Visiting hours have changed as a result of COVID-19. Learn more. Testing information is available. Learn more.

Published on March 30, 2020

Respiratory Therapists Provide Specialized, Life-Saving Care

Respiratory Therapists

Trained in cardiopulmonary care, respiratory therapists (RTs) help diagnose and treat lung disease and breathing disorders. Working across the hospital – in the emergency room, intensive care unit, newborn and pediatric units – they work with patients of all ages.

Treating Patients with Breathing Challenges

RTs examine patients, perform chest exams, assess patients’ blood-oxygen level and analyze tissue specimens. They are also experts in the machines and devices used to deliver respiratory care treatments, like ventilators and artificial airway devices.

Working hand-in-hand with providers, they treat patients with emphysema, COPD, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, cardiac failure, lung cancer, cystic fibrosis and chest trauma. They also help patients who have suffered cardiovascular events that can affect their ability to breathe, like heart attack or stroke.


RTs are on the front line, providing care to COVID-19 patients, often serving as a member of the care team that is educated and trained in mechanical ventilation. COVID-19 affects patients’ lung and respiratory systems. The sickest patients can’t sustain normal respiratory function and require intubation – placement of a breathing tube into their airway.

A trained RT determines the appropriate ventilator settings to match the patient’s needs and then provides constant monitoring and assessment to modify those settings based on the patient’s condition.

What to Expect

Respiratory care is designed to be a comprehensive, well-rounded approach to helping patients who are living with pulmonary disease. It can help you maximize your quality of life, helping you return to the activities you enjoy most.

The first step is a thorough assessment, which will normally include an evaluation of your medical history and diagnosis, a patient interview and physical exam, including assessment of your lung function, oxygen saturation and exercise tolerance.

An RT will assess you to gather the information needed to create a personalized treatment plan for you, setting goals to help you learn to manage your health condition.

For more information on respiratory and pulmonary care at Wayne UNC and to find additional resources for rehab and support, visit

What To Do If You Have COVID-19 Symptoms?

If you are concerned you have been exposed or have symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), click the purple Coronavirus Help tab on the bottom of

This will bring up our coronavirus symptom checker that will lead you through some questions to determine if you need medical follow-up. You can also call your primary care provider.

Do not go to your doctor’s office or an urgent care without first determining if further medical screening is necessary.

If you are having difficulty breathing, call 911 or seek immediate treatment.