Circulation, the Journal of the American Heart Association, published an article in December 2009 reporting on a Duke University study of the “Relationship between Cardiac Rehabilitation and Long-Term Risks of Death and Myocardial Infarction among Elderly Medicare Beneficiaries.”
The study and resulting report supported what the staff of the Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs at Mercy St. Charles Hospital has long known to be true – that cardiac rehab can improve long-term patient outcomes.
Cardiac Rehab is designed to help patients who have undergone a cardiac event, including but not limited to a heart attack, stent or heart surgery, to regain cardiovascular strength and endurance for improved health and quality of life.
Samantha Christie, RN, BSN, senior clinical coordinator of the Heart Failure Clinic/Cardiac Rehab at St. Charles, said both the rehab staff and patients were excited to see the Duke report on evidence of the importance of cardiac rehab.
“There has been anecdotal information out there for years that says it helps,” she said. “But this is the first study that has put some numbers behind it. We witness firsthand every day in our program the difference that Cardiac Rehab can make.”
St. Charles offers Phase II and Phase III Cardiac Rehab. “Phase I occurs when the patient is still an inpatient and consists of education only,” Samantha said. “Then, the patients come to us as outpatients for Phase II. They come in three times a week, and our nurses monitor them while they perform exercise on treadmills and recumbent bicycles and also perform upper-body exercises, while connected to a heart monitor. Our goal is to help patients achieve a 45-minute cardiovascular workout.”
The Cardiac Rehab nurses, all of whom are RNs, also conduct a lot of education with the patients and families.
“Phase III is the maintenance phase,” Christie said. “They can come for as long as they want. We have some patients who have been with us now for 10, 12, even 20 years. During Phase III, patients are mostly self-directed in terms of selecting and recording their exercises, but in our program, we still provide heart monitoring, which most programs no longer do in this phase.”
She added that she has observed that patients who continue with Cardiac Rehab experience better long-term outcomes. “We monitor our patients carefully and often times are able to detect a subtle problem early and intervene quickly before it becomes a major complication,” she said.
According to internal patient satisfaction surveys, patients appreciate the impact of Mercy’s Cardiac Rehab Programs. “We are always at 100 percent satisfaction,” Christie said. “ There is a lot of camaraderie among the patients and between patients and staff.
“We have a lot of fun while helping them accomplish their goals.”