Importance of Respiratory Nurses in the Canadian Healthcare System

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Medical advancements have been making many breakthroughs for supporting the quality of life for people who suffer from chronic respiratory conditions. An important part of treating respiratory problems is done by a healthcare professional called a respiratory nurse. 

The respiratory nurses complete their registered nursing programs, get advanced training and experience after working with patients impacted by respiratory conditions. These nurses carry out many tasks on a daily basis and are extremely important for the healthcare system. 

In this article, we will take a look at the role played by the respiratory nurses while understanding the importance of that role. 

Who is a Respiratory Nurse? 

A respiratory nurse completes his/her nursing education within this field of specialization and is responsible for treating patients battling respiratory conditions. The respiratory system is a rather complex and intricate system. It is divided into the upper tract and lower tract and includes areas such as the nose, sinuses, larynx, lungs, bronchi, and alveoli. If something goes wrong with this physiological system, the patients need immediate and sometimes lifelong care. 

During and after the completion of nursing education, the respiratory nurses get advanced training on helping patients in critical care situations while maintaining and improving their quality of life. Some of the common respiratory illnesses include asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, lung cancer, emphysema, etc. In recent times, respiratory nurses have played a big role in treating patients with COVID-19. 

Basically, the respiratory nurses are also engaged in the holistic care of patients who have lung diseases. They aim to maintain the highest nursing standards while working in collaboration with other members of a healthcare team. They work in various healthcare settings and are often involved in preventive programs. 

Job Duties of a Respiratory Nurse: 

Respiratory nursing professionals have vast knowledge in the specific complex areas of medicine. For this reason, they are trained extensively after their nursing study in Canada. Some of the common duties handled by them range from conducting interviews and diagnostic testing including administering treatments like oxygen therapy, assisting and collaborating with patients, being respiratory therapists, and helping other healthcare professionals. 

A significant part of a respiratory nurse’s work includes direct collaboration with patients and their families. These nurses are also responsible for educating the patients. For chronic conditions related to the respiratory system, these patients and their families need the tools and education to manage their condition every day. A respiratory nurse offers critical care during emergencies while helping the patients learn how to live with respiratory conditions. 

Oftentimes, respiratory nurses work with patients who are receiving oxygen treatments or are dependent on ventilators for staying alive. The nurses working within this specialization need to immediately become familiar with the key equipment, become aware of the trouble signs such as cold fingers and any extremities in patients, and know when to take the next step in case the patient’s status does not improve. 

Some of the job roles of Respiratory nurses are: 

  1. Developing Evidence-Based Coordinated Care Plans: The respiratory nurses are responsible for developing evidence-based coordinated care plans for specific groups of patients relative to the needs of patients and their caregivers. This includes performing quality-based procedures for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases including the ones with complex needs and multi-morbid conditions for maximizing the health outcomes. 
  2. Using Critical Thinking Skills: A respiratory nurse is supposed to assess the information on the patient’s medical, biomedical, ethno cultural background, and lab parameters through the medical charts. The patient-centred interviews help in assessing and addressing any potential barriers while guiding decisions for care and recommendations needed for therapy and treatment. Offering Relevant Diagnostic Testing: This includes point of care testing along with ensuring quality and maintaining devices in accordance with established medical and manufacturer standards. The maintenance includes pulmonary function testing, arterial blood collection, etc. but is not limited to this. 
  3. Quality Improvement: The respiratory nurse is expected to lead and participate in relevant quality improvement, evaluate and research initiatives within the hospital and other practice settings. This also includes collaboration with internal and external partners, assessing various processes, and outcome measures that affect the providers and patient experiences, health outcomes, and improving respiratory therapy practice. 
  4. Clinical and Technical Expertise: Respiratory nurse offers clinical and technical expertise for respiratory and critical care equipment including verification of the functions, application of treatment modalities, quality control and ensuring the quality and safety in the administering of respiratory care. 
  5. Identifying and Managing Adverse Reactions: The respiratory nurses are expected to identify, monitor, manage, and timely report adverse reactions to medications, blood products, vaccines, allergies, and injections for facilitating the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of respiratory-related conditions. 

Why are Respiratory Nurses Important? 

As important members of the health care teams, the respiratory nurses support the health organizations to realize their health care vision with the provision of their subject matter and skilled expertise. They provide healthcare services to patients, caregivers, inter-professional teams, students, and administrators through direct patient care, education, and diagnostic testing. 

They are considered important because: 

  • They help in improving the patient experience. 
  • They focus on patients and their needs efficiently. 
  • They help the patients, families, and caregivers to navigate the system, and experience transitions from one health provider to another or one health care setting to another. 

The respiratory nurses are responsible for making important contributions to integrated patient care across the healthcare system. From the time they complete their study in Canada to when they get hired, they are taught to offer specialized respiratory expertise in accordance with evidence-based care plans. Hence, they offer the same from emergency visits to admissions and discharge including all transitions in care to the community and primary care settings. 

Respiratory nursing professionals are considered important in the Canadian healthcare system because they advocate for patients and their caregivers. Patients who are at risk of developing chronic and infectious respiratory diseases or even have experienced an acute respiratory problem are liable for immediate healthcare services in Canada. Respiratory nurses play an important role in offering these patients the best healthcare delivery. 

The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of respiratory nurses in caring for the patients. Respiratory nurses were the first responders and played a critical role in the care of acutely ill COVID-19 patients. 

Additional Responsibilities Managed By Respiratory Nurses: 

There are some additional responsibilities managed by respiratory nurses that make their job all the more important in the Canadian healthcare system. These responsibilities include: 

  • Working collaboratively with the primary, long-term, acute, and specialized care providers to offer support for the community settings. 
  • Leading the development, implementation, and evaluation of respiratory programs. This includes policies and procedures in a quality improvement framework in collaboration with management and other team members ensuring patient-centred care, guidelines compliance, and best practices. 
  • Ensuring the development and implementation of coordinated care plans for patients who have respiratory conditions relative to the local individualized needs of the patients for maximizing the health outcomes. 
  • Participating in case management conferences with providers who are directly involved in the patient’s circle of care. 
  • Providing initiation, consistent monitoring, and management of invasive and non-invasive ventilator devices, lung recruitment manoeuvres, and high flow nasal cannula therapy based on the protocols of the healthcare facility. 
  • Offering education and self-management education for patients and their families including resources to facilitate self-mastery for patients in their home settings. 
  • Providing home-based pulmonary rehabilitation services. 
  • Offering point of care and home oxygen assessments relative to the patient’s home setting. 
  • Providing education, training, and demonstrating respiratory care procedures to patients and their families. This can sometimes include the use of mechanical home ventilators, home oxygen, sleep therapy, and suctioning. 
  • Facilitating the procurement of important equipment through government-funded programs. A respiratory nurse may also work for home respiratory companies that offer short-term or long-term ventilation to the patients. 
  • Maintaining equipment and troubleshooting by offering operational verification through regular quality assurance, quality control using mechanical controls, calibration, troubleshooting, and maintaining respiratory equipment as per protocols and in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines. 


In case you are interested in a valuable and looked upon nursing specialty then respiratory nursing can be a great career option. Plus, you will be playing an extremely important role within the healthcare system. 

That said, the first step to becoming a respiratory nurse is to complete a suitable registered nursing program from a renowned college in Canada. So take the first step now and enrol in a nursing course at the earliest. 


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