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Patients’ and nurses’ perspectives on oxygen therapy: a qualitative study


  • Glenn M. Eastwood,

    1. Glenn M. Eastwood RN BN Grad Dip Nsg (Critical Care) Doctoral Candidate School of Nursing, Deakin University, Epworth Eastern Hospital, Victoria, Australia
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  • Bev O’Connell,

    1. Bev O’Connell PhD RN FRCNA Inaugural Chair in Nursing Southern Health Nursing Research Centre, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia
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  • Anne Gardner,

    1. Anne Gardner PhD RN Crit Care Cert Professor of Nursing - Tropical Health James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, Australia
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  • Julie Considine

    1. Julie Considine PhD RN FRCNA Senior Research Fellow Deakin University, Northern Health Clinical Partnership, Victoria, Australia
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G.M. Eastwood: e-mail:


Title. Patients’ and nurses’ perspectives on oxygen therapy: a qualitative study.

Aim.  This paper is a report of a study to describe patients’ and nurses’ perspectives on oxygen therapy.

Background.  Failure to correct significant hypoxaemia may result in cardiac arrest, need for mechanical ventilation or death. Nurses frequently make clinical decisions about the selection and management of low-flow oxygen therapy devices. Better understanding of patients’ and nurses’ experiences of oxygen therapy could inform clinical decisions about oxygen administration using low-flow devices.

Methods.  Face-to-face interviews with a convenience sample of 37 adult patients (17 cardio-thoracic: 20 medical surgical) and 25 intensive care unit nurses were conducted from February 2007 to September 2007. Interviews were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim and then analysed using a thematic analysis approach.

Findings.  The patients identified three key factors that underpinned their compliance with oxygen therapy: (i) device comfort; (ii) ability to maintain activities of daily living; and (iii) therapeutic effect. The nurses identified factors, such as: (i) therapeutic effect, (ii) issues associated with compliance, (iii) strategies to optimize compliance, (iv) familiarity with device, (v) triggers for changing oxygen therapy devices, as being key to the effective management of oxygen therapy.

Conclusion.  Differences between the patients’ and nurses’ perspective of oxygen therapy illustrate the variety of factors that impact on effective oxygen administration. Further research should seek to provide a further in-depth understanding of the current oxygen administration practices of nurses and the patient factors that enhance or hinder effectiveness of oxygen therapy. Detailed information about nurse and patient factors that influence oxygen therapy will inform a sound evidence base for nurses’ oxygen administration decisions.