Aims: To explore how patients with COPD experience helplessness.
Methods: In-depth interviews with 29 patients with moderate to very severe COPD. Data were analysed using a general inductive approach.
Results: All patients focused on acute symptoms and expressed feelings of helplessness in the management of their condition; little attention was paid to longer-term strategies. For one group of patients, mostly European, self blame appeared to intensify feelings of helplessness. For a second group, mostly Pacific, a focus on faith in God, Church and family provided a more positive affect and existed alongside helplessness.
Conclusions: Clinicians seeking to support patients to include longer term strategies in their self management will need to coach patients to experiences of short-term success, and be aware of the ways that patients experience and interpret their helplessness. Clinicians need to address self blame, and recognise patients' priorities of faith and family.