Respiratory Therapy vs. Nursing: Explore the Differences

Respiratory Therapy vs. Nursing
Respiratory Therapy vs. Nursing

In medicine, Nurses and Respiratory Therapists need the same education and qualifications, however, they still have different job descriptions and duties. Both work directly with patients to provide care for various conditions in hospitals and other medical facilities. If you are considering respiratory therapy and nursing, knowing the differences between them will help you determine which career path is right for you. In this article, we discuss the distinct differences between Nurses and Respiratory Therapists.

General Education

General Education
General Education

Nurses get a general education on human anatomy while Respiratory Therapists learn more detailed education programs on the cardiopulmonary system. When pursuing respiratory therapists, you need to have an associate or bachelor’s degree and study common courses including chemistry, physiology, anatomy, physics, and microbiology. Nurses also require a degree and focus on whole-patient care. 

Both Nursing and Respiratory Therapy expect a clinical experience requirement and you need to earn the state license to practice. A bachelor’s of nursing or master’s of nursing is more costly than respiratory therapist education requirements. It also leads to the advancement opportunities nursing can bring you.

Salary Range

Salary Range
Salary Range

Salary is one of the top differences between nursing and respiratory therapy. As we mentioned above, Nurses often have a higher earning, for example, Registered Nurses make a national average salary of $83,214 per year. Respiratory Therapists earn an average salary of $20,198 per year. 

Salaries also depend on many factors such as location, company, demand, and level of experience. 

Practice Areas

Practice Areas
Practice Areas

Nurses have a broader scope of practice focusing on overall health, well-being, and medical care for the whole body. Respiratory therapists perform cardiopulmonary care. These careers can overlap and make medical assessments about a patient’s conditions. For example, respiratory therapists can diagnose fluid in the lungs or heart and suggest a diuretic from nurses, or a nurse can alert a respiratory ailment for respiratory therapists.

Job Responsibilities

Job Responsibilities
Job Responsibilities

Here are 4 different aspects of patient care between a Nurse and Respiratory Therapist (RT)

  • General patient care: A nurse handles the daily activities of patients, whereas an RT is in charge of duties related to heart and lung function. 
  • Medication administration: A nurse administers medication for all illnesses and ailments. An RT only dispenses cardiopulmonary medicines by a nebulizer.
  • Needle use: Nurses stick veins for giving intravenous fluids or medicine. RTs prick arteries to draw blood to test oxygenation and ventilation status.
  • Patient discharge: A nurse must oversee this process, while a respiratory therapist is only concerned if a patient needs oxygen or respiratory therapy at home.

Advancement Opportunity

Advancement Opportunity
Advancement Opportunity

Nursing has lots of opportunities for advancement into the role of registered nurses, family nurse practitioners, or other specialty certifications by earning a master’s degree or completing advanced training. As a respiratory therapy, you still get advancement and opportunities like a physician’s assistant.

Job Outlook

Both two medical careers expect job growth due to the nation’s aging population, especially, respiratory therapy which offers a higher career outlook. According to the BLS, the respiratory therapy field is to grow 19% and nursing is to grow 9% from 2019 to 2029.

Work Settings

The work environment is considered a difference between nurses and respiratory therapists. While hospitals are a common setting for both of them. In addition to hospitals, Nurses have lots of choices for medical facilities such as physician’s offices, correctional facilities, nursing homes, cancer centers, and other healthcare centers.

Nurses and Respiratory Therapists need to experience work shifts depending on the facility they work in, even nights, weekends, and holidays.

Conclusion

Though both nursing and respiratory therapy have differences when performing these duties. These two positions face lots of responsibilities and experience stress in life-threatening moments. Therefore, if you want to pursue these careers, you must prepare and equip strong knowledge and handed skills when providing patient care.