Job Description for a Respiratory Nurse

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Respiratory nurses are registered nurses who concentrate on providing care and treatment to patients suffering from medical conditions that affect the lungs and respiratory system.

The respiratory nurse is involved in preventing and treating conditions such as asthma, emphysema, respiratory failure, cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Respiratory nurses work in a variety of health care facilities such as hospitals, public health agencies, private companies, extended care facilities and private practices.

Education and Experience

Respiratory nurses must become registered nurses by completing an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing. All nursing programs combine intensive classroom instruction and supervised clinical opportunities in a variety of health care settings such as hospitals, home health agencies and public health organisations. All registered nurses must become licensed by passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN). Most employers require respiratory nurses to have sufficient work experience in pulmonary health. Many respiratory nurses begin their careers working in hospital critical care units, gaining experience in administering oxygen, working with ventilation equipment and treating a variety of respiratory conditions.


Respiratory nurses must have strong skills in pulmonary health. The ability to perform thorough assessments for many different respiratory conditions is an essential characteristic. A caring, responsible and sympathetic nature is also necessary. Respiratory nurses must have good manual dexterity, detail orientation and emotional stability. The ability to act quickly and make effective decisions during stressful situations is essential because patients suffering from respiratory conditions may become unstable in a short period of time.

Job Duties

Respiratory nurses consult with patients and develop treatment plans that include medications, medical procedures and lifestyle changes to meet the patient's needs. The respiratory nurse obtains and records patient medical histories, administers medication, performs diagnostic tests and observes the condition of patients. She provides education to patients and families on how to manage respiratory conditions and the necessary follow-up care. Many respiratory nurses are also committed to promoting good pulmonary health and preventing respiratory conditions. These nurses often provide public education on the importance of pulmonary health, preventing respiratory conditions and adequate exercise for individuals of all ages.

Career Outlook

All registered nurses are expected to experience much faster than average employment growth, with an increase of 22 per cent throughout the 2008 to 2018 decade. The growing and ageing population and increased incidence of a variety of respiratory health conditions will fuel the job growth of respiratory nurses. An increased emphasis on promoting good lung health and preventing many different conditions will also contribute to employment growth of nurses specialising in respiratory care.


According to, as of June 2010, the average annual salary for respiratory nurses is £27,300. Average annual salaries for respiratory nurses vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience and benefits.