When you ask the team at Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s When you ask the team at Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s (KHSC) Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre to name the biggest obstacle their patients face in achieving a heart-healthy lifestyle they will tell you “change is the hardest thing.”
“Cardiac events can have a devastating impact on a person’s life,” says Sarah Roney, the team’s Dietician. Adjusting to the new reality is a shock to the system and can provoke some unexpected responses. “Sometimes people don’t always feel renewed engagement in their health,” says Kathryn Garner, Physiotherapist, “patients wonder ‘Why don’t I feel a huge motivation to change?’”
When it comes to making lasting lifestyle changes, the team may not always have the answers to the Why
but they certainly specialize in the How
. Located at the Hotel Dieu Hospital (HDH) site, the Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre is where hundreds of patients come, each year, to embrace an intensive 16-week program that includes guided exercise classes, education sessions and access to community support services.
By harnessing the collective expertise of physiotherapists, nurses, social workers, and dieticians, they have helped thousands of people across southeastern Ontario reclaim their health and their lives. “We trust one another and we all have a common goal,” says Susan Docteur, the team’s RN, and it’s a simple one: “We want our patients to get better.”
Developing personalized eating plans—based on bloodwork and health history—gives patients clarity about making healthy choices at a time when fad diets and nutritional misinformation abound. “People hear so much,” says Roney, “and it can be very confusing—what’s heart healthy and what’s not.”
Social workers connect patients to community supports and help them navigate the emotional ups and downs of recovery. “We are all able to pick up on different things,” says Nadia Taylor, Social Worker, “and support specific struggles.”
Physiotherapy helps to reduce anxiety and build confidence in moving again. “They’re nervous when they begin,” says Christine Tucker, “Many patients have never worked out before, but they know they’re being monitored and that makes them feel safe. As they go through the program and learn to manage their own health they become more confident. It’s amazing to see the transition.”
The team readily admits that the circle of positive change and empowerment wouldn’t be complete without peer mentors. “As much as we see change,” says Sarah Roney, “patients see changes in each other and they comment and encourage one another. That peer support is essential. The patient becomes part of the team.”
Seeing their patients come in at an all-time low, and then walk out on “Cloud 9” is all in a day’s work for the Cardiac Rehabilitation team. Lori Hanson is the team’s Secretary and coordinates the education sessions that help build success into the program even before the point of entry.
“I’ve seen some amazing things,” she says, “We used to have a patient who arrived every day in a wheelchair to do the exercise program. By the end of the program he was walking again. That’s big.”
In honour of Heart Month, the University Hospitals Kingston Foundation is grateful for the recent tribute gifts received through the Honour Your Caregiver program commending the life-changing work of KHSC’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre. Donations to the Honour Your Caregiver program support the purchase of new equipment, research and education across KHSC and Providence Care.