Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center

As a part of Physical Therapy Month, we are sharing some of the surprising ways physical therapy helps patients here at SVMC.

What is Pulmonary Rehabilitation?
Pulmonary Rehabilitation is a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary exercise and education program designed to help you manage your chronic lung disease, decrease your shortness of breath, and improve your quality of life!

Who can benefit from the program?
Anyone living with a chronic lung disease!  This includes asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, interstitial lung disease, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, bronchiectasis, and lung cancer. 

Are you having trouble walking across the room, walking up a flight of stairs, or participating in your usual recreational activities due to shortness of breath?  Pulmonary Rehab can help decrease dyspnea and increase your stamina.  Have you recently been diagnosed with a lung disease, or been struggling for years?  Were you recently started on breathing medications or prescribed supplemental oxygen?  In all of these situations, we can help you understand your diagnosis and medications to get you moving and feeling better!

Who will you see at Pulmonary Rehab?
Our Program Coordinator is Caitlyn Boyd, DPT, a physical therapist at SVMC who holds a Certificate in Pulmonary Rehab through the American Association for Respiratory Care and the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehab.  Dr. Michael Algus, Pulmonologist at SVMC, is our Medical Director.  Registered nurses and respiratory therapists round out our team and provide care to patients in Pulmonary Rehab at SVMC. 

Pulmonary Rehab is a group exercise program.  Aside from staff, you will attend class with up to four participants.  While the lung problem for each patient may differ, there are similar medications, breathing techniques and symptom management strategies that everyone can benefit from.   Plus, the support from others struggling with their breathing is invaluable. 

Where are we located?
We are located in the Pulmonary Rehab gym on the main level of the hospital building, near Cardiac Rehab.  We have a variety of gym equipment used during supervised exercise sessions, to improve endurance and increase strength. 

When does Pulmonary Rehab meet?
Pulmonary Rehab meets two times per week for one and a half hour sessions for about eight weeks.  Upon graduation from our program, we offer a Maintenance Program two times per week for a small fee.  This allows you to continue exercising in our gym space and maintain the gains you made during your structured Pulmonary Rehab exercise sessions. 

What can you expect during a typical session?
Your blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels are monitored before, during, and after your exercise session.  We will teach you a warm-up routine to prepare your body for exercise.  We start with a few minutes on each of our machines that include an arm bike, recumbent stepper, and treadmill and try to build up to an hour of exercise!  This may sound impossible, but slow increases of a minute or two each session build up to an hour of exercise quickly. 

You will use breathing techniques to help you manage your shortness of breath while exercising.  Your vital signs are closely monitored throughout.  If you cannot walk on a treadmill, we will walk laps in our hallway with you.  If you need supplemental oxygen while moving around, we provide this for you. 

While exercising, we answer individual questions and discuss lung-related topics as a group.  We also teach you strengthening exercises that can be completed at home.  We encourage you to exercise in some form on days that you do not attend Pulmonary Rehab.  

Why should you attend?
Because the program works!  Exercise can help you feel and breathe better.  Even during the COVID-19 Pandemic, 76% of participants showed a significant improvement in their endurance, 48% felt a significant improvement in their shortness of breath, and 39% felt a significant improvement in their quality of life.  Depression and anxiety improved for 44% and 49% of participants, respectively.  The majority of patients feel their breathing during every day activities improved within a few weeks of starting the program. 

Pulmonary Rehab also helps to keep you out of the hospital.  If you have recently been hospitalized due to your COPD, your likelihood of being re-admitted within 30 days significantly decreases if you complete the program, as low as 0% in 2021 and 3.23% in 2020 at SVMC. 

How can you attend?
Pulmonary Rehab is covered by most insurances.  Your primary care doctor or pulmonologist can send a referral for Pulmonary Rehab to (802) 447-5429.  Most patients can begin the program within a few weeks, after completing an individual orientation session.  If you have more questions, please reach out to Caitlyn Boyd at (802) 447-5140.  Take the first step to breathing better today!

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