Quick Facts :
Respiratory Nurse


Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses, May 2017

info-icon Bachelor's
info-icon $73,550 Annual Wage
info-icon 15% Job Growth
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What Is a Respiratory Nurse?

The respiratory system consists of the trachea, bronchi, and lungs, and it is one of the most important systems in the body. When we inhale, air travels down the trachea and into the bronchi, which are located in the lungs. The oxygen in the air that we inhale is then delivered to other parts of the body via the circulatory system. Problems in the respiratory system can result in trouble breathing and problems in other areas of the body. Proper treatment for respiratory problems is essential since these problems can sometimes even be fatal.

Respiratory nurses work closely with patients of all ages to address respiratory health issues. This typically involves patient assessment, physical examinations, reviewing patient medical histories, monitoring and recording vital signs, and discussing symptoms. As a rehabilitation nurse, you will also frequently need to measure your patients’ lung capacity and volume.

What Does a Respiratory Nurse Do?

Treatment for respiratory illnesses can vary, depending on the specific illnesses. As a respiratory nurse, you may be responsible for developing and implementing treatment plans for your patients. This may include administering medications and helping patients with exercises and procedures to strengthen their lungs. Severe respiratory problems may also require breathing assistance devices, such as mechanical ventilators.

During the course of your patients’ treatments, you will also need to monitor their progress closely. In doing so, you and the rest of the respiratory team will be able to tell if a patient’s treatment plan is effective. If it’s not and a patient is not responding to treatment or therapy, changes may need to be made to his or her treatment plan.

Preventing respiratory problems from developing or worsening is another important aspect of a respiratory nurse’s job. For instance, these nurses will often help their patients reduce the risk of respiratory problems by making lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and establishing a regular exercise regimen.

Where Do Respiratory Nurses Work?

Respiratory nurses can find employment in a number of different types of healthcare facilities. Some examples may include private practices, hospitals, clinics, assisted living facilities, home care agencies, and long-term care facilities.

How Do I Become a Respiratory Nurse?

Becoming a respiratory nurse first involves becoming a registered nurse. To do this, you will need to first earn your diploma or degree in nursing. You should take several courses in respiratory health, if possible.

Once you pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), you can then start working as a registered nurse. To start working as a respiratory nurse, however, you may need to start in an entry-level position and pursue additional education.

Additional Resources for Respiratory Nurses