Staff and patients celebrate Cardiac Rehabilitation Week at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital

Last week staff and patients celebrated Cardiac Rehabilitation Week at HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, as part of February’s ongoing activities for Heart Health Month. 

The highlight of the week came on Friday, February 15th during the celebration and recognition luncheon for all current and past Cardiac Rehab patients. The heart-themed luncheon served patients a heart healthy menu and offered St. Elizabeth’s staff an opportunity to thank the patients.

“Being Heart Month and Cardiac Rehab week, we truly just wanted to celebrate these individuals. This luncheon is a sign of our love and support for each patient who walks through our doors and chooses us to help in their recovery,” said Program Facilitator Nicole Toennies.

St. Elizabeth’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program serves men and women of all different ages and health backgrounds. Patients have had heart attacks, coronary blockages, open heart surgery, heart transplants, heart valve repair or replacement and heart failures. It is a medically-supervised exercise and education program that assists patients in returning to normal activities such as work, hobbies and regular exercise, with the ultimate goal of improving their confidence and well-being to living a longer and much healthier life.

The Cardiac Rehab staff at St. Elizabeth’s has a combined experience of more than seventy-five years in cardiac rehab alone. Staff is involved in the recovery process for each patient starting at day one of their hospitalization. The cardiac rehabilitation program is offered in three phases. 

Phase One begins while the patient is still in the hospital. A follow-up with the patient once they have returned home starts Phase Two which is the outpatient, monitored rehab program. Phase Three is the maintenance program for individuals who would like to continue exercising within a supervised environment. 

Patients also have access to weekly education classes, provided as individual and group sessions. Classes discuss heart healthy tips and ways to prevent future heart disease, as well as sessions with the registered dietician and pharmacist. Additional specialized programs are provided to the patient through a stress counselor, respiratory therapist and spiritual care. 

The program also has developed camaraderie between the patients and lasting relationships with the staff.

“This program becomes more than just a gym membership. Some of the patients we see weekly… we get to know them and meet their families. We have so many past patients who even just drop in to say hi when they are visiting,” said Toennies. 

Toennies says the program schedule allows for relationships to be built not just between the physicians and the patients, but between the patients themselves.

“We have set class times and the patients come early so they can hang out and chat in the waiting room. It is so neat to see these individuals connect and build relationships. If someone is off for the day, other patients are worried about them,” said Toennies. 

Cardiac Rehab Week also serves as a celebration of the staff. 

“To say we each love working in Cardiac Rehab, is an understatement. Upon completion, patients often say they feel better than they have in years. Seeing their progress from day one to program completion is the ultimate reward. It is obvious that the staff truly care about each individual. As the Coordinator, I couldn’t be prouder,” Toennies said.

The program requires referral from a patient’s personal physician, and a majority of cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services are covered by most insurance carriers. Insurance verification and registration is done within the department for convenience for patients. Contact program facilitator Nicole Toennies at 618-234-2120, ext 12947 for more information.