A respiratory nurse specializes in treating patients with lung conditions. Some of these conditions include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis, tuberculosis, emphysema (lung cancer), and respiratory failure. Respiratory nurses not only provide care, but they also educate patients about techniques and habits that lead to or detract from lung health.
Respiratory nurses work with patients of all ages to promote good lung health. They teach healthy breathing and exercise methods, and they counsel patients about the dangers tobacco poses to healthy lungs. They form close bonds with doctors in the community in order to teach individuals, families, and the community at large how to prevent lung damage and the spread of lung conditions. Because lung issues are largely preventable, respiratory nurses work hard to ensure that important health information is communicated with the public.
Many patients suffering from lung conditions are placed on ventilators or oxygen machines to assist them with breathing. Respiratory nurses not only operate and implement the use of these machines, but they also make it a goal to help patients function without dependence upon them. Respiratory nurses also administer medications and counsel patients on their use.
Respiratory nurses usually work in hospital settings, but many also offer home visits. Because a large part of their job is to educate the public, they often go out into the field, including visiting community health clinics, schools, and nursing homes. Because of this, they may have to travel and/or have some irregular work hours.
The salary for a respiratory nurse averages $65,000 per year. As with all RN jobs, this position requires licensing as a registered nurse. Because this is a specialized area, getting a master’s degree, or at least taking extra coursework, is considered very valuable.