Interventions for COPD include a variety of care from various healthcare professionals. Part of that care is a detailed plan based on your needs and developed by a nurse or a respiratory therapist.

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a progressive respiratory disease that’s split into two main categories: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Both forms of the disease negatively affect your breathing and usually get worse over time — even with treatment.

A diagnosis of COPD is made by a doctor or other advanced healthcare professional, but as you go home to learn how to manage your condition or while you are hospitalized, it’s a nurse or respiratory therapist who will likely provide you with the most hands-on care and direction.

Nursing interventions describe the actions a nurse or — in the case of COPD — a respiratory therapist takes in providing you care and treatment for a condition. COPD is a progressive respiratory disease, but there are many techniques you can learn and changes you can make to better manage your condition and prevent your COPD from worsening.

In this article, you will learn what to expect in terms of nursing care if you’re diagnosed with COPD.

Nursing interventions are the actions a nurse or other healthcare professional will take to care for you when you have COPD. This could mean providing information, education, direct treatments, and other services to help you manage your condition.

Below are some examples, but not an exhaustive list, of some nursing interventions that might take place when you have COPD.


Assessments are the cornerstone of any nursing care plan. Simply put, your nurse will assess both your physical condition and your understanding or management of your condition. This includes how well you follow your prescribed treatment plan and how willing or able you may be to make changes and undergo treatments.

The physical assessment has many parts, including:


Education is another big part of nursing care. At the time of your diagnosis, a nurse can help you understand:


A nurse may teach you how to take medications or use inhalers to treat your COPD. You may also need the assistance of a home health nurse or — during acute episodes — inpatient care.

Inpatient care is usually reserved for severe COPD or acute exacerbations where you require close monitoring, oxygen therapy, or the use of specialized breathing devices.

A nursing care plan is simply a list of the issues your nurse identifies that you may need help managing. For every condition, there are multiple needs — called nursing diagnoses — that are linked to your condition or overall health.

Some common nursing diagnoses that might be used in a nursing care plan for someone with COPD include:

  • ineffective airway clearance (common in chronic bronchitis)
  • impaired gas exchange (common in emphysema)
  • ineffective breathing pattern
  • increased work of breathing
  • activity intolerance
  • imbalanced nutrition
  • deficient knowledge
  • risk for infection
  • fatigue

Additional nursing diagnoses may also be involved, depending on what other conditions or COPD complications you develop. Some other nursing diagnoses you might see in someone with COPD include:

  • decreased cerebral perfusion
  • decreased cardiac output
  • risk for acute confusion
  • ineffective coping
  • ineffective health self-management
  • risk for adult falls

Most of these nursing diagnoses are related to the decrease in oxygen or buildup of harmful gases in your body that can result develop from COPD. Complications of COPD, especially in the advanced stages, often involve problems like heart failure, limited mobility, and decreased cognitive or social function.

Once your needs (nursing diagnoses) have been established and supported with evidence from your assessment, such as shortness of breath or decreased oxygen levels, your healthcare team will establish a care plan designed to treat your specific needs.

Your individual care plan may involve things like:

In most cases, COPD is a condition that gets worse over time. With early and adequate treatment and lifestyle changes, you may be able to slow the progress of the disease, but the damage is irreversible.

Medications and treatments with things like respiratory exercise devices and inhalers can help you enjoy many good years with COPD. However, people whose disease progresses to more severe stages may need round-the-clock oxygen therapy, nursing care, or frequent hospitalization.

Talk with your healthcare team about your individual prognosis, steps you can take to improve your quality of life, and what limits you want placed on your treatments or end-of-life care if any. There may come a time when continued treatments offer no therapeutic or comfort benefit in the advanced stages of COPD, and it’s best to make your unique wishes clear to your family and healthcare professionals.

Is a nursing care plan a prescription?

A nursing care plan is not a prescription. It’s simply a guide that helps your healthcare team consider and address all of your healthcare needs. This can include things like understanding your medications or even helping you arrange transportation to appointments.

What happens if I don’t follow a nursing care plan?

A nursing care plan is more of a tool for your healthcare team than a to-do list for you. Your nurses and other providers may go over some of the goals on your list, such as demonstrating the correct way to use an inhaler, but you won’t be expected to complete the items on your care plan on your own.

Should I receive a copy of my nursing care plan?

It can help to ask for a copy of your care plan so that you can fully understand the complex nature of your condition and how it will be treated. In many cases, however, your nursing care plan is a part of your medical chart that will be carried out in partnership between you and your healthcare team, whether you have a physical copy or not.

The nursing care plan simply guides the treatment goals for your condition and helps to identify additional needs you might have.

How can I add things to my nursing care plan?

A nursing care plan is more of a clinical tool for healthcare professionals than it is a checklist of health problems or treatments. However, it’s important to discuss any physical, social, emotional, or even financial issues that may impact your health.

Having a complete picture of your overall health needs will help ensure you get the most comprehensive care.

COPD is a progressive respiratory disease that can’t be reversed, but it can be well-managed with the right care. A nursing care plan is a clinical tool that your healthcare team uses to identify all of your physical, emotional, and practical needs when it comes to managing your overall health.

Although your nurse may discuss this plan with you, it’s not a to-do list you are expected to carry out. Instead, your nursing care plan will highlight your needs and spell out the treatment goals that are shared between you and your healthcare team.