How to Help COPD Patients: Nurse Edition

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is not curable at this time, and patients who have this as a diagnosis can find it very hard to navigate. A nurse with the responsibility of caring for such a patient has to be ready to offer them effective help. In this blog, we touch on the important role nurses play in the care of COPD patients.

Answering Their Questions

Probably the first thing a COPD patient will ask of their nurse is: What now? Their nurse can provide hope for the patient by letting him or her know that there are lifestyle changes that can be made that will help, and medical advancements offer the possibility to improve their breathing capability. There will be other questions that will be easier to answer. The nurse will be able to put them at more ease by being confident and helpful.

Create a Personalized Plan

A patient with COPD should be educated on the disease first and foremost. With an understanding of what they are facing, it is easier to implement lifestyle and diet changes. To address the symptoms of the disease is important. They will need to commit to a special diet that
will be anti-inflammatory, and they will also need to participate in physical activities to get inflammation in the lungs reduced. If they smoke, they will need to take steps to stop smoking. There are programs out there that are very successful.

Mental Struggles with COPD

With COPD, it is easy to see the physical symptoms. The mental symptoms are not as easy to identify. Patients may not share the struggles they are going through, like depression, anxiety or hopelessness. Nurses must be aware of these mental symptoms to help the patient cope with them as well as possible.

Fear of the End

Severe anxiety often comes about when the patient is now believing that the rest of his or her life is going to be spent struggling with this disease. They worry about the end of their life. It is difficult to be optimistic about your future when severely ill. A nurse will need to let the person know they aren’t alone in all this, and needs to also encourage them to share their feelings.


Since each patient is different, each one will need a different plan of treatment. It will, of course, depend on the person’s age, level of fitness, medical history and the severity of the disease. The very best a nurse can do is to make an atmosphere where her patient feels comfortable and can be honest about how they feel.

Establishing communication with the patient’s physician is also important. The nurse can find out more about their patient and be able to make recommendations for him or her, something beyond only recommending they stop smoking or that they use an inhaler.

Once a patient is diagnosed with COPD, they need a nurse that can support them and offer them the help that they need, besides basic physical assistance. The patient may be overwhelmed with fear, hopelessness and even guilt. Nurses should take time and collect resources to offer their patient, such as social support groups, counseling and even end of life planning. A nurse can make a huge difference for a COPD patient.

If you would like more information on how to help COPD patients check out some of these additional resources:

American Lung Association | Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute | COPD


Chelle Law does not provide medical advice. This blog is meant as an informative resource and should be utilized as such. You should contact your healthcare provider with any concerns you have about caring for yourself or a loved one with this condition.