The purpose of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is to deliver high levels of oxygen to a patient’s blood and body tissues to help her fight certain types of infections, burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, slow or non-healing wounds and other conditions. The hyperbaric oxygen chamber technician, often called a hyperbaric technologist, works under the direction of a hyperbaric physician, operating the hyperbaric chamber and working with patients requiring HBOT.
A hyperbaric technologist is not an entry level position. BHOT technologists are registered nurses (RN), emergency medical technicians/paramedics, respiratory therapists or other medical professionals, who have an HBOT certification through the National Board of Diving and Hyperbaric Medical Technology (NBFHMT). An HBOT technologist certification includes both course work and 480 hours of supervised clinical experience in undersea, hyperbaric or aviation medical technology. The technologist must maintain her original professional certification, such as an RN license, while also completing a minimum of 12 continuing education units in HBOT every two years to maintain her certification.
HBOT technologists are classified as medical and clinical technologists by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In 2010, HBOT technologists earned an average annual salary of $56,870, according to BLS. The salary range was $38,814 to $76,780, with a median income of $56,138. HBOT technologists working for the federal government earned the most, with an average annual salary of $64,190 while those working in private and public ambulatory care centers earned the least, with an average annual salary of $53,170.
HBOT technologists are responsible for operating, maintaining and cleaning the hyperbaric chamber. They follow the treatment instructions of the patient’s physician for oxygen level, pressure setting, duration and treatment frequency. They monitor the patient before, during and after treatment, looking for signs of stress or side effects. They also document the therapy process in the patient’s medical record. In addition, they attend to the needs of the patient, escorting him into and out of the chamber, positioning him so that he feels comfortable, explaining the procedure and answering any questions he may have. They may also help physicians and researchers with studies involving HBOT, assembling equipment to be used in the research and collecting research data.
The BLS predicts that the demand for medical and clinical technologists, including HBOT technologists, will increase by 12 percent between 2008 and 2018. The demand is expected to be greatest in hospitals and ambulatory care settings. In addition, the Agency for Health Research and Quality reports that research in the use of HBOT shows promise for a variety of medical and developmental conditions, including traumatic and non-traumatic brain injury, stroke, myocardial infarction and cerebral palsy. As researchers demonstrate that HBOT helps patients with these and other conditions, while causing few side effects, the demand for experienced, certified HBOT technologists will increase.