• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
  • primary care;
  • risk factors;
  • nurse practitioners



Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been identified as the fourth leading cause of death. The primary purpose of this article is to discuss risk factors for COPD and identify at-risk populations. A secondary purpose is to report the findings of a recent survey of nurse practitioners (NPs) in Colorado regarding their knowledge about the risk factors for COPD.

Data sources

A list of registered NPs in the State of Colorado was obtained from the State Board of Nursing. Surveys were sent to 2916 NPs to assess their knowledge about risk factors for COPD.


Although the response rate was less than 10%, this survey highlighted that there were gaps in knowledge especially for pediatric, women's health, and geriatric NPs. NPs are on the front lines in assisting with the prevention, early diagnosis, and management of this complex disease.

Implications for practice

Formal NP educational programs (regardless of focus) should highlight that through recognition of risk factors, NPs can play a significant role in primary and secondary preventive measures that may decrease the impact of COPD. Public media campaigns to educate the public about risk factors may encourage the individual patients to address these risk factors with the primary care provider.