BACKGROUND: To tailor future rehabilitation programmes for patients with chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, there is a need for more in-depth knowledge about what is essential to these patients and how they perceive their self-image while participating in rehabilitation. Therefore, this study aims to explore patients' experiences and perception of self-image during pulmonary rehabilitation.
METHODS: Twenty-one patients were followed by participant observations during standard rehabilitation complicity supplemented with final individual interviews. Phenomenological-hermeneutic analysis and interpretation were applied.
RESULTS: Through a rewarding peer fellowship, patients became engaged in rehabilitation and improved their capacity to embrace and manage their illness. Through a humorous interplay, encouragement to live with the life-threating disease developed. While understanding themselves in a wider perspective, patients enhanced enablement to shape life according to personal satisfaction. Although participating in the group-based programme was mostly invigorating, it was, however, sometimes perceived as a stressful overload. More individualized support from healthcare professionals was warrented.
CONCLUSIONS: Group-based pulmonary rehabilitation can support chronic pulmonary obstructive disease patients towards significant change in self-image and health behaviour, leading to improved illness management. Enlarged opportunities to benefit from peer-fellowship and enhanced focus on what is essential to the participants might expand the rehabilitation yields.