The Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist (CPFT) Exam
A pulmonary function technologist is someone who helps an M.D. with patients who have lung illnesses. Pulmonary technology is included in the field of respiratory therapy, of which there are several career titles. As a technician, your job is to assist higher-level respiratory therapists and doctors with the diagnosis and treatment of patients with respiratory diseases. You will explain the results of the lab tests to the doctor, who will give a final diagnosis to the patient.
Technicians also work with respiratory therapists in a collaborative environment. Of course, since you are a technician, you will also spend time in a laboratory working on disease diagnostics and analyzing patient records. If you choose to work in a laboratory rather than a hospital, your interactions with patients is very limited.
Pulmonary Tech Job Requirements
You will need to learn how to use high-tech medical equipment that is designed to monitor a person's oxygen levels and breathing capacity, along with other vital signs. You will also learn how to read these diagnostic reports to come up with a correct diagnosis and plan of treatment with your supervisor.
Above all, having a good "bedside manner" is crucial in this type of job. Interacting with patients on a daily basis means that you need to have excellent communication skills and "people skills." Although you probably will not work with patients as much as a respiratory therapist, you still need to be able to work with all types of diverse populations.
Where Pulmonary Technicians Work
Most pulmonary techs work in major hospitals that have access to high-tech equipment. Therefore, major cities provide the best job opportunities for new pulmonary tech graduates. The pay is likely to be higher in big cities, and there are more job choices. Pulmonary techs also work in big universities in the research department, but this is less common. Medical laboratories also employ pulmonary techs. Government labs and the military are another major pulmonary tech employer.
The average pulmonary technician makes about $39,000 a year. A Certified Respiratory Therapist, which is the next step up from a pulmonary tech, can make about $50,000 a year. In order to become a CRT, you need to take the national CRT exam.
Many community colleges offer two-year degrees in the field of respiratory/pulmonary technology. In fact, most hospitals will not consider hiring someone without an associate's degree and a certification like the CPFT. Required college classes include math, biology, and chemistry. These are the entry-level classes you need to pass to take cardiopulmonary/pharmacology courses, because they provide the foundation for higher learning.
Before you apply to a pulmonary tech program, make sure it is accredited by your state and/or region. This is important, because if the school does not hold the proper credentials, you will not be able to take the national exams.
If you are still in high school, focus on your science classes and math classes. If your school offers anatomy & physiology and chemistry courses, take all of them. These subjects are the basis for any respiratory/pulmonary tech program.
CPFT Exam Application Process
The Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist Exam (also called the CPFT Exam) is a test taken by new pulmonary technologists to measure their subject knowledge. There are exactly 115 questions on the exam, all of which are in the multiple-choice format. The exam is designed to test in the areas of data management, diagnosis, and pulmonary equipment and technology knowledge. Test takers have approximately two hours to complete the exam. If you plan to earn more advanced credentials, such as the Registered Pulmonary Function Technologist Exam (RPFT), you need to have the CPFT certification first.
In order to take the CPFT exam, you must be at least 18 years old with either an accredited Associate's degree in respiratory therapy or hold certification in a respiratory therapy program. The alternative educational requirement is that you have at least 62 college credit hours in the subjects of math, chemistry, and biology plus six months of work experience as a pulmonary technology assistant. If you do not meet these requirements, then you must have a high school diploma or GED and two years of work experience in a pulmonary tech field.
How to Apply
As long as you meet the requirements stated above, you may apply to take the CPFT exam on the main CPFT website. You will also have to mail the requisite fee. If, for any reason, your application is denied or you do not meet the requirements, your application and payment will be returned to you, but you will be charged a processing fee. CPFT exams are scheduled every day in testing centers around the country.
Online Application Steps
First, choose the type of test you are going to take (the CPFT). Next, fill out the fee information, your eligibility status, and your education experience and credentials. You need to know the exact date you graduated from your program and your CoARC number, which you can get from your school. Order your official transcripts from your school and have them sent to the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). If you are a high school graduate without any college credits, simply send in a notarized copy of your diploma or GED.
As far as your clinical experience, you will have to get your medical director to verify your work dates by signing the work experience section. You need at least six months of work experience in the pulmonary tech field before you can even apply to take the CPFT. The NBRC may or may not verify your work experience.
It is best to apply online due to faster processing times. If you decide to mail in a paper application and check, expect a two-week waiting period before you hear back from the NBRC. You must wait until you receive a confirmation letter before you can schedule a test date. The letter tells you how to sign up for a test date online or via telephone. Almost any date is available for test scheduling except for national holidays.
The CPFT exam is administered online at a testing center of your choice. When you arrive, you must show them two forms of identification. You cannot bring in a calculator, but they may provide one for you. Whenever you finish the test, the software program will immediately score your answers and give you a pass or fail notice. The test center proctors will hand you a piece of paper that verifies your pass/fail score. In order to pass the CPFT, you need to score at least a 75 percent.
CPFT Study Guide Help
The CPFT Exam is a difficult exam that tests your knowledge on everything you have learned in your respiratory courses. Specifically, it tests you on three main areas: instrument usage, data management, and diagnostic procedures. Although there are 115 questions, only 100 of them count toward your final score. Fifteen questions are "pre-test" questions that are for the company to analyze. That means you could get 25 answers incorrect and still have a passing score. Since the exam is formatted as multiple-choice on the computer, it is easier to go through the questions and answer them with a click of the mouse. There are four possible answers to every question, and only one answer is correct.
Exam Taking Skills
Before you take any exam, you should be well rested. Eat a light snack right before you take the test so that you have brain energy, but do not eat a big meal. Arrive at the testing center well ahead of time so you can fill out any necessary paperwork or wait in line. When you sit down at your computer station, start by reading each question carefully, and then read the answers. Find out if it is acceptable to skip questions, or if you need to answer every one.
Answer the questions you know first, and then go back to answer the ones you do not know. Keep a tally of how many questions you do not know to estimate your final score. Since there are 100 scored questions on the CPFT, if you do not know 25 of them, you may not pass the test, or you may barely pass. If you have time at the end of the exam, go back and look at the questions you do not know to see if you merely misread the questions or answers.
There are several theories on the best way to take a multiple-choice test. One school of thought is to eliminate the answers you know are incorrect. That will help you narrow the answers and improve your chances of getting the question right. Usually, answers that have an absolute word, such as "always" or "never," are not the correct answers. For number questions, eliminating the highest and lowest answers is usually a good way to narrow down the choices.
You have two hours to finish all 115 questions. That's about one minute per question with a little bit of time left over. Your goal should be to finish early so that you can go over your answers. Quickly answer the questions you know for sure and take your time on the ones you do not know very well.
CPFT Study Guide Tips
Flash cards are a great tool to memorize difficult medical terms. The reason is that they are portable, easy to use anywhere, and you can look at them repeatedly. You can throw out the cards you know already so you do not waste your time studying something you already know. Another way to study pulmonary function technician vocabulary is to learn Latin since most medical terms are derived from Latin roots. Overall, repetition of reading your flash cards and study guides will help you succeed on this tough exam.
How to Become a Supervising Pulmonary Function Technologist
It is not a long road to become a pulmonary function technician - in fact, it only takes about two years of college before you can start working - but becoming a lab supervisor takes some more effort. As a new technician, you will take direction from your lab superiors and/or physicians, depending on where you work. Your daily duties may consist of giving tests to patients, figuring out diagnostics, and planning treatments with your supervisor. Of course, you will be expected to maintain the pulmonary function equipment and to educate your patients and supervisors of your lab findings. The test is called the CPFT Exam.
A new pulmonary function technician that is just starting out can make anywhere from $15 an hour to $30 an hour, depending on their responsibilities and job location. A supervisor makes more money, and he or she gets extra job benefits and more responsibilities. If you want to become a pulmonary function lab supervisor, you are going to need more than just an associate's degree. A certification like the CPFT or RPFT is necessary to get ahead in your career.
Only a senior lab tech with two or more years of experience can administer the advanced diagnostic tests. These include exercise tests, bronchial tests, lung capacity tests, and tonometry tests.
How do you earn this certification? First, you need to meet the requirements set forth by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). They require potential applicants to be over 18. You need to have a high school diploma plus pulmonary lab experience or an associate's degree in respiratory therapy plus six months of work experience. If you satisfactorily meet these requirements, you are then able to sign up for an exam with the NBRC using their online application. You will also need to send in your college or high school transcripts and a letter or signature from your employer that verifies your work history and job experience.
The exam itself is very rigorous and covers a wide range of topics in the field of pulmonary technology. That's why you need to prepare with study guides that will help you organize your knowledge. Flash cards are a helpful way to memorize terms that will be on the exam. It is recommended that you start studying at least two months before your test date. If you manage to study for an hour or two every day, you should be able to pass the CPFT exam.
Dedication and focus are the two main requirements for doing well on any exam, and the CPFT is no exception. Familiarize yourself with the exam format before you even enter the testing center. All CPFT exams are administered on a computer. You will not be allowed to bring your own calculator or writing utensils, but the testing center will supply them for you. You must answer each question in about a minute if you want to have time left over, since the exam is two hours long. The best part of the exam is that you can get about 25 answers wrong and still pass the test!
What Does a Pulmonary Technician Do?
Pulmonary function technicians are an important team player in the field of respiratory therapy. A pulmonary function tech administers tests to patients who may have respiratory problems. Technicians also help provide care to patients that are under a respiratory physician's supervision. Pulmonary function techs are usually found working at large hospitals in metro areas, but they are also found in medical labs around the country. The test is called the CPFT Exam.
Typically, pulmonary function technicians are supervised by a head nurse, a doctor, or some other hospital or laboratory administrator. They can be compared to Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) in terms of job duties and specialization. As a pulmonary function tech, you will be expected to interact with patients and hospital staff alike. You will also work partly in a lab studying exams and tests taken by patients. To get a job as a pulmonary function tech, you need to have the appropriate amount of education and a certification such as the CPFT.
The minimum requirement for a job in pulmonary function technology is an associate's degree from an accredited college or university. Since accreditation varies from state to state, make sure they are approved by the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC).
After completing your degree program, you are eligible to sit for the CPFT exam, which contains 100 questions on the subject of pulmonary function technology and respiratory care. Once you have the CPFT certification, you may choose to find a job or continue to receive a second certification, such as the Registered Pulmonary Technologist Exam. More credentials may raise your starting salary and give you expanded job duties.
What exactly does a pulmonary function technician do every day? While their duties vary, a new tech can expect to do the following:
- Administer tests to patients using respiratory equipment. You will test the patient's breathing ability during exercise, oxygen levels, and necessary treatments.
- You may be asked to give instruction to other hospital staff members on the subject of pulmonary technology. For example, you might need to teach a doctor how to use a certain specialized piece of respiratory equipment.
- You will need to educate your patients on their diagnoses and treatment plans. For example, you may have to them how to use oxygen equipment (such as a nebulizer).
- Attend conferences and seminars related to your job as a pulmonary technician. Read and review studies that are written about your job field online and in print.
- You may be asked to assist patients who are having medical emergencies.
- Scheduling tests is another important job duty. You may need to help your physicians with scheduling as well.
- Maintain and clean the pulmonary function supplies and equipment. Sterilize the proper tools and make sure the equipment is working properly. If a machine breaks, it is your job to report the malfunction to get someone to fix it.
- Organize the patient records and reports for their physicians. The doctors will ask you to retrieve certain patient files.
- Your job duties may entail administering bronchoscopy and tracheostomy procedures with your physician-supervisor.
Last Updated: 06/09/2014