What is spirometry?

Spirometry is a common test used to assess how well your lungs work by measuring how much air you can inhale, how much you can exhale and how quickly you can exhale.  It can measure how effectively air can be moved in and out of the lungs.

Spirometry is used as an aid to diagnose asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other conditions that affect breathing. Spirometry can also be used to distinguish between obstructive or restrictive patterns in lung disease.

 Why do we perform spirometry?

To aid diagnosis:

  • Checking for reversibility post-bronchodilator
  • Differential diagnosis between asthma and COPD

To assess and/or monitor:

  • Respiratory symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath
  • Disease severity
  • If a medicine is working
  • Intervention outcomes e.g. pre- and post- pulmonary rehabilitation
  • Occupational health impacts
  • Suitability for scuba diving

Spirometry testing requires skill in order to administer the testing and to interpret the results.  It is recommended that health professionals seek out proper training.

Courses available

There are a number of courses available for nurses and other allied health professionals to learn how to perform spirometry correctly.

The TSANZ and ANZSRS have developed a position paper on spirometry training courses.  It lists the components that are deemed essential for a recognised spirometry course. https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/health-professionals/education-training/spirometry-training

Training courses currently available include:

1. National Asthma Council offers spirometry training workshops nationally. They also provide a copy of the spirometry handbook.  Visit for more information: http://spirometryeducation.com.au/spirometry-training/online-course/

 2. Queensland Health also offers a spirometry training course that includes an online component, one-day practical workshop and a follow up workplace portfolio. Please refer to the below fact sheet which provides further detail regarding prices and how to enrol.

STP fact sheet v0 2 (81 KB)

3. Asthma Foundation South Australia offers a spirometry training course that was designed and developed by the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network. The Spirometry Learning Module comprises a web-based component, one four-hour face-to-face practical session and an ongoing evaluation of competency with feedback to participants. http://www.asthmaaustralia.org.au/sa/education-and-training/i-am-a-health-professional/health-professional-training/spirometry-learning-module

4. Spirometry Training Professionals offer an online training program: http://spirometryeducation.com.au/online-spirometry-training-course./ This program has been accredited by the Australian College of Nursing.

5. The Indigenous Respiratory Outreach Care (IROC) Program provides spirometry training for Indigenous Health Workers in locations across the state on request. They offer a two day course with hands on practical training, provided by two qualified Respiratory Scientists with the support of an Aboriginal Health Worker. This course is free to participants. Call (07) 3068 2330 or (07) 3068 4067 or contact: Leanne Rodwell: leanne.rodwell@health.qld.gov.au or Margaret McElrea: margaret.mcelrea@health.qld.gov.au

6. The Lung Health Promotion Centre at The Alfred in Melbourne offers an extensive 2 day face-to-face spirometry course for health professionals who care for people with asthma, COPD and other respiratory conditions. This training is endorsed by the Australia and New Zealand Society of Respiratory Science (ANZSRS) and The Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ). More information: https://www.lunghealth.org/courses-mainmenu-30/range.listevents/-

Spirometry in General Practice

The National Asthma Council Australia has developed a Spirometry Quick Reference Guide, a practical resource for primary care health professionals who perform spirometry.


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Case Study: Spirometry - Louise Barnes
Louise Barnes Pharmacy Case Study 180pxLouise Barnes is passionate about spirometry to diagnose lung disease. She runs a nurse-led spirometry clinic at Junction Medical in Nowra, NSW. Louise shares her tips for successful spirometry in a nurse-led clinic. Read more.