Respiratory Nurse

What Is a Respiratory Nurse?

The respiratory system is composed of the trachea, bronchi, the lungs, and is one of the most important systems in the human body. Dysfunction of the respiratory system can make it difficult to breathe and can result in many other problems. Satisfactory medical treatment for respiratory issues is essential, as these problems can result in complications that can cause fatalities. Respiratory nurses, also sometimes referred to as pulmonary care nurses are nursing professionals who care for patients who suffer from both chronic and acute issues related to the respiratory system. Examples of illnesses that respiratory nurses will commonly encounter include bronchitis, asthma, tuberculosis, lung cancer, pneumonia, and emphysema.

What Are Some Respiratory Nurse Duties?

Tasks commonly carried out by respiratory nurses include, but aren't limited to:

  • Plan, implement and assess treatment plans for patients with respiratory illnesses
  • Conduct patient interviews
  • Monitor patients' progress
  • Carry out diagnostic testing procedures
  • Assist and collaborate with other healthcare professionals (i.e. physicians)
  • Manage and administer medications
  • Educate patients and their families on medications as well as various breathing treatments
  • Administer different treatments including oxygen therapy
  • Advise patients on various lifestyle changes that can alleviate symptoms
  • Educate patients on how to prevent respiratory illnesses
  • Perform emergency procedures on individuals who have had myocardial infarctions and acute breathing issues

Where Do Respiratory Nurses Work?

Typical employers and workplace settings include:

  • Outpatient clinics
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Military or governmental facilities
  • Home healthcare agencies
  • Private doctors' offices
  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care facilities

How to Become a Respiratory Nurse

Respiratory nurses should have extensive knowledge and a strong understanding of the inner workings of the respiratory system. They should also enjoy forming relationships with patients while working with them over a long period of time. Nurses with these characteristics will do well in the role of a respiratory nurse.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

Becoming a respiratory nurse means first becoming a registered nurse. You'll first need to earn your ADN or BSN degree to achieve this. If possible, it would be smart to take a number of courses in respiratory health while completing your degree. Upon earning your degree and passing the NCLEX-RN exam, you will gain RN licensure. In some cases, prospective respiratory nurses will go to complete a master's degree where they can study the pulmonary and respiratory system more extensively, but it's not necessarily required.

Do Respiratory Nurses Need an RN Degree?

Respiratory nurses must hold active and unencumbered RN licenses and have some clinical experience in the field in order to obtain the various specialty certifications that fall under the category of a ‘respiratory nurse'. An ADN or BSN degree is necessary for this role.

Step 2: Required Respiratory Nurse Certifications/Credentials

Technically, there is no one certification that's specific to respiratory nurses. However, many will earn the Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist (CPFT) credential which is offered by the National Board of Respiratory Care. It's also common for respiratory nurses to earn critical care certifications which are offered by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

To be eligible to sit for the exam to become a Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist (CPFT) you will need to be at least 18 years old and have fulfilled ONE of the following requirements:

  • Successfully completed 62 semester credits from an accredited college or university with courses in biology, chemistry and mathematics and six months of clinical experience in the field of pulmonary function technology
  • Possess an associate degree from a respiratory care education program which is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) or by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs
  • Be a Certified Respiratory Therapist (CRT) or a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT)

To be eligible to become a Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN), you'll need to have fulfilled the following requirements:

  • Current, active, and unencumbered RN license
  • Have 1,750 hours of direct are experience in a critical care nursing setting within the last two years OR
  • Have practiced as an RN for at least five years with a minimum of 2,000 hours of experience in a critical care nursing setting

Respiratory Nurses Jobs, Salary & Employment

Due to technological advances and the aging baby boomer generation, respiratory nursing is an expanding field that's likely to have many exciting advancements and career opportunities for interested RNs for years to come.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Excellent bedside manner, well-developed interpersonal skills, knowledge of different respiratory therapy techniques like assisted ventilation, suctioning, and oxygen therapy, strong assessment abilities, ability to work in a team, extensive knowledge of respiratory illnesses like COPD, asthma, cystic fibrosis, TB, and respiratory failure
  • Job Outlook - The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment rates for RNs will grow by 16% between 2014 and 2024. Due to aging population, new advances in technology, and because respiratory problems are some of the most commonly encountered medical problems, the field of respiratory nursing should grow at a faster or similar rate to the one mentioned above

What Is the Average Salary of a Respiratory Nurse?

According to ZipRecruiter, the average median annual salary of a respiratory nurse is approximately $71,350. The amount of money a respiratory nurse makes will depend on factors like education level, the location of their job, the credentials and certifications they have, amount of clinical experience, and their employer. Similar factors will also contribute to the employee benefits packages that respiratory nurses receive. However, most who are employed full time can count on benefits which include the likes of medical, dental, vision, and prescription drug insurance coverage, as well as some paid time off annually.

How Much Do Respiratory Nurses Make per Year?

  • $20,500 – $125,000 annually

How Much Do Respiratory Nurses Make per Hour?

  • $34.00 average hourly wage

Respiratory Nurse Resources