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Chronic Pulmonary Disease

A video for respiratory clinicians

COPD Patients Get a Chance to Teach Providers


  • COPD patient Edna Fiore gets a quick touch-up before her interview.
  • American Association of Respiratory Care Chief Operating Officer Thomas Kallstrom questioned the patients.
  • Provider Patricia Koff watches videotaping of COPD patient comments.
  • Emile Olson waits for his turn in front of the camera.

Three patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a progressive lung disease that robs patients of their ability to breathe – became educators one recent morning at the hospital. As cameras rolled, they talked about meeting the challenges of their condition and helping providers understand the help they need managing it.

"We don't always get an opportunity to know how we're coming across to patients in practice," says Patricia Koff, RRT, MEd, of Pulmonary Sciences/Critical Care Medicine faculty member.

COPD patients have complex needs, but their providers have to recognize a fundamental reality, says Emile Olson, who received a single-lung transplant at UCH.

"Clinicians should be aware their patients can't breathe," he says. "It's important they educate patients and communicate a positive, hopeful attitude – the idea that things will be okay."

Providers need to hear and take to heart comments like these, Koff notes."Instead of focusing on smoking, for example, we need to start by hearing that message – they can't breathe now."

A complex condition

COPD is a complex, difficult-to-manage condition that involves rehabilitation, medications, durable medical equipment and frequent monitoring.

"Patients may hear something at discharge," she says, "but it's sandwiched in with 30 other things, and they can't remember later. The transition-to-home piece is huge. We can improve patients' self-management at home and get them attention when they need it." 

This page is adapted from a story that appeared in the UCH Insider, the hospital's candid e-newsletter. The Insider, which is published biweekly, is available to people outside the hospital via a free e-mail subscription. Tyler Smith ( is managing editor of the Insider.