A day in the life of a respiratory physio

30 Apr 2015 Sam Brown

Respiratory Physiotherapist and Community Respiratory Team Manager Laura Danvers shares why she loves being a physio.

“I love being a respiratory physiotherapist; I studied physiotherapy at university with the intention of pursuing sports, but quickly found
that I loved the lungs!

“The frontline clinical side of my role is the most inspiring part of my job; I find keeping in touch with patients so rewarding, as my team is able to improve quality of life, and prevent people going into hospital unnecessarily. Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) suffer from breathing difficulties, due to long term damage to the lungs. As a respiratory physiotherapist within a Community Respiratory Team at Bristol Community Health, no two days are the same.

“Bristol’s been identified as a COPD hotspot, largely due to its strong history of maritime and industrial trade, and the cigarette and tobacco industry. We see around 140 patients a month with the disease, although the number of patients goes up and down depending on the season. In winter we could be treating 30 patients at any one time.

“Patients will often be on our caseload for a little over a week while they need support from the team. I make unplanned visits in the morning, to patients who need to be seen urgently because of their condition getting worse. I check them over by monitoring oxygen levels, heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure, while the patient chats to me about their life or their day. My visits are not just about healthcare – I also offer company to many people who otherwise might feel very isolated.

“Alongside seeing my patients, I also spend time training my colleagues, community matrons, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, as well as GPs and practice nurses. I teach about breathing tests (spirometry), how to assess a COPD patient, how to treat them and medication management.

“Supporting healthcare staff to understand COPD can help reduce hospital admissions, and keep patients in their own home. Admission avoidance is a large part of what we do. Supporting people with long term conditions in their own home helps ease the pressure on emergency departments, and it also saves the health service money.”