Purpose: To raise awareness of the global pandemic of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), its multiple underlying causes, and how to fight it, with particular attention to needs in nursing education.
Methods: Integrative review of the literature.
Findings: The main underlying causes of COPD are both individual and environmental factors, and the disease usually results from an interaction between these two factors. The prevalence of COPD is highest in countries where cigarette smoking has been, or still is, very common, and it is lowest in countries where smoking is less common, or total tobacco consumption per person is low. COPD is to some extent a preventable disease especially by preventing exposure to tobacco smoke and to occupational dusts and chemicals including vapours, irritants, fumes, and indoor and outdoor air pollution. The main implication for nurses and nursing curricula is to expand the focus from the individual to include population-based intervention programmes.
Conclusions: Addressing the underlying causes of COPD and providing appropriate interventions are within the scope of nursing practice and responsibility. Changes in nursing education are needed for nurses to be able to address the COPD pandemic.