Kari Woodruff started her training in respiratory therapy intending to use it as a way to gain clinical experience and move on to be a physician's assistant. But she came to value the work too much to abandon it. "Once I started clinicals," she recalls, "I fell in love with taking care of infants and children with breathing problems, and I remained in the field."
Respiratory therapists are healthcare practitioners who diagnose and treat people who suffer from heart and lung problems. They typically work in a hospital setting but sometimes visit patients in their homes. There are also specialists within the profession, and they help people who have asthma, cystic fibrosis or sleep disorders. They can also be anesthesia assistants, be involved in pulmonary research or provide emergency care for patients suffering from hearts attacks or stroke.