Respiratory Physiologists work directly with patients to deliver diagnostic tests of breathing and treatment for lung disease. They are usually involved in exercise testing, sleep studies and delivery of ventilation to patients on the wards and at home.
Working in partnership with doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, Respiratory Physiologists use a variety of equipment and techniques to measure and monitor patients’ respiratory function. Patients may be referred because of chest pains, abnormal chest x-rays, breathing difficulties, respiratory disease or sleep disorders.
The work of a Respiratory Physiologist must be reliable and accurate as patients’ lives often depend on their skills. They are continually increasing their knowledge as laboratory techniques and research advances are made. The Respiratory Physiologist will work with computers linked to sophisticated, hi-tech respiratory equipment. Measurements made typically include: spirometry and lung volumes, respiratory gas exchange, blood gases, response to treatment, breathing during sleep, allergy testing and physiological responses to exercise. The information obtained is used to assist in the diagnosis of disease, to identify treatment regimes, to measure the effects of treatment and to estimate likely risks during surgery.
Practitioners are also responsible for the maintenance and calibration of all equipment, including therapeutic/diagnostic equipment issued for use in the patients’ home.
Research in chest disease may involve investigations to discover new information about disease and work towards cures and improved treatments.
What does it take to be an effective Respiratory Physiologist?
As a Respiratory Physiologist you will need to have a keen interest in science, maths and human biology.
You must enjoy working with technical and specialised measurement equipment.
You also need to have good communication skills as you will be working as a multi disciplinary team and a sympathetic approach when working with patients of all ages and disabilities.
In some cases you will be dealing with life and death situations so you need to be emotionally resilient and level-headed.
Physiological science offers long-term career prospects which include research, education, management and specialised work in the field of respiratory physiology. Most employment opportunities exist within the NHS, however other opportunities do exist within Her Majesty’s Forces, university research, governmental departments and the private sector. The skills of a qualified respiratory physiologist can be used throughout the UK and may be recognised worldwide.
Contacting the respiratory department of your local hospital is usually a good place to start.
Job adverts can be found in the local and national press or on the NHS Jobs Website.
NHS leaflet for careers in healthcare science click here.
The MSC action plan for england was published on the 1st of April.
The Plan sets out some of the finer details around this programme, including delivery, phased implementation, curriculum development, training/educationa
For a link to the action plan click here.