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Why this matters:

Respiratory therapists treat patients who have difficulty breathing for various reasons, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Inhalers come in three main types — HFA, DPI, and SMI — and need to be used correctly to relieve a patient’s symptoms. Ideal candidates will be able to advise a patient on the correct type of inhaler, and be able to answer any questions the patient may have about their treatment.

What to listen for:

  • A clear understanding of each type of inhaler, as well as their differences and similarities
  • An understanding of COPD treatments that relieve associated symptoms
  • Ability to answer a patient’s questions or concerns about their treatment

Why this matters:

Respiratory therapists frequently perform assessments to accurately recommend the most appropriate treatment for a patient and evaluate their progress along the way. The candidate should be able to interpret, recognize, and perform the right patient assessment procedure to ensure suitable care.

What to listen for:

  • Ability to make therapeutic recommendations based on a patient’s symptoms and needs
  • Understanding of the importance of personalized care
  • Ability to effectively administer treatment based on their observations and findings 

Why this matters:

Respiratory therapists sometimes deal with complex cases, so an understanding of a candidate’s skill set and level of expertise is important. This question gives candidates an opportunity to discuss their experience and how it aligns not only with the position but also the goals of the practice.

What to listen for:

  • Experience treating complex cases similar to those of your respiratory team
  • Advanced level of knowledge and expertise in treatment approaches
  • Effective communication skills

Why this matters:

Respiratory therapists treat patients who have difficulty breathing, so qualified candidates must be able to explain potentially painful procedures. They should take an appropriate amount of time to ease a patient’s anxiety, while remaining professional and empathetic.

What to listen for:

  • Tested approach to reducing a patient’s anxiety or nerves
  • Willingness to answer a patient’s questions or concerns
  • Ability to effectively communicate a procedure for or approach to meeting a patient’s needs

Why this matters:

Respiratory therapists often treat patients who are ill, and they may not always see eye-to-eye with a patient or family member regarding treatment approaches. This question allows candidates to talk about their values and treatment philosophies. You will also learn how they handle conflict, and whether or not they maintain professionalism and respect.

What to listen for:

  • Ability to resolve conflicts independently and respectfully, while remaining professional
  • Willingness to listen to the concerns of a patient or family member
  • Examples of appropriate conflict-resolution strategies or tactics

Why this matters:

Respiratory therapists help patients breathe effectively in emergency medical situations, including heart attack, lung failure, or serious car accident. The candidate should be able to remain calm and level-headed in a high-pressure, fast-paced environment. They should also be able to accurately assess whether a patient needs immediate treatment.

What to listen for:

  • Ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • Examples of proven stress management strategies
  • Experience working in a fast-paced environment such as an emergency room or walk-in clinic

Why this matters:

When working in the healthcare field, respiratory therapists may have to deliver bad news to a patient and their family. Candidates should be able to describe how they handle pressure during difficult situations, and if they can communicate with empathy and compassion.

What to listen for:

  • A tested approach to delivering bad news
  • Ability to remain compassionate without causing additional confusion or suffering
  • Focus on patients’ concerns, and responsiveness when they request more information

Why this matters:

A respiratory therapist often works as part of a team, and strong candidates will be able to collaborate with colleagues. This includes other respiratory therapists, nurses, or physicians. Ideal candidates will keep an open mind when discussing a patient’s care and maintain a strong working relationship with their colleagues.

What to listen for:

  • Ability to respectfully collaborate with other team members
  • Willingness to make compromises or admit their mistakes
  • Lack of ego, and ability to support team members

Why this matters:

When a patient requires respiratory treatment, they’re often in a lot of pain, so it’s normal for them to occasionally be uncooperative or dismissive when talking with their respiratory therapist. Good candidates will demonstrate initiative and have strategies for lifting their patient’s spirits and motivating them to receive treatment.

What to listen for:

  • Willingness to go above and beyond when caring for patients
  • Strong interpersonal skills and an ability to remain calm in challenging situations
  • Strategies for keeping a level head while treating uncooperative patients
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