What is Pulmonary Nursing?

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    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 or Respiratory Nurses specialize in caring for people with lung diseases. 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 affecting the airways like asthma, COPD, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, allergies and cystic fibrosis, and conditions affecting the alveoli like pneumonia, cancer, tuberculosis, pulmonary edema, pneumoconiosis and ARDS. Other conditions that may affect the lungs are termed Interstitial Lung Disease and may include sarcoidosis, autoimmune disease and pulmonary fibrosis.

    Pulmonary nurses are specially trained to manage and help treat the various effects of these diseases on the lungs. They must possess excellent assessment and clinical skills, a knowledge of respiratory procedures and treatment options, know how to interpret pulmonary diagnostic tests (for example, ABGs), perform thorough documentation and be effective communicators for teaching patients about medications such as inhalers, and how patients can help manage their condition.


    Depending on location and facility organization and needs, pulmonary nurses make an average of $42,000 per year (maybe higher with specialty certifications and advanced practice degree).

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

    Practice Setting

    Pulmonary Nurses may work in acute care settings (ICU, medical-surgical or stepdown units), in physician offices or freestanding clinics, in research areas, home health or rehabilitation facilities. Some may pursue positions in the medical equipment or pharmaceutical industry.

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


    In addition to becoming an RN by passing the NCLEX-RN, 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, and may then become case managers or oversee COPD rehabilitation programs, organizing patient or unit education programs.


    There is as yet no national certification exam for Pulmonary or Respiratory Nursing.
    However, the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation offers a certification for Early Outpatient (Phase 2) Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Programs.

    Preparation materials include Guidelines for Pulmonary Rehabilitation Programs and Guidelines for Cardiac Rehabilitation and Secondary Prevention Programs, 4th Editions, and at least one staff member must be a member of the AACPR at the time of application for program certification.


    Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists (UK)

    Respiratory Nursing Society - Contains many helpful resource links

    Nursing Assembly, associated through the American Thoracic Society - "The ATS Nursing Assembly is committed to fostering an international nursing network dedicated to building the scientific foundation for nursing practice that is translated and implemented to deliver patient-centered, interdisciplinary care for people affected by respiratory, critical care or sleep-related conditions across the lifespan and care settings."

    American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation
    Pulmonary Rehab Patient Resources
    Last edit by Joe V on Oct 25, '17
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