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Respiratory Nursing

As of 2007, the U.S. Department of Health estimates that approximately 225,000 people die every year of some kind of respiratory ailment. Hundreds of thousands more live with the symptoms of asthma, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, and other lung ailments. Quick and efficient treatment of individuals with these conditions is necessary to their survival and overall well-being, and those who have attained a quality nursing education are well equipped to fill one of the many nurse jobs that specialize in treating those with respiratory diseases.

What is a Respiratory Nurse?

Respiratory nurses, also known as pulmonary nurses, are trained specifically to work with patients who are suffering from respiratory ailments. They work alongside physicians who specialize in respiratory diseases in order to treat patients and help them recover from respiratory illness. In the case of treatable diseases such as early stage lung cancer, respiratory nurses will monitor the progress of treatment, educate patients about respiratory disease, assist with pain management, and perform other tasks essential to the patient’s recovery. In the case of diseases that may not be cured such as emphysema and other forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory nurses will help make patients as comfortable as possible, managing their pain, and guiding them in taking the right steps to preserve whatever lung function they have left.

Required Education

According to Johnson & Johnson, in order to become a pulmonary nurse, an individual must first earn a nursing diploma, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a bachelor’s of science in nursing. Then he or she must pass the NCLEX-RN in order to begin a registered nursed. After working 1,750 hours with acutely, or critically, ill patients as a registered nurse, he or she can take the certified critical care exam. Once the individual is certified, he or she can then become a Certified Pulmonary Function Technician (CPFT).

Respiratory Nurse Salary/Outlook

According to, the average yearly salary for a pulmonary nurse is around $59,000.

Job prospects for those who gain a nursing education and begin work as a respiratory nurse remain excellent in the United States. The aging population will only increase the demand for those who have been trained at nursing schools to care for patients with respiratory ailments. Advances in medical science and new methods of treatment will also increase the longevity of those diagnosed with various lung diseases, and there will be a greater need of those in respiratory nursing occupations to ensure that every patient gets the attention needed to survive.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, reports that the job outlook for registered nurses is positive, with 26% expected job growth between 2010 and 2020.

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