7 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Nursing Care Plans


In this nursing care plan guide are seven (7) nursing diagnosis for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Get to know the nursing interventions, goals and outcomes, assessment tips, and related factors for COPD.

What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)? 

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is defined as “a preventable and treatable disease with some significant extrapulmonary effects that may contribute to the severity in individual patients. Its pulmonary component is characterized by airflow limitation that is not fully reversible. The airflow limitation is usually progressive and associated with an abnormal inflammatory response of the lung to noxious particles or gases.” (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease or GOLD)

Any respiratory disease that persistently obstructs bronchial airflow fall under the broad classification of COPD, also known as chronic airflow limitations (CAL). Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a condition of chronic dyspnea with expiratory airflow limitation that does not significantly fluctuate. Within that broad category, the primary cause of the obstruction may vary; examples include airway inflammation, mucous plugging, narrowed airway lumina, or airway destruction.

The term COPD mainly involves two related diseases — chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Although asthma also involves airway inflammation and periodic narrowing of the airway lumina (hyperreactivity), the condition is the result of an individual response to a wide variety of stimuli/triggers and is therefore episodic in nature with fluctuations/exacerbations of symptoms. COPD is also called chronic obstructive lung disease (COLD).

Asthma: Also known as chronic reactive airway disease, asthma is characterized by reversible inflammation and constriction of bronchial smooth muscle, hypersecretion of mucus, and edema. Precipitating factors include allergens, emotional upheaval, cold weather, exercise, chemicals, medications, and viral infections.

Chronic bronchitis: Widespread inflammation of airways with narrowing or blocking of airways, increased production of mucoid sputum and marked cyanosis.

Emphysema: Most severe form of COPD, characterized by recurrent inflammation that damages and eventually destroys alveolar walls to create large blebs or bullae (air spaces) and collapsed bronchioles on expiration (air-trapping).

Nursing Care Plans

Nursing care planning for patients with COPD involves the introduction of a treatment regimen to relieve symptoms and prevent complications. Most patients with COPD receive outpatient treatment, the nurse should develop a teaching plan to help them comply with the therapy and understand the nature of this chronic disease.

Here are seven (7) nursing care plans (NCP) and nursing diagnosis (NDx) for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD):

  1. Ineffective Airway Clearance
  2. Impaired Gas Exchange
  3. Ineffective Breathing Pattern
  4. Imbalanced Nutrition: Less Than Body Requirements
  5. Risk for Infection
  6. Deficient Knowledge
  7. Activity Intolerance
  8. Other Possible Nursing Diagnosis

Activity Intolerance

Patients with COPD experience progressive activity and exercise intolerance. Evaluation of the patient’s activity tolerance and limitations helps create strategies to promote independent ADLs.

Nursing Diagnosis

May be related to

  • Imbalanced between oxygen supply and demand due to inefficient work of breathing.

Possibly evidenced by

  • Exertional dyspnea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessively increased or decreased RR

Desired Outcomes

  • Reports reduced episodes of dyspnea during an activity.
  • Rates perceived exertion at 3 or less on a 0-10 scale.
Nursing Interventions Rationale
Nursing Assessment
Assess the patient’s respiratory response to activity which includes monitoring of respiratory rate and depth, oxygen saturation, and use of accessory muscles for respiration. Patients with COPD can experience hypoxia during an increased activity and may need oxygenation to avoid hypoxemia which put them at risk for exacerbations of the condition.
Assess the patient’s nutritional status. Adequate energy reserves are needed during activity.
Therapeutic Interventions
Maintain prescribed activity levels. Helps in building tolerance and minimizing episodes of dyspnea.
Provide at least 90 minutes of undisturbed rest in between activities. Allotment of undisturbed rest reduces demand for oxygen and allows adequate physiologic recovery.
Teach and assist the patient with active ROM exercises. Aids in building stamina and avoid complications of limited mobility.
Instruct patient with energy conservation techniques, such as:

  • Placing frequently used items within easy reach
  • Sitting to do tasks
  • Frequent position changes
  • Working at an even pace
These techniques reduce oxygen consumption, allowing a more prolonged activity.
Teach the patient on excercises that enhances breathing capacity such as diaphragmatic and purse-lip breathing. These techniques prolong exhalation period which can decrease retention of carbon dioxide.
If needed, assist the patient for a referral to a pulmonary rehabilitation program. This program allows the patient to learn about nutrition, breathing and relaxation techniques, medication education, avoiding exacerbations, and ways on how to live better while having COPD.

References and Sources

References and recommended sources for this care plan guide for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD):

  • Ackley, B. J. (2008). Evidence-based nursing care guidelines: Medical-surgical interventions. Elsevier Health Sciences.
  • Black, J. M., & Hawks, J. H. (2009). Medical-surgical nursing: Clinical management for positive outcomes (Vol. 1). A. M. Keene (Ed.). Saunders Elsevier. [Link]
  • Brunner, L. S., & Suddarth, D. S. (2004). Medical surgical nursing (Vol. 2123). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. [Link]
  • Carlson, M. L., Ivnik, M. A., Dierkhising, R. A., O’Byrne, M. M., & Vickers, K. S. (2006). A learning needs assessment of patients with COPD. Medsurg Nursing15(4). [Link]
  • Doenges, M. E., Moorhouse, M. F., & Murr, A. C. (2016). Nurse’s pocket guide: Diagnoses, prioritized interventions, and rationales. FA Davis. [Link]
  • Gulanick, M., & Myers, J. L. (2016). Nursing Care Plans: Diagnoses, Interventions, and Outcomes. Elsevier Health Sciences. [Link]

See Also

You may also like the following posts and care plans:

Respiratory Care Plans

Care plans about respiratory system disorders:

Originally published on July 14, 2013. 


  1. This is a fantastic site that enrich and enhance nurses knowledge across their area of discipline and practices.

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