Sechelt Registered Nurse, Annelies Ravensbergen, launched a Pulmonary Rehab program in Sechelt last year. Now patients diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) no longer need to travel from the Sunshine Coast to the mainland for programs.
For patients diagnosed with COPD, a trip to a gym for rehab is unlikely if it requires hopping on a ferry to get to Vancouver for rehab programs. For COPD patients on the Sunshine Coast, that was the only option until recently. Few, if any, patients made the trek across Howe Sound.
COPD is a long-term lung disease often caused by smoking and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. There is no cure but patient self-management is important for quality of life.
“Although rehab programs exist in the city, very few patients from the Sunshine Coast will have the energy, money and transportation options to visit the city twice a week,” says Annelies Ravensbergen, the Sunshine Coast’s Chronic Disease coordinator. ”It’s especially true for our elderly population.”
Following up on her successful track record with the Cardiac Rehabilitation program she started in 2012, Annelies proposed a community-based Pulmonary Rehab pilot program that would partner VCH with the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) Parks and Recreation to help improve the quality of life for hundreds of COPD patients, and reduce visits to the emergency department and shorten hospital lengths of stay.
Annelies, who’s been a nurse for almost four decades, launched the pilot in March 2015. Patients attend eight lifestyle and eight exercise classes over a four-week-period. A second course was held in the fall. The aim now is to hold two courses a year while continuing to assess community need.
“Most people can improve and are willing to help themselves but they need education on their condition as well as support in making lifestyle changes,” explains Annelies, whose strong belief in innovation and sustainability in health care inspired her to get a Master of Science in Public Health and Prevention in 2011. “I’m passionate about best health for all – no matter if that health is currently compromised so making this possible in their own community is my goal.”
Karen Inkpen, Public Health and Prevention Manager, describes Annelies as a much-needed presence on the Sunshine Coast.
“Annelies has such a passion for the promotion of better health through self-management programs and community partnerships,” says Karen. “Her innovative programs are providing much needed services for clients on the Sunshine Coast.”
One patient who has benefitted from the program smoked for 55 years, having quit only for four months during that time.
“When told I qualified for oxygen I was in shock and denial,” he commented after a course. “This program has helped me get over my feelings of guilt, shame and self-blame. I was finding it difficult to be outdoors with my oxygen equipment. It has encouraged me to get back into exercise and walking after being house bound since being in hospital in early January 2015. Learning about the COPD condition has been very helpful, as well as learning from the experience of the other participants.”
Statistics show that a self-management approach directed by health professionals can significantly improve health status and reduce hospital admissions for exacerbations by 40 %.
Annelies meets with her COPD patients, who range in age from mid-5Os to 80, at community centre gym in Sechelt. The SCRD Parks and Recreation Department provides exercise specialists who work with Annelies. After a gym workout, the group heads to a classroom for lessons based on VCH Living with Lung Conditions modules and discussion, which has become an integral part of the program.
“Patients learn so much from each other through the discussions so I strive to create plenty of time for sharing,” says Annelies.