Home > Blog > September 2018 > Empower Yourself. Help Others. Become a Respiratory Therapist.

Empower Yourself. Help Others. Become a Respiratory Therapist.

Posted: October 2, 2018 by Kasey Bowser
Mesa Respiratory Therapy Program Director, Nathan Vierra

Did you know as a respiratory therapist you would do a lot more than help people breathe? And did you know you can work alongside surgeons and physicians when you enter the field?
We recently sat down with Mesa Respiratory Therapy (RT) Program Director, Nathan Vierra, to hear firsthand what it takes to be an RT, the misconceptions about the career and what his advice is to new students coming into the program.  
What sets Pima Medical’s Respiratory Therapy program apart from the rest?

NV: One of the coolest things to me about our program is that, here at Pima Medical, we only have a 21-month program, so in under two years you can graduate with an associate degree in respiratory therapy and start working alongside world-class surgeons and physicians. You can see and do things in a hospital that I’m just blow away that you can do with just a two-year degree.
What types of students are successful in this type of program?

NV: In my experience as a program director and clinical instructor, I think the students that succeed the best in this program are students that come in with an open mind and who are ready to take on everything we can throw at them.

What are some of the misconceptions that people may have about respiratory therapy?

NV: The misconception out there is that RT’s help people breathe. That is part of our job but it really down plays the role that we have in critical care. On TV and in Hollywood, you’ll see physicians in the roles of an RT. In real life, physicians do play a critical role in healthcare, but they’re not in the room for nearly as long as they portray. It’s usually RTs and nurses that are at the bedside assessing the patients and doing different therapeutic modalities to help the patient breathe.

Part of what we do is operate life support machines. So, if you come into the hospital with a life threatening illness, like a gunshot wound, a stab wound to the chest, an overdose or something that is compromising your breathing, you’ll have a respiratory therapist at the bedside immediately.
What advice would you give a student who is new to the program?

I would tell them to come in with an open mind and ready to learn and perform hands-on skills. We do a lot of training here in our lab and we really take our students through different skills with lectures then go straight to the lab and perform those skills hands-on. A lot of our students don’t know what the path is going to look like when they start the program. So I say to keep an open mind, trust your instructors, your program director and clinical director to know what’s best for you and to know what you really need in your education in order to be successful.

Find out about the respiratory therapy job outlook by downloading the diagram below. Then visit Pima Medical Institute to see how you can earn an associate degree in respiratory therapy in approximately 21 months.

Image of Respiratory Therapy Infographic

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Respiratory Therapists, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/respiratory-therapists.htm (visited August 22, 2018).

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