Healthy Living

The Respiratory Therapist's Critical Role in Cystic Fibrosis Management

The Respiratory Therapist's Critical Role in Cystic Fibrosis Management

The Respiratory Therapist's Critical Role in Cystic Fibrosis Management

Anyone living with cystic fibrosis or a loved one who lives with it is well aware of the importance of the CF care team, including the doctor, nurse, dietitian, physical therapist, psychologist, and several other CF specialists. Yet, one specialist that plays a crucial role in maintaining health is the respiratory therapist.

A respiratory therapist (RT) is a healthcare professional who assesses, monitors, and treats individuals diagnosed with respiratory and cardio-respiratory disorders. Respiratory therapists treat individuals of all ages and they can be found working in hospitals’ care units or throughout the community in home care, rehabilitation, and other clinics.

Respiratory therapists are key in condition management

A respiratory therapist conducts pulmonary function tests (PFTs) in order to measure how well your lungs are functioning. PFTs include lung volume tests, spirometry tests, and several others. A respiratory therapist also assists you in your pulmonary therapies, including airway clearance techniques (ACTs). The therapies are intended to help you clear the accumulated mucus out of your lungs, reduce inflammation within your airways, as well as control any onset of bacteria. In particular, a respiratory therapist can educate you and your family on how to manage your health and overall well-being. For instance, they can show you how to take inhaled medications or how to use medical equipment, including air compressors and nebulizers. With their assistance, you can understand how to clean and preserve any medical equipment that you may need while at home or even on the go.

“Proper respiratory care started early in the life of CF patients has a significant impact controlling secretions and recurrent respiratory infections. I like to tell patients and families that the effort they put into proper daily respiratory care is their investment into a more stable disease process from the respiratory perspective,” said Fadel E. Ruiz, a pediatric pulmonologist and the cystic fibrosis center director at the Texas Children's Hospital.

The ever-evolving role of the respiratory therapist

Over the last few years, the role of the respiratory therapist has drastically changed. As a crucial member of the CF care team, a respiratory therapist is actively engaged in the medical management of patients with CF, ranging from in-patient stays to home care settings. Throughout their guidance in diagnostic testing, admission of therapy, bedside care, and patient education, the respiratory therapist aims to help patients with CF preserve their lung function, manage their health, as well as improve their overall quality of life.

Read on to learn more about why the respiratory therapist is crucial to CF management.