People who live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience major changes in health. Coping with the illness and caring for themselves places extensive demands on them. Thus, pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) is recommended as a means to facilitate healthy transitions in everyday life with COPD. This study explores the experience of patients with COPD in terms of their transitions in health during and after PR. The research was inspired by interpretive phenomenology. Thirty-three individual qualitative interviews were conducted with eighteen patients recruited from Norwegian PR units. A thematic analysis of the interviews was performed. The interviewees described participation in PR as a time of increasing awareness of opportunities for health and well-being with strengthened hope. The year following PR was dominated by their ongoing challenge to acknowledge limitations and explore opportunities in everyday life. Continuation of healthy transitions was facilitated by peer and professional support. The study highlights the personal resources that patients with COPD have access to in order to promote their own health. The study also highlights their vulnerability during illness and rehabilitation. The findings critique time-limited PR and support the current trends towards patient-centred rehabilitation efforts that incorporate user involvement and self-management education.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.