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How did you become a... Respiratory Nurse Specialist?

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Have you considered becoming a respiratory nurse specialist? We speak to Sandra about what the role involves


Name - Sandra Olive

Current post - Respiratory Nurse Specialist


Why did you became a respiratory nurse specialist?

I was interested in the management of chronic disease since starting my nurse training, and in respiratory medicine in particular. I was inspired by senior nurses in those clinical areas who demonstrated that it was possible to make a difference, both to inpatients and in empowering patients to take some control over their own health and treatment.

When I took on this post, there was a limited amount of support for patients with chronic respiratory disease or for general nurses caring for those patients in non-specialist areas. I felt I had something to offer to improve care for individuals and for the wider setting.


What qualifications do you need?

A first degree that incorporates a respiratory module is helpful to get a good grounding in respiratory physiology and diseases affecting the respiratory system. A good understanding of critical analysis helps to filter information for dissemination in practice.

In order to develop specific areas of practice, I have undertaken further specific education: advanced COPD diploma qualification, training in Interstitial Lung Disease & Pulmonary Rehabilitation.

Experience in respiratory practice is important; ideally across a range of acute and chronic care settings to understand the implications for the respiratory patient throughout the course of living with their condition.

Additional clinical assessment and advanced skills in chest examination, oxygen management, arterial blood gas sampling and interpretation enable the progression of the role and can be incorporated into Masters degree programme.


What do you like about your role?

The opportunity to address quality of care provided to patients living with long term and often life-limiting diseases. This may be through patient support groups, clinical practice or through supporting education and training needs of patients, carers, medical and nursing students and other clinicians.

Every day is different and unpredictable. I work autonomously but in a very supportive team where my contribution is valued and recognised. I am able to work with patients in a variety of settings – acute wards, outpatient clinics, support groups and patients’ own homes. I am constantly challenged by new situations and problems; no two patients are the same or have the same needs.


What are the challenges to this role?

Balancing the clinical and managerial needs of my role – the clinical work takes precedence and managing the remainder within the time available can be difficult.

The constantly changing healthcare environment – clinical commissioning has provided a number of challenges to the way services are provided in order to maintain equitable and accessible services across the region.


What advice would you offer nurses who want to follow in your footsteps?

Take the opportunity to shadow experienced staff – they will usually be happy to accommodate you provided you arrange a mutually convenient time and you can learn a lot about what the role involves.

Read as much as you can about the areas that interest you – ask questions, there is never a daft question and it can be as stimulating for others to think about practice through another’s eyes.

Get experience in respiratory areas – this will help you identify which specialist areas particularly interest you. Respiratory medicine covers a wide range of conditions and there are specialist roles across the subspecialties.

Take up any additional training/educational opportunities you can – this gives you a chance to network, broaden your knowledge and enhances your opportunities when you come to apply for posts.

Get involved in patient support groups – they give you a great insight into what really matters to patients and carers living with lung disease.



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