The COVID-19 pandemic had several effects on patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) including increasing their fear of contracting the disease and their social isolation, according to a new study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. Patients also reported changes in their relationship with their healthcare providers (HCPs) and coping strategies.
“Although the current pandemic presents many challenges for people with IPF, it also presents opportunities for HCPs to rethink the models of care and implement potential improvements,” the authors said.
In interviews conducted with 13 patients with IPF in Ireland, researchers found that the greatest common theme in the patients was the fear of contracting COVID-19 and the possibility that it would be life-threatening given their underlying condition.
The patients also described a reduction in their social interactions due to the need to isolate themselves. Many patients found this increased their loneliness and hurt their mental health., and several of the participants were angry about the isolation and felt that it had robbed them of time with loved ones due to their potentially shortened lifespans of having IPF.
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The study showed that the pandemic also modified the way that patients interacted with their HCPs with most appointments being done virtually. The study participants had mixed feelings about this change with some being glad to not have to go into the crowded hospitals for fear of infection while others missed the face-to-face interaction and confidence they felt after their appointments.
“Given the mixed responses to virtual consultations in this study, HCP should aim to offer ongoing flexibility with appointments,” the authors said. Many patients also felt increased responsibility for monitoring their condition which increased their stress levels for fear of not noticing a change in their condition.
Some patients were able to reschedule appointments from the main hospital to a smaller clinic with a respiratory nurse specialist. Others reported an increase in service from their general practitioners who would monitor blood work for those who were on antifibrotic medications so they did not have to go into the large hospitals.
The changes from COVID-19 greatly impacted the landscape of the patients’ daily lives and lead to changes in their coping strategies, the authors concluded. Strategies varied with some engaging in distraction techniques such as home improvement projects or hobbies while others engaged in physical activities to improve their health but also mental well-being.
Ryan N, Meskell P. The experience of people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis living through the COVID-19 pandemic. J Adv Nurs. Published online February 18, 2022. doi:10.1111/jan.15187