Work of Breathing: Development of a Construct

Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Science



Department or Program Chair

Barbara Ganley, PhD

Thesis Advisor

Luanne Linnard-Palmer, EdD, RN


Critical care nurses are often required to assess a patient’s work of breathing and make clinical decisions based on their findings. There is currently no objective work of breathing assessment tool available. The purpose of this descriptive study was to discover how nurses conceptually describe and assess work of breathing and how they then make objective clinical decisions based on those assessments. Convenience and purposive sampling generated 69 return-by-mail surveys from critical and acute care nurses throughout the country. Descriptive statistics determined frequency distribution and central tendency of the responses. Based on the most popular responses of how nurses describe work of breathing, including use of accessory muscles, ability to speak, pursed lip breathing and respiratory rate, a rough draft of a work of breathing assessment tool was formulated.

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