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Pictured: British Journal of Nursing Finalist - Dr Karen Heslop-Marshall

Specialist Respiratory Nurse shortlisted for British Journal of Nursing Award


A Nurse Consultant from Newcastle who specialises in respiratory conditions has been named as a finalist for the Respiratory Nursing category of this year’s British Journal of Nursing Awards. 

Dr Karen Heslop-Marshall, who also carries out research at Newcastle University, was successfully shortlisted after a study she led on has shown how cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has reduced anxiety levels, as well as admissions to hospital and visits to A&E, for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The study was published in ‘ERJ Open Research’ in November 2018, and has since reached a potential 88 million readers worldwide.

“One of the main symptoms of COPD is breathlessness”, explains Karen. “This is very frightening and often leads to feeling anxious. Many health care professionals do not currently screen COPD patients for symptoms of anxiety, even though it can have an impact on their overall health.

She adds: “Feeling anxious has a negative impact on patients’ quality of life and leads to more frequent use of healthcare resources. We wanted to test whether one-to-one sessions using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), delivered by respiratory nurses could reduce symptoms of anxiety and whether this could be a cost-effective intervention.”

The study

COPD is a long-term condition that causes inflammation in the lungs, narrowing of the airways and damaged lung tissue, making breathing difficult. Anxiety often occurs alongside COPD and can mean that patients do less physical activity, leading to loss of fitness, isolation, and deteriorating health overall.

A total of 236 patients with a diagnosis of mild to very severe COPD took part in the trial. Each patient was screened for anxiety using a simple questionnaire that asks patients about their feelings of anxiety and depression over the past week.

Scores of between eight and ten are considered to show mild symptoms, 11-14 indicate moderate symptoms, and scores of more than 15 indicate severe symptoms. All the patients entered into the study scored eight or higher. In total 59% of those screened for entry into the study had raised scores, suggesting anxiety is very common in COPD.

Over a three-month period, patients were either given leaflets on anxiety management or given leaflets as well as CBT. The CBT sessions coached patients on how to develop coping strategies to deal with the anxiety caused by breathlessness which help to improve physical activity levels.

After a further three months, patients completed the questionnaire again to assess how the different treatment methods affected their levels of anxiety.

The researchers found that CBT was more effective in reducing anxiety symptoms in COPD patients compared to leaflets alone.

Karen said: “Although the CBT intervention initially resulted in added costs, as respiratory nurses required training in CBT skills, this was balanced by the savings made thanks to less frequent need of hospital and A&E services.

“Reducing the levels of anxiety patients experience has a significant impact on their quality of life as well as their ability to keep physically active and may improve survival in the long-term. Our research shows that front-line respiratory staff can deliver this intervention efficiently and effectively.”

The Respiratory Nursing award will be presented to a nurse who has achieved excellence, or shown a flair for innovation, and translated this into measurable improvement in patient care in respiratory care. The work that Karen has been leading on certainly ticks all of these boxes.

The ceremony takes place on Friday 8th March – good luck Karen!

You can find out more about the awards at 

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