Key messages from the allied lung professionals at the ERS Congress 2019

Every year the European Respiratory Society (ERS) organizes a Congress for health professionals and scientists from all over the world. At the Congress, new scientific and clinical findings are presented. One of the groups of people who present at the Congress is called the allied lung professionals. These people are healthcare workers who work together with medical doctors. The goal is to provide the best care for patients with lung diseases. Within the allied lung professionals group the following specialties are represented:

  • Lung function scientists: experts in measuring lung function
  • Physiotherapists: experts in physical treatment and rehabilitation
  • Nurses: experts in providing daily care to patients

Below you can find a summary of the most important findings that were presented at the Congress by the allied lung professionals group.

Lung function scientists

Lung function scientists presented about how to improve the quality of breathing tests. Breathing tests help us to understand how the lungs work in healthy people and people with lung diseases. The tests can measure:

  • how well air flows in and out of the lungs
  • how well air moves from the lungs into the body
  • the size of the lungs
  • how much exercise a person is able to do

To make sure results of breathing tests are reliable, lung function scientists need to check the quality of the results. This is done by checking the lung function of healthy people or by using a machine to simulate a person, which is more accurate. Lung function scientists explained that a key point to the quality of breathing test results is understanding equipment and measurement errors. These errors can occur, for example, when the equipment has a fault or setup incorrectly or when tests are performed with an accidental mistake.

Because the technology behind breathing tests has improved, lung function scientists also gave an update to healthcare professionals. The healthcare professionals were taught how to work within the new international standards. They also practiced with examples of reports to make sure interpretations of breathing test results were correct. This all contributes to improving patient outcomes and experience.


Physiotherapists presented about tests and questionnaires that assess how able people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are to perform day-to-day activities. These activities are important to keep up with daily routines, health, and well-being. An example of a day-to-day activity is walking. Physiotherapists advised that simple tests, such as walking for 6 minutes in a hallway or sitting and standing up from a chair, give important information about a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks. It can also show whether they will need to be hospitalized.

They showed that a person’s ability to perform important daily life activities may be reduced, if:

  • they have COPD
  • they suffer from pain
  • they have vulnerable health (such as having multiple health conditions and having lost unintentional weight)
  • they have to perform more than one task at a time  

Physiotherapists also discussed the role of exercise and physical activity for people with lung diseases. For people with lung cancer, physiotherapists showed that exercise increases muscle strength and ability to perform daily activities. Physiotherapists also showed that if you have COPD and low levels of exercise tolerance and shortness of breath you are more likely to reduce your physical activity over time. The best way to keep being active is to include physical activity into your daily routines and hobbies.


Nurses presented about new aspects of nursing care for people with lung diseases:

  • Nurse-led interventions: when nurses are in charge of healthcare activities. For example:

–        Nurses guided people living with COPD to practice self-care (activities to protect or improve your own care). This self-care activity was successful in lowering fatigue, and increasing day-to-day activities and quality of life. Therefore, scientists are promoting the development of more studies about self-care.

–        Scientists also investigated treatment at home with a non-invasive ventilator (a machine to help you breathe via a mask that covers the nose and mouth or just the nose). The results for this alternative to hospital treatment, showed that it is possible to predict if a person is having an exacerbation or flare-up of their condition. Signs of this included:  increased use of inhalers, increased mucus, and high number of breaths per minute.

  • Continuous education for respiratory nurses. Scientists showed improved knowledge about lung problems after specialist training. But personal motivation and effort are important factors to continue learning. New learning possibilities such as professional networks and electronic learning are helpful to keeping up to date with new trainings.

Patient testimonial

Bill Mansell, a patient with sarcoidosis, took the stage in one of the sessions to highlight the value of allied lung professionals in the care of people with lung diseases. Bill kindly shared how his contact with these health professionals was essential to decrease his symptoms and increase his confidence in dealing with the disease. In Bill’s words: My health was managed through allied lung professional care, without this I could not be here.


Interested in a more detailed summary? Please click on the link below:

This summary was co-authored by: Ana Oliveira PT, PhD; Matthew Rutter lead respiratory physiologist; Juan Carlos Quijano-Campos MSC Senior Clinical Research Nurse; and Jana De Brandt MSc, PhD Student