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Pulmonary Nursing

dianah dianah, ADN (Admin)

Specializes in Cath Lab/Radiology. Has 46 years experience.

How can I specialize as a Pulmonary Nurse?

Pulmonary (or Respiratory) nurses specialize in caring for people with lung diseases, the most common patient ailments. They are specially trained to manage and treat various lung conditions and educate patients and family members to optimize patient health at various disease stages.

Pulmonary Nursing


Pulmonary (or Respiratory Nurses) specialize in caring for patients, from pediatrics to geriatrics, who have acute and/or chronic lung issues. These include (not all-inclusive):

  • ARDS
  • Pneumonia
  • COPD
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Lung cancer

These conditions may be caused by smoking, genetics, or infections and are some of the most common patient ailments. Pulmonary nurses, while caring for patients with other co-morbidities, have special knowledge and skills for the particular needs of patients with pulmonary conditions. Pulmonary nurses are specially trained to manage and help treat the various effects of these diseases on the lungs.


  • Astute patient assessment
  • Knowledge of respiratory procedures and treatment options
  • Ability to interpret pulmonary diagnostic tests (example, ABGs)
  • Effective patient-teaching methods

Practice Settings

  • Acute care settings (ICU, medical-surgical or step-down units)
  • Physician office/clinic
  • Free-standing clinic
  • Research areas
  • Home health or rehabilitation facilities
  • Medical equipment or the pharmaceutical industry

Pulmonary Nurses have the option to advance and organize/oversee outpatient Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation programs. These may include preparing educational programs for inpatients and outpatients as well as guiding patients in progressive exercise programs for post-MI and long-term COPD. Others may lend their expertise to the specialty of Case Management for a pulmonary unit or become a Unit Educator.


  • Graduate from an accredited Registered Nurse (RN) nursing program with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or higher
  • Successfully pass the NCLEX-RN (Registered Nurse)
  • Possess a current, unencumbered RN license in the state of practice

In addition, Pulmonary Nurses may attain additional certifications in trach care or working with ventilators.

RNs pursuing an advanced practice degree may obtain further education and training with a focus on pulmonary diseases, then become case managers or oversee COPD rehabilitation programs, organizing patient or unit education programs.

Associations and Resources

The American Thoracic Society (ATS) strives to "improve health worldwide by advancing research, clinical care, and public health in respiratory disease, critical illness, and sleep disorders".

The Respiratory Nursing Society and Interprofessional Collaborative (RNSIC) is the "professional association for healthcare providers interested in respiratory health and quality care for those with respiratory disorders".

The Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists (ARNS) was established in 1997 as a nursing forum for the respiratory nursing community. They strive to ensure excellence in practice, influence respiratory health policy and elevate the practice of respiratory nursing care.

The American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) is a professional association whose members include physicians and nurses, as well as other healthcare colleagues. Their mission: "reduce morbidity, mortality and disability from cardiovascular and pulmonary disease through education, prevention, rehabilitation, research, and disease management. Central to the core mission is improvement in quality of life for patients and their families."

This association provides a comprehensive directory of pulmonary rehabilitation resources for pulmonary healthcare colleagues as well as for patients.


The AACVPR Certification Commission awards a comprehensive professional certification in cardiac rehabilitation: Certified Cardiac Rehabilitation Professional (CCRP).

Eligibility (not all-inclusive)

  • 1,200 clinical hours in Cardiac Rehab (CR)/secondary prevention in Cardiac Rehabilitation
  • Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree or higher in a health-related field from an accredited college or university OR
  • Current, unencumbered Registered Nurse (RN) license in the state of practice

The CCRP credential has met the criteria for inclusion by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) on their list of certifications included in the Magnet Recognition Program® Demographic Data Collection Tool™ (DDCT)

Salary (2020)

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a Pulmonary Care Registered Nurse in the U.S. is $84,491.

According to salary.com, the average salary for the Pulmonary Nurse Practitioner (NP) in the U.S. is $95,361 and ranges between $87,860 and $102,474.

As pulmonary conditions are some of the most common patient presentations, the need for skilled and knowledgeable nurses in the area of Pulmonary nursing is expected to remain strong.

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CA girl, born in Hawaii, raised in Northern CA, living in So. Cal.

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