Allied News December 20, 2021

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

Respiratory Therapy Trends in 2022

As COVID-19 continues its devastation around the nation, respiratory therapist travelers remain in high demand.  

“Jobs are crazy,” said Tara K., manager of recruiting at Club Staffing, a leader in allied health staffing. “This is the biggest time. And I think it will be consistent longer. Respiratory therapists are very much in demand.”

The National Board for Respiratory Care reported in 2021 that during the pandemic, traveling and contracted respiratory therapists (RTs) have become more popular and that trend has showed “signs of staying power.”

Respiratory therapy trends

Demand for respiratory therapists picked up dramatically in March 2020, as COVID-19 cases began happening in the United States.

“They are considered to be working in a crisis situation, being exposed daily to patients (with COVID) puts their [health] at risk,” Tara said. “It has slowed down a little with the overall cases, but the jobs are still there.”

Additionally, more respiratory therapists are considering travel positions with all of their benefits.

“They see opportunities to pick where they go and the adventure of it,” Tara added. “They like the flexibility. They can go for three months and so much more money, and then take longer periods of time off.”

Some respiratory therapist travelers are working up to 60 hours per week and then taking extended days away from practicing to decompress.

“The ability to do that is a benefit of traveling,” Tara noted. “With contracts, they can work really hard and then take a nice vacation.”

Some respiratory therapists have experienced burnout, anxiety and moral injury during the COVID-19 pandemic. A Boston Scientific and American Association for Respiratory Care report indicated a survey found 79 percent of RTs reporting burnout. Still most plan to stay in the field. In fact, 87 percent of those surveyed plan to remain an RT for the next three years at a minimum. Even so, 67 precent indicated they did not have enough or the right talent on their team, presenting challenges to delivering the best patient care.  

Club Staffing offers an employee assistance program, including available counseling by a mental health professional for clinicians in the field.

Respiratory therapist jobs in 2022

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a strong job outlook for respiratory therapists, with a 23 percent increase in the number of jobs by 2030. As of 2020, 135,100 respiratory therapist jobs existed in this country. RTs earn a median annual wage of $62,810. Each year, on average, the bureau estimates 10,100 new openings for RTs, including some to replace therapists exiting the labor force due to retirement or other reasons.

The National Board for Respiratory Care reported that 92,474 RTs are expected to leave the profession by 2030.  

The American Association for Respiratory Care indicates that strong growth in job prospects is due to the aging of America, as older people are more likely to suffer from respiratory conditions or as complications related to heart disease or other conditions associated with aging.

Club Staffing currently has hundreds of travel respiratory therapist jobs all across the United States. Nearly all of the positions are in acute-care settings, both rural and urban. Most facilities want travelers to have at least one year of experience after completing school.

In many places, hospitals are still paying higher crisis rates for RTs. Those facilities expect travelers to be flexible. Besides hourly pay rates, RT travelers receive housing and meal stipends. Assignments can last from 4 to 13 weeks. Travelers working 30 or more hours per week are eligible for health insurance and other benefits.

Some respiratory therapists will work one or two travel contracts a year, while others decide to travel full time, moving from one assignment to the next. Others continue to stay per-diem where they had worked, to remain in the health system, as a “safety net,” Tara said.

“Some who had tip-toed into [travel], prior to the job increases, have seen this is an opportunity to do it full time,” she said.

Considering increased assignment opportunities in 2022, this is an excellent time to travel, see the country and earn good money as a travel respiratory therapist.

To learn more about travel respiratory therapy positions, contact a Club Staffing career advisor.

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