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Spirometry is increasingly used in primary care settings for the diagnosis and monitoring of patients with respiratory conditions. Conducting and interpreting the test is now part of many practice nurses' role. Spirometry is, however, effort dependent and the validity of a test result relies on the patient being able to master the technique. The role of the practitioner conducting the test - instructing, supporting and encouraging the patient - is vital. Adequate and appropriate training is essential to ensure that spirometry is properly conducted and any errors in technique identified and corrected.

The interpretation of spirometry is an advanced skill and all practitioners who interpret spirometry should be trained to Association for Respiratory Technology and Physiology standards and assessed as competent. Systems for the quality assurance of spirometry in primary care will, hopefully, be put in place in the near future.

This resource, consisting of five assessment questions each at basic, intermediate and advanced levels, tests your knowledge of the basic principles of spirometry. Complete the entire resource, including reading the featured articles and undertaking some or all of the activities, to obtain certificates for three hours of continuing professional development to include in your annual portfolio.

Aims and Objectives

On completion of this resource you should have an understanding of:

  • The appropriate preparation of patients for spirometry tests for differing clinical reasons
  • The relative and absolute contraindications to conducting spirometry tests
  • The essential maintenance and calibration of a spirometer
  • The technical acceptability and reproducibility of a test and how to correct technique errors
  • The different patterns of ventilatory function discernible with a spirometer
  • The use and limitations of reversibility testing

Recommended reading

Primary Care Commissioning. A guide to performing quality assured diagnostic spirometry. PCC. 2013

Spirometry . Professional resource

Practice Nurse featured articles

Spirometry: getting the test right Rachel Booker

Spirometry: Understanding the results Rachel Booker

Reversibility testing for airflow obstruction Andrew Booth

Further education and training 

Spirometry training is available from Education for Health. Please follow the links below to relevant courses and workshops. 

Performing and interpreting quality assured spirometry (eLearning)

Performing and interpreting quality assured spirometry (eLearning)

Performing quality assured spirometry (eLearning)

Spirometry for HCAs

Spirometry workshop

Date of preparation: June 2014

Review date: June 2015