People suffering from COPD and other chronic lung conditions have many medication options open to them these days. But for many of these patients, the best medicine they can get comes in the form of pulmonary rehabilitation. These programs – some provided on an inpatient basis, but most offered in the outpatient arena – combine regular exercise in a group setting with targeted education and support services aimed at helping patients manage their disease so they can live their lives to the fullest.
Working in a PR program isn’t for everyone. But if you love talking with your patients and helping them move forward to a better life, it may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Rita Edwards, RRT, RPFT, is a disease manager at Paoli Hospital in Paoli, PA, who regularly works with PR patients. She has this advice for anyone who might like to enter the field –
Have a desire to see patients succeed in managing their disease process. Treating patients with a chronic lung disease in the critical care setting is just the beginning, especially if they are newly diagnosed. Patients need help understanding the significance of their new treatment regimen and how to manage it at home, then to re-emerge back to work or social life. This frequently (and should for the most part) include enrolling in pulmonary rehabilitation.
Become a lung health navigator! Once a patient enrolls in PR then the therapist helps the patient initiate, engage, and continue their COPD treatment program for self-management. Being an advocate is also definitely required!
Understand the guidelines and regulations for pulmonary rehab programs. Outpatient billing is different than the inpatient side. Medicare has strict requirements for PR, and organizations such as the AACVPR and AARC have the guidelines to create or maintain a great program.
Become an expert in goal-setting for COPD patients. When patients enroll in PR, they want to be able to do more. Sometimes their goals are easily set, especially if it’s the initial setback and new diagnosis. Other times it’s more difficult for them, especially if they have to reset their baseline of health and/or reinvent or reset their roles.
You can learn much more about working with chronic lung disease patients by taking the AARC’s online Pulmonary Disease Educator Course.
Want to network with AARC members who work in pulmonary rehabilitation programs? Consider joining the AARC’s Ambulatory and Post-Acute Care Section to meet people who can help you get started in the area.