Renaming COPD exacerbations: the UK respiratory nursing perspective

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Background: Patients with COPD experience acute worsenings, termed ‘exacerbations’. While other terms to describe these events have been proposed there is no consensus on terminology which has led to multiple terms being used across the UK. Respiratory nurses are part of a multi-disciplinary team managing COPD patients, however, the nursing perspective on the term ‘exacerbation’ is unknown. Methods: An anonymised survey of 17 questions was sent to respiratory nurses through an email invitation link. The survey link was open for one month. The aim was to understand the nurse perspective on ‘exacerbation’. Alternative terms used in the UK were compared versus the term 'exacerbation’. Results: Responses were received from 113 nurses. The majority (88%) were female. There was no consensus on preference or meaning for the term ‘exacerbation’ between nurses. Less than 5% of nurses thought that patients with COPD would understand the term ‘exacerbation’. In ranked order, the nurses preferred the following terms: ‘flare-up’, ‘lung attack’, ‘crisis’, ‘exacerbation’ and ‘chest infection’. The term ‘crisis’, although new, was considered to be the term that most resonated with clinical practice. Conclusion: Respiratory nurses in the UK report that the term ‘exacerbation’ is not fit for purpose for patients, and alternatives should be sought.




Mwasuku, C., King, J., Russell, R. E. K., & Bafadhel, M. (2021). Renaming COPD exacerbations: the UK respiratory nursing perspective. BMC Pulmonary Medicine, 21(1).

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