Spread knowledge


Knowledge is power. And, when it comes to COPD, RTs have a lot of it. In fact, they are in prime position to deliver critical information to patients and care team peers to keep patients at the heart of every clinical decision. This is why RTs should continue to take charge in each care setting.

Patients depend on thorough education throughout their course of care. RTs can help spread knowledge to their patients at critical milestones, by educating them on1:
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Medications and how to take them
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Proper device technique
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Breathing exercises
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How to identify the symptoms of exacerbations
However, education doesn’t stop with the patient. RTs need to continually improve their skills and take information back to other members of the care team. This includes:
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Reporting key patient findings
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Providing valuable insights on modifying care plans
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Implementing best practices and helping make changes in the healthcare setting

See challenges before they arise


RTs are always on the front lines of COPD care. That’s why it’s vital for them to see the complete picture of care, anticipate future challenges and act quickly. However, RTs can’t always see everything. For this reason, they need to enact a care team network to inform them of key developments across time and locations. This will enable them to make any necessary adjustments to a patient’s care plan and help set them on a path for treatment success. Therefore, RTs need to take the first step to opening this larger world of information.

Proactively strengthen your network by:


  • Having a reliable point of contact at each facility. A little outreach goes a long way. RTs should introduce themselves, make connections, exchange contact info and more
  • Consistently following up with care teams at community and regional hospitals as well as affiliated home care facilities
  • Identifying opportunities for extended care team members to provide updates
  • Regularly refining best practices for keeping lines of communication open


Find out which members need to be included when building a quality COPD care team.

Practice active listening


What’s the key to RTs truly understanding what their patients need from their treatment? Listening—actively. This technique allows RTs to understand their patients’ challenges and desires more deeply, so they can thoughtfully recommend the right solutions and strategies. Active listening involves hearing what patients are saying, summarizing their problems and validating their feelings by responding with empathy. Overall, it allows RTs to help patients feel understood.

Practice active listening to begin to improve2:


  • Relationships with the patients
  • Confidence levels in their patient’s ability to achieve goals
  • Joint problem solving and sharing


Looking to deepen your active listening skills? Find proven techniques here.

Start the conversation


For some patients, talking about COPD is not always easy. Patients who were once active may be embarrassed by the fact that their disease has led them to a mostly sedentary lifestyle. That’s why keeping the lines of communication open is a critical component to maximizing outcomes. No matter what the case, it’s up to RTs to start the conversation and set attainable goals.

Help get patients on the right track with these conversation starters


  • “What is the number one goal you would like to achieve through your current treatment?”
  • “Do you feel the device you’re currently on is preventing you from being adherent to therapy?”
  • “What is one activity you would like to enjoy again that COPD is interfering with?”

Open your heart to treat deeper


To treat non-surface level issues and get to underlying causes of a patient’s COPD, RTs need to relate to and empathize with their patients on a deeper level. This means understanding their family dynamics, social issues and psychological comorbidities that may interfere with their treatment.


For example, dig deeper into topics such as whether the patient has money for food, is living in clean conditions, has healthy relationships, is dealing with psychiatric issues, has access to transportation, etc. By uncovering these issues, RTs and patients can have a better relationship while setting the stage for better outcomes.

Home is where the heart is


Solicit help from the patient’s support system to make the most out of treatment and provide3:


  • Emotional support and act as an advocate for best practices
  • Encouragement to adhere to therapy and meet personal goals
  • Reminders of when to take medication
  • Information about new self-management programs available