratory therapist will assess the patient’s needs and create a detailed plan and goals for the therapy. A professional facility, such as Hudson View Center for Rehabilitation in Bergen County, New Jersey, will have a respiratory therapist on staff and a dedicated team of workers to assess patients and provide expert treatment. Respiratory therapy is an element of a full pulmonary rehabilitation program, where patients receive a complete program in education, skills training, counselling and therapy to learn efficient breathing skills and better manage their conditions.

Patients go through a schedule over the course of a few weeks where they attend lectures and workshops as well as receive their therapies.

What does the respiratory therapist do?

The first part of the program is the diagnostic exam, where the therapist will do a chest exam and potentially examine tissue samples. After that, she makes a diagnosis and treatment plan, and get to work.

While the central component of her care is the rehabilitation services that she provides, including teaching breathing techniques and giving over education about cardiopulmonary health, she is also highly involved in the physical aspects of managing a pulmonary patient’s care. Some of these responsibilities include:

  • Controlling a ventilating machine
  • Administering medications
  • Analyzing specimens and blood samples
  • Consulting with other members of the patient healthcare team
  • Continuous assessment of goals and treatment to adjust as necessary

Patient in an inpatient setting will likely see have respiratory therapy every day, while on an outpatient basis she might only have a weekly or biweekly session.

Is respiratory therapy effective?

Studies have shown that respiratory therapy is an integral component of the proper care and treatment of patients with cardiopulmonary diseases. However, it’s a small field that’s still considered new, so there is little data on the results of a respiratory therapy program.

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