How to Become a Respiratory/Pulmonary Nurse: Salary, Job Description, Education Requirements

Nurse examines x-ray of a patientA pulmonary nurse counsels patients and family members about lung diseases, such as lung cancer, asthma and tuberculosis. The pulmonary nurse, sometimes called a pulmonary care nurse or respiratory nurse, typically works in a hospital to provide nursing care to patients with lung disorders but may also provide care in patient homes and residential care facilities.

Some pulmonary nurses also work in health education to help the public learn about the importance of exercise and the avoidance of smoking to improve overall lung health in the community.

Table of Contents
How to Become a Respiratory/Pulmonary Nurse
Education Requirements
Respiratory/Pulmonary Nurse Job Description
Personality Traits
Career Options
Professional Organizations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information specific to the field of pulmonary nurses but the website does offer an overview of the registered nurses, who are qualified to work in this capacity.

Nurse Salary and Employment Data

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Level of Education Required Associate degree or Bachelor Degree in Nursing
Board Examinations needed NCLEX-RN, RN-BC
Average Salary $62,000
# of Jobs (2012) 2,712,000
Job Outlook (2012 to 2022) 19% growth

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary courtesy of

How to become a pulmonary nurse

To work as a pulmonary nurse, the individual:

  • Must graduate from an accredited nursing school with an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
  • Must have passed the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
  • May pursue additional education in basic life support, advanced life support, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, neonatal resuscitation and pediatric advanced life support

Education requirements

To work as a pulmonary nurse, the individual must attend an accredited nursing school and graduate with an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). In addition to regular nursing courses, coursework for students interested in working as pulmonary nurses focuses on lung physiology and function, respiratory diseases and the prevention of lung disease.

Candidates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and have a current, unrestricted license to practice as a registered nurse (RN).

Job description

The pulmonary nurse provides nursing care to patients with lung disease, including those with tuberculosis, lung cancer or asthma. A pulmonary nurse assists with pain management and provides medical treatments that improve breathing. The pulmonary nurse also educates patients and families about the prevention and treatment of lung disease.

Personality traits:

  • Compassionate
  • Patient
  • Empathetic


Pulmonary nurses typically report to nursing supervisors or department heads at hospitals, health departments, private practices and clinics, or management at private companies.

Career options

Typical workplaces for a pulmonary nurse include:

  • Hospitals
  • Extended care centers
  • Private companies
  • Health departments
  • Office practices
  • Clinics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of registered nurse jobs to increase 19 percent between 2012 and 2022. The number of pulmonary nurses should rise as fast as other nurse jobs to reflect the growing number of older people, who are most likely to suffer respiratory problems.

Professional organizations

Respiratory Nursing Society:

American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation: