Respiratory physiologists use equipment to test and measure patients' breathing. This helps doctors to diagnose lung diseases and problems with breathing, and to monitor treatment.
Also known as
- Medical Technical Officer - Respiratory Physiology
- Physiological Measurement Technician - Respiratory
- Clinical Respiratory Physiologist
- Respiratory Physiology Technician
- Clinical Physiologist - Respiratory
- Sleep Physiologist
As a Respiratory Physiologist, you will usually see patients who have problems such as coughs, wheezing, shortness of breath, sleep disorders, abnormal chest X-rays and chest pains.
Your tests help Doctors to make a diagnosis, and to work out how the patient might respond to treatment or surgery.
Working closely with Doctors, Nurses and other healthcare professionals, you'll use equipment to measure and monitor the patient's breathing system. This equipment is often linked up to computers.
For many tests, patients need to breathe into equipment through a mouthpiece. You take most of the measurements when the patient is resting, and some during and after exercise.
Tests can be to find out about things such as:
- lung volumes
- blood gases
- breathing during sleep
- response to exercise
You are also responsible for setting up and looking after equipment.
Some take part in research, for example, to develop knowledge about lung disease or to find new treatments.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Respiratory Physiologist, you'll need:
- an interest in science, especially human biology
- maths skills
- the ability to use sophisticated technology, including computers
- the ability to reassure anxious patients
- accuracy and attention to detail
Pay and Opportunities
NHS employees are paid on a rising scale within defined pay bands, according to their skills and responsibilities. The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting - Band 5: £24,214 - £30,112
- With experience - Band 6: £30,401 - £37,267
- Senior Respiratory Physiologists - Band 7: £37,570 - £43,772
Hours of work
Respiratory Physiologists usually work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Some need to work shifts on a rota basis.
Where could I work?
Employers include the NHS, private healthcare companies and the armed forces.
Opportunities for Respiratory Physiologists occur in hospitals in towns and cities throughout the country.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on the NHS Jobs website, in local/national newspapers and on job boards.
Entry Routes and Training
Entry routes and training
To become a Respiratory Physiologist, you can take a three-year degree in healthcare science that allows you to specialise in respiratory and sleep physiology.
Graduates with a first (undergraduate) degree in a relevant science subject (2:1 or above) can apply to the Scientist Training Programme (STP). Each NHS organisation that advertises STP vacancies decides which degree subjects are relevant, but these could include physiology, pure or applied physics, engineering, biology or human biology. You'll be employed by a physiology department which will then arrange your clinical training for you. You'll also work towards a Masters degree.
Entry to the STP can also be possible with a 2:2 if you also have a relevant postgraduate qualification.
The Welsh Government funds the education and training for a range of health professional education courses, (details of the specific courses can be found at: http://www.nwssp.wales.nhs.uk/undergraduate-education). To be eligible for a bursary you must commit to working in Wales following completion of your programme.
More information about the NHS Wales Bursary Scheme can be accessed on the Student awards Services website: http://www.nwssp.wales.nhs.uk/course-starts-on-or-after-1-september-20
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
You could specialise or go into a supervisory or management role. Some Respiratory Physiologists move into research or teaching posts.
Previous experience working in a customer care role such as working in a care home or in a hospital would be really useful for this career.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.
This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
To enter a degree course in healthcare science that allows you to specialise in respiratory and sleep physiology, you'll usually need:
- 3 A levels, including at least one science subject or maths
- GCSEs at grade C/4 and above in your A level subjects
- a further 2/3 GCSEs (A*- C or 9 - 4), including English and maths
Alternatives to A levels include:
- BTEC level 3 qualifications
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma
However, course requirements vary, so please check prospectuses carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
If you don't have the qualifications you need to enter a relevant degree, you might be able to start one after completing a college or university Access course, for example, Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to start an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.
- 11% of people in occupations such as respiratory physiologist work part-time.
- 4% have flexible hours.
- 5% of employees work on a temporary basis.
Professional institutions have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.
NHS Wales Careers
Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare
Step into the NHS
Tel: 0345 6060655
Skills for Health
Skills for the health sector
Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 9221155
NHS Education for Scotland (NES)
Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN
Tel: 0131 6563200
A Guide to Careers in Sport and Exercise Sciences
Publisher: British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences
Registration Council for Clinical Physiologists (RCCP)
Address: Hodgkin Huxley House, 30 Farringdon Lane, London EC1R 3AW
Tel: 020 7269 5710
Association for Respiratory Technology and Physiology (ARTP)
Address: Executive Business Support Ltd, City Wharf, Davidson Road, Lichfield, Staffordshire WS14 9DZ
Tel: 0845 2263062
People Exchange Cymru (PEC)
Public sector recruitment portal for Wales