Respiratory nurses are integral to the care and support of those affected by lung disease. They coordinate care and can provide essential patient support from initial diagnosis to end of life - yet their role often remains unsung.
This World COPD Day (19 November) we’ll be showing the world how successfully self-managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can help patients to improve their lives and keep a good level of independence. We wanted to highlight the importance of respiratory nurses’ role in helping patients do this.
In a nutshell, respiratory nurses help improve patient care and develop more effective services for those with lung disease, their families and carers. These nurses bring huge benefits to their patients: their work can mean the difference between a patient having to stay in hospital and a patient being discharged to the comforts of their own home or, better yet, never having to be admitted to hospital at all.
Respiratory nurses are able to treat patients with respiratory diseases in outpatient clinics, their own homes or in the community, and to deliver home oxygen assessments and specialist respiratory telehealth. These benefits provide greater comfort and ease for patients and also reduce financial strain on NHS inpatient services.
“Respiratory nurses care for patients by teaching them how to better care for themselves”
Yet as well as these practical benefits, respiratory nurses also offer support and advice about treating conditions and managing symptoms. Their role is not only to provide specialist medical help – although this is certainly a substantial chunk of what they do - but to promote self-management and to educate patients. After all, the symptoms of lung diseases such as COPD can often be effectively managed through learning proper inhaler and breathing techniques as well as simple things like remembering to wear a jumper during the winter months, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.
Respiratory nurses care for patients by teaching them how to better care for themselves; they equip them with a greater knowledge and understanding of their condition and the small things a patient can do to make a big difference to their health.
This understanding is hugely helpful, as medical information about respiratory conditions can be both overwhelming and elusive to a patient – especially when first diagnosed.
Many respiratory nurses do even more than this, going above and beyond their job descriptions. Our own BLF nurses remain the dedicated backbone of our extensive Breathe Easy network, a support group network run by members that often benefits from the support and advice of BLF nurses. Many respiratory nurses also help deliver pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) programmes to lung disease patients in order to improve levels of lung fitness, reduce breathlessness, and provide nutritional and emotional support.
Our new BLF Professionals programme is aimed at health care professionals who are passionate about respiratory health. We offer training to our respiratory HCPs, including our nurses, during regional study days. These sessions cover a variety of topics including how to have end of life conversations and how to care for someone with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
Respiratory conditions often have poor prognoses, which can be tough on patient morale. It can be hard for patients to stay positive when they’re told there’s no cure and, sometimes, no real treatment for the disease they’re facing. Perhaps the most important service respiratory nurses and other health care professionals can deliver is the ability to stay cheerful, encouraging and good-natured even in the face of insurmountable odds.
Patient testimonals describe specialist respiratory nurses as sources of comfort on dark days and, better yet, trusted friends.
The dedication of respiratory nurses really does take my breath away.
If you’re interested in making a huge difference to the life of someone affected by lung disease, visit: www.blf.org.uk/professionals.
If you’d like to find out more about what we’ll be doing for World COPD Day, please visit: http://www.blf.org.uk/Page/World-COPD-Day
Bethany Bateman is Stakeholder Engagement Manager at the British Lung Foundation