How to Be Neonatal Respiratory Therapist - Job Description, Skills, and Interview Questions

Neonatal Respiratory Therapists (NRTs) are healthcare professionals who specialize in the care and treatment of newborns with respiratory issues. They play a crucial role in providing life-saving support to infants with underdeveloped lungs, providing ventilator support, administering oxygen, and monitoring vital signs. By taking these measures, NRTs can help babies breathe easier, prevent further complications, and reduce the risk of long-term damage. The work of Neonatal Respiratory Therapists also helps reduce the cost of long-term care and improves the overall health of newborns.

Steps How to Become

  1. Earn an Associate Degree in Respiratory Therapy. Neonatal respiratory therapists must complete an associate degree in respiratory therapy from an accredited college or university. This program will provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to work as a respiratory therapist in the field of neonatal care.
  2. Obtain Licensure. After completing an associate degree, prospective neonatal respiratory therapists must then pass the Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) exam to obtain licensure.
  3. Gain Neonatal Respiratory Therapy Experience. Before being hired as a neonatal respiratory therapist, individuals must gain experience working with infants and gain specialized knowledge of the diagnoses and treatments of neonatal respiratory issues.
  4. Earn a Bachelor's Degree. To become a neonatal respiratory therapist, individuals must also earn a bachelor's degree in respiratory therapy. This degree will provide further education and training in the field of neonatal care.
  5. Obtain Certification. After earning a bachelor's degree, individuals must obtain certification as a neonatal respiratory therapist from the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). This certification is required for those who wish to practice as a neonatal respiratory therapist.

In order to be a reliable and efficient neonatal respiratory therapist, one must have a combination of knowledge, experience and skills. This requires a thorough understanding of the physiology of the newborn, and the diseases and conditions associated with neonatal respiratory care. Knowledge of the various monitors and equipment used to assess and treat neonatal respiratory conditions is also essential.

Furthermore, experience in working with neonates and their families is invaluable in providing compassionate and effective care. Finally, having strong technical and communication skills is critical in order to provide the best quality care. With this combination of knowledge, experience and skills, a neonatal respiratory therapist can ensure reliable and efficient care for the newborns they treat.

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Job Description

  1. Monitor patients' respiratory and cardiac status, and administer treatments as needed.
  2. Perform diagnostic tests to assess a patient's breathing, such as spirometry and pulmonary function testing.
  3. Provide non-invasive ventilation, including CPAP and BIPAP.
  4. Administer medications to treat respiratory disorders, such as bronchodilators and inhaled steroids.
  5. Educate parents, caregivers, and other healthcare providers on proper care for neonatal respiratory conditions.
  6. Assist with intubation, mechanical ventilation, and extubation.
  7. Provide airway management for premature infants, such as suctioning and airway clearance techniques.
  8. Monitor ventilator settings, oxygen levels, and blood gases.
  9. Perform chest physiotherapy and aerosol treatments.
  10. Maintain patient records and document treatments.

Skills and Competencies to Have

  1. Knowledge of neonatal physiology and pathophysiology
  2. Ability to assess and interpret neonatal cardiopulmonary status
  3. Knowledge of neonatal respiratory care procedures and techniques
  4. Ability to perform non-invasive and invasive respiratory care procedures
  5. Knowledge of relevant respiratory equipment and supplies
  6. Knowledge of mechanical ventilation and oxygen therapy
  7. Ability to monitor and adjust ventilator settings
  8. Ability to identify and respond to changing clinical conditions
  9. Ability to plan and implement therapeutic interventions
  10. Knowledge of neonatal pharmacology related to respiratory care
  11. Ability to communicate effectively with neonatal caregivers
  12. Knowledge of infection control principles and practices
  13. Ability to evaluate the effectiveness of respiratory care measures
  14. Knowledge of safety standards and quality improvement measures
  15. Knowledge of documentation standards and procedures

Having excellent communication and problem-solving skills is essential for a Neonatal Respiratory Therapist. They must be able to effectively communicate with their patients and their families, as well as other medical professionals. Good problem-solving skills are also necessary to be able to quickly diagnose and solve any potential issues that arise.

In addition, a Neonatal Respiratory Therapist must be knowledgeable about the latest advances in neonatal care, such as the use of technology and medications. Being able to quickly assess the situation and develop a treatment plan is critical to providing the best care possible for the infant. Furthermore, excellent organizational and time management skills are also important for keeping up with a busy patient caseload.

By possessing these competencies, a Neonatal Respiratory Therapist can ensure the highest quality of care for their patients.

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Frequent Interview Questions

  • What experience do you have working with premature infants and their respiratory systems?
  • Describe a time you had to use initiative to solve a problem in a neonatal respiratory care setting.
  • What techniques do you use to monitor newborns’ oxygen levels?
  • How do you handle difficult or unfamiliar situations that arise in the Neonatal Respiratory Therapy setting?
  • Describe your experience in managing a team of respiratory therapists.
  • How do you communicate effectively with families of newborns who are facing respiratory challenges?
  • What strategies do you use to stay up-to-date on the latest practices in Neonatal Respiratory Therapy?
  • How would you assess the need for mechanical ventilation in a newborn?
  • What challenges have you faced when caring for infants with pulmonary hypertension?
  • Describe your experience in providing both short-term and long-term care for newborns with respiratory distress.

Common Tools in Industry

  1. Ventilators. A device used to provide assistance to a patient’s breathing, often in cases of respiratory failure or distress. (Eg: Dräger Savina ventilator)
  2. CPAP Machines. A machine that helps produce a steady, continuous flow of air into a patient's lungs to keep their airways open and help them breathe more easily. (Eg: ResMed Airsense 10 Autoset)
  3. Oxygen Therapy Delivery Devices. Devices used to deliver oxygen to a patient’s lungs, often in situations where the patient is suffering from low oxygen levels. (Eg: Invacare HomeFill Oxygen System)
  4. Respiratory Monitors. Devices used to monitor a patient’s respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and other vital signs. (Eg: Masimo SET Pulse Oximeter)
  5. Suction Machines. Devices that use suction to remove mucus from the lungs, helping to keep the airways clear and reduce the risk of infection. (Eg: DeVilbiss Pulmo-Aide Compact Compressor Nebulizer)
  6. Positive Pressure Ventilation Devices. Devices that force air into the lungs, helping to ensure that oxygen levels remain at a safe level and preventing airway collapse. (Eg: LTV 1000 Ventilator)

Professional Organizations to Know

  1. National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC)
  2. American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC)
  3. Association of Neonatal Therapists (ANT)
  4. American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP)
  5. American Thoracic Society (ATS)
  6. National Association of Neonatal Nurses (NANN)
  7. Society of Pediatric Respiratory Care (SPRC)
  8. Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM)
  9. International Society of Neonatal and Pediatric Respiratory Care (ISNPRC)
  10. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

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Common Important Terms

  1. Apnea. A temporary pause in breathing.
  2. Bradycardia. A slower than normal heart rate.
  3. Hypoxemia. A condition where the oxygen levels in the blood are lower than normal.
  4. Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD). A lung condition caused by prematurity, oxygen therapy, and mechanical ventilation that can lead to chronic lung disease in infancy.
  5. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). A medical device used to provide air pressure to keep the airways open in a newborn.
  6. Mechanical Ventilation. A procedure that uses a machine to help a baby breathe.
  7. Oxygen Therapy. The use of supplementary oxygen to treat respiratory conditions.
  8. Pulmonary Hypertension. An increase in the pressure of the pulmonary artery, resulting in an increase in the amount of work the heart must do to pump blood through the lungs.
  9. Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS). A lung condition characterized by difficulty breathing, caused by an immature respiratory system in premature infants.
  10. Suctioning. The use of suction to remove mucus from the airways of a baby.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a Neonatal Respiratory Therapist do?

A neonatal respiratory therapist provides specialized care to infants with breathing difficulties, using breathing treatments, monitoring vital signs and administering oxygen.

What qualifications are required to become a Neonatal Respiratory Therapist?

A neonatal respiratory therapist typically needs an Associate's degree in Respiratory Therapy and must be licensed by the state in which they are practicing. In addition, they may need to be certified by the National Board for Respiratory Care.

What kind of environment do Neonatal Respiratory Therapists work in?

Neonatal respiratory therapists typically work in hospitals, birthing centers and neonatal intensive care units.

What kind of equipment do Neonatal Respiratory Therapists use?

Neonatal respiratory therapists use specialized equipment including ventilators, oxygen tanks, suction devices, nebulizers and CPAP machines.

What kind of salary do Neonatal Respiratory Therapists earn?

According to, the average salary for a neonatal respiratory therapist is $60,456 per year.

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