Nursing Care Plan For Acute Respiratory Failure

Nursing Care Plan For Acute Respiratory Failure


Acute respiratory failure is a serious condition that occurs when the respiratory system fails to adequately meet the body’s oxygenation and ventilation needs. It is a complex medical emergency that requires prompt recognition, comprehensive assessment, and appropriate nursing interventions.

The nursing care plan for acute respiratory failure is a crucial aspect of managing this condition and aims to optimize patient outcomes by addressing their specific needs and promoting effective respiratory function. This care plan involves a holistic approach, incorporating assessment, monitoring, intervention, and evaluation to ensure the provision of safe and individualized care. In this paper, we will explore the key components of a nursing care plan for acute respiratory failure, including the assessment parameters, nursing diagnoses, goals, and interventions.

By implementing evidence-based nursing strategies, healthcare professionals can enhance patient well-being, improve respiratory function, and ultimately contribute to better patient outcomes in cases of acute respiratory failure.

Nursing Assessment for Acute Respiratory Failure:

Respiratory History:

  • Obtain a comprehensive respiratory history, including any previous respiratory conditions, allergies, or smoking history.
  • Assess for recent respiratory infections, exposure to respiratory irritants, or travel to areas with high respiratory infection rates.

Physical Assessment:

  • Observe the patient’s respiratory rate, depth, and effort.
  • Auscultate lung sounds for abnormal breath sounds such as crackles, wheezes, or diminished breath sounds.
  • Assess for signs of increased work of breathing, such as retractions, nasal flaring, or use of accessory muscles.
  • Evaluate the patient’s oxygen saturation levels using pulse oximetry.
  • Measure vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature.

Neurological Assessment:

  • Assess the patient’s level of consciousness, orientation, and ability to follow commands.
  • Observe for any signs of confusion, lethargy, or decreased responsiveness.

Cardiac Assessment:

  • Monitor the patient’s heart rhythm and rate.
  • Assess for signs of cardiac compromise, such as chest pain, cyanosis, or edema.

Skin Assessment:

  • Check the patient’s skin color, temperature, and moisture.
  • Look for signs of cyanosis or pallor, particularly in the lips, nail beds, or extremities.

Respiratory Function Tests:

  • Review any recent arterial blood gas (ABG) results to assess the patient’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
  • Monitor trends in ABG values to identify any respiratory acidosis or alkalosis.

It is crucial to adapt the assessment to each patient’s individual needs and clinical presentation. Regular reassessment should be performed to monitor changes in the patient’s condition and response to interventions.

Nursing Diagnosis for Acute Respiratory Failure:

Impaired Gas Exchange:

Related Factors:

  1. Alveolar-capillary membrane dysfunction.
  2. Inadequate ventilation-perfusion ratio.
  3. Decreased oxygen-carrying capacity of blood (e.g., anemia).
  4. Impaired diffusion of gases (e.g., pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome)

Defining Characteristics:

  1. Abnormal arterial blood gas (ABG) values (e.g., decreased PaO2, increased PaCO2)
  2. Cyanosis or pallor
  3. Dyspnea, tachypnea, or increased work of breathing
  4. Decreased oxygen saturation levels
  5. Changes in mental status (e.g., confusion, restlessness)

2. Ineffective Airway Clearance:

Related Factors:

  1. Bronchospasm or bronchoconstriction
  2. Excessive mucus production or thick secretions
  3. Impaired cough reflex
  4. Weak or ineffective respiratory effort
  5. Airway obstruction (e.g., foreign body, edema)

Defining Characteristics:

  1. Audible or visible secretions
  2. Inability to clear secretions effectively
  3. Coughing or wheezing
  4. Use of accessory respiratory muscles
  5. Abnormal breath sounds (e.g., crackles, rhonchi)


Related Factors:

  1. Hypoxemia or hypercapnia
  2. Fear of suffocation or inability to breathe
  3. Uncertainty about the severity or outcome of the condition
  4. Invasive interventions (e.g., mechanical ventilation, arterial line placement)
  5. Separation from loved ones or unfamiliar healthcare environment

Defining Characteristics:

  1. Restlessness or irritability
  2. Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  3. Difficulty concentrating or communicating
  4. Insomnia or disturbed sleep patterns
  5. Expressions of fear or apprehension

Risk for Infection:

Related Factors:

  1. Impaired host defenses (e.g., compromised immune system)
  2. Invasive procedures or devices (e.g., endotracheal tube, mechanical ventilation)
  3. Presence of respiratory pathogens (e.g., pneumonia, bronchitis)
  4. Inadequate hand hygiene or poor infection control practices
  5. Malnutrition or poor nutritional status

Defining Characteristics:

  1. Increased body temperature (fever)
  2. Elevated white blood cell count
  3. Presence of purulent sputum
  4. Inflammation or redness at invasive device insertion sites
  5. Altered respiratory patterns

These nursing diagnoses provide a foundation for planning appropriate interventions and implementing targeted nursing care to address the specific needs of patients with acute respiratory failure. It is important to individualize the care plan based on the patient’s assessment findings and collaborate with the healthcare team to achieve optimal patient outcomes.

Nursing Interventions for Acute Respiratory Failure:

Improve Oxygenation and Ventilation:

  1. Administer supplemental oxygen as prescribed to maintain oxygen saturation within the target range.
  2. Position the patient for optimal lung expansion, such as elevating the head of the bed or using pillows to support a semi-Fowler’s position.
  3. Encourage deep breathing and coughing exercises to improve lung ventilation and mobilize secretions.
  4. Assist with or provide endotracheal suctioning to clear airway secretions, as needed.
  5. Collaborate with the respiratory therapist to optimize mechanical ventilation settings, if applicable.
  6. Monitor arterial blood gas (ABG) values and oxygen saturation regularly to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions.

Promote Airway Clearance:

  1. Encourage and assist the patient with effective coughing and deep breathing techniques.
  2. Provide chest physiotherapy (CPT) or percussion and postural drainage to facilitate the removal of secretions.
  3. Administer prescribed bronchodilators or nebulized medications to relieve bronchoconstriction and promote airway patency.
  4. Encourage hydration to help thin and mobilize secretions.
  5. Use humidification or nebulized saline to keep the airway moist and enhance mucus clearance.

Provide Emotional Support and Reduce Anxiety:

  1. Establish a calm and reassuring environment for the patient.
  2. Educate the patient and family about the condition, treatment, and interventions being implemented.
  3. Teach relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises or guided imagery, to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of control.
  4. Collaborate with the healthcare team to ensure adequate pain management, as uncontrolled pain can contribute to increased anxiety.

Prevent Infection:

  1. Implement strict hand hygiene protocols and encourage all healthcare providers, visitors, and family members to practice proper hand washing.
  2. Follow infection control guidelines during invasive procedures and ensure appropriate aseptic techniques are maintained.
  3. Regularly assess the condition of invasive devices (e.g., endotracheal tube) and ensure proper maintenance and care.
  4. Monitor and promptly address signs of infection, such as increased body temperature, elevated white blood cell count, or changes in sputum characteristics.
  5. Administer prescribed antibiotics as ordered and monitor their effectiveness.

These nursing interventions are aimed at improving respiratory function, promoting airway clearance, addressing anxiety, preventing infection, and fostering effective collaboration within the healthcare team. Individualize the interventions based on the patient’s specific needs and regularly reassess the effectiveness of the implemented interventions.


The nursing care plan for acute respiratory failure is a critical component in managing this complex and potentially life-threatening condition. Through comprehensive assessment, prompt interventions, and ongoing evaluation, nurses play a crucial role in optimizing patient outcomes and promoting respiratory function.

The care plan begins with a thorough nursing assessment that encompasses respiratory history, physical examination, neurological and cardiac assessment, respiratory function tests, and psychosocial evaluation. This assessment helps identify the underlying causes and contributing factors to acute respiratory failure.

Based on the assessment findings, nursing diagnoses are formulated, including impaired gas exchange, ineffective airway clearance, anxiety, and the risk for infection. These diagnoses provide a framework for planning and implementing targeted nursing interventions.

The nursing interventions focus on improving oxygenation and ventilation, promoting airway clearance, providing emotional support to reduce anxiety, and preventing infections. These interventions may include administering supplemental oxygen, positioning the patient for optimal lung expansion, facilitating coughing and deep breathing exercises, providing chest physiotherapy, administering medications, and implementing infection control measures.

In conclusion, the nursing care plan for acute respiratory failure provides a comprehensive and systematic approach to managing this complex condition. Through diligent assessment, targeted interventions, and ongoing evaluation, nurses can contribute to the provision of safe and effective care, leading to improved patient outcomes and enhanced quality of life for individuals experiencing acute respiratory failure.


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