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Pulmonary function technologists work under the supervision of a doctor or nurse to deliver respiratory care services to patients in hospitals or other health care settings. They also perform tests on patients to assess potential pulmonary conditions. Some doctors ask pulmonary function technologists to also help diagnose and treat patients who have a variety of cardiopulmonary disorders or other respiratory problems.
Pulmonary function technologists primarily perform diagnostic tests. These tests can include spirometry, diffusion testing, lung volumes, airway resistance, respiratory muscle forces, bronchial provocation testing and other tests that a doctor orders. They must also be able to calibrate, clean and maintain diagnostic equipment and recognize when equipment malfunctions.
Pulmonary function technologists spend most of their time performing noncritical testing. However, they must be prepared to respond during an emergency, such as by performing CPR. An employer may ask them to lead in-service trainings and help during new-employee orientation. Some employers also require pulmonary function technologists to help schedule patient testing and re-testing
Education and Experience
Though you may qualify for some positions with just a high school diploma or GED, most employers require at least an associate degree in respiratory therapy from a college or university that the National Board of Respiratory Care, or NBRC, accredits. How much experience you need varies. Some employers require candidates who have at least one year of relevant experience, while others don’t require that candidates have any or much experience at all.
Certification and Licensure
You’ll need to have at least a basic level of certification to qualify for most pulmonary function technologist jobs. The NBRC offers a number of possible certifications you can earn, including certification as a pulmonary function technologist. You can also earn certification as a respiratory therapist. You can also earn specialized certification, such as in adult critical care and neonatal/pediatric respiratory care. The NBRC also offers exams for candidates interested in becoming registered pulmonary function technologists or registered respiratory therapists. An employer may also require you to have or be able to earn Basic Life Support certification, and also be certified in CPR as well. You’ll also need to be licensed in the state where you work as a pulmonary function technologist. Licensing requirements vary, so check with the licensing board in your state about specific requirements.
You should be able to work well under pressure and able to identify and resolve problems, often without direction or time to think. You should also have a comprehensive understanding of routine medical procedures for adult and pediatric patients. You should have strong communication skills, know how to use and calibrate pulmonary diagnostic and computerized equipment, be familiar with standard word-processing and spreadsheet programs and able to work well on your own as well as with a team.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.