Delivering Innovative Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinics

Research Area: Health  | Status:  Ongoing | Led By: Student-led

The Challenge

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects roughly 2.5 million Canadians; however, only around 11,000 have ready access to a clinic for treatment. This is because most COPD clinics are located in hospitals, which are not always accessible—particularly for rural communities and older or at-risk populations. Treatment for COPD patients is a significant concern for New Brunswick. One in five seniors in the province currently suffer from COPD, and that number may continue to grow as seniors occupy an increasing proportion of the New Brunswick population. To help manage this public health issue, treatment and education must extend beyond the walls of hospitals and clinics and go into communities to provide access to COPD rehabilitation and supportive care.

The Solution

In 2018, NBCC launched an innovative student-led pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) clinic with support from local partners UNB Saint John, DalMed, and Horizon Health. The pilot program targeted people living with moderate to severe COPD and related disorders. The clinic was set up at the Allied Health Education Centre—a facility separated from the Saint John Regional Hospital, providing easier access for patients.

The eight-week pilot saw impressive results: patients reported improved quality of life and wellbeing. Many could walk farther with fewer symptoms than prior to the student-directed interventions. Building on this momentum, the project expanded to four more clinics, with further provincial expansion anticipated in the future.

The success of the PR pilot program has inspired other organizations to consider how they could replicate this model in their communities, bringing accessible COPD treatment to even more Canadians.

About the Collaboration

Students from NBCC’s Respiratory Therapy, Pharmacy Technician, and Practical Nurse programs, as well as the University of New Brunswick’s Bachelor of Nursing program, work in real-world settings alongside licenced healthcare workers. The experience of collaborating with other students and healthcare workers provides practical skills that will benefit future graduates throughout their careers. For patients, the benefits of this novel and innovative approach to care speak for themselves.

My name is Michelle. I was enrolled in the fall session of 2021.

When I began pulmonary rehab, I barely made it from handicap parking to the front door. Upon completion, I could do a couple hours of working out, drive back to Sussex, then continue on with afternoon activities. Something I hadn’t done in years. Pulmonary Rehab gave me and every participant keys to a successful energetic future. I was taught:

- What COPD is and how to ease future attacks
- How my medications work and how to take them effectively
- Exercise became enjoyment and fun!


Before Pulmonary Rehab I had no life, but worse I had no hope. Today, I overcame Covid-19, a harsh winter, and now have the ability to have a full, fun life with friends and family. By applying what I learned daily my life is fantastic. I am forever grateful.

Michelle, Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinic participant

We’ve achieved excellent results with our first clinics, and we know this model can be replicated in other communities—in New Brunswick and across Canada. Student-led clinics like ours not only provide more access to treatment, they reduce strain on our healthcare system and enrich the learning experience for our students. This project is transforming lives.

Tammie A. Fournier, B.Ed. (Adult Education), RRT, FCSRT, CRE, CTE, Academic Chair, Allied Health Department, School of Health, New Brunswick Community College

Project Partners/Funders


Dalhousie University
Horizon Health Network
UNB Saint John


Healthy Seniors

About Applied Research and Innovation
NBCC’s Applied Research and Innovation office helps businesses and communities find solutions to their challenges. Through its expertise, equipment, and facilities, NBCC helps its partners to solve problems, take advantage of market opportunities, and develop new, innovative processes that will enhance how New Brunswickers live, work and do business.