Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often experience feelings of shame, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

In this qualitative study, 12 patients with late-stage COPD were interviewed. There were three themes examined: the body as a mirror of shame; a sense of being unworthy, invisible, and powerless; and that sharing the burden is too difficult. The researchers used Kvale and Brinkmann’s three interpretative contexts to analyze the data.

According to the results, the participants disclosed that COPD defined their value as human beings and that made them feel vulnerable, ashamed, and more socially isolated. COPD patients experienced feelings of shame, guilt, and self-blame due to their own perceptions of themselves. They also reported feeling doubt about whether they were worthy to receive care and comfort from both health professionals and their family and friends.

Findings from this study show that patients struggle with feelings such as shame and misery. The nurses who work bedside are in continuous contact with the patients and have an opportunity to gain knowledge of these feelings in order to meet the patients’ needs for comfort and care,” the researchers concluded.

They added that moreover, “it is necessary to have interdisciplinary fora in clinical practice where health professionals reflect, discuss and challenge themselves according to attitudes towards patients with so-called ‘self-inflicted’ diseases.”

Keywords: care, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, nursing, shame, stigma