Physical therapy students gain new training venue in Prince George

Physical Therapy student Chris Kennedy tracks the progress of cardiac program patient Gordon Johnson.

UBC physical therapy students will learn how to help heart and lung patients regain physical capacity, thanks to a new program serving people around Prince George.

Based at the YMCA of Northern B.C., the program provides referred patients with individualized, monitored rehabilitation exercise and education sessions on lifestyle changes and self-management, which are delivered by a certified clinical exercise physiologist, a physiotherapist, and physical therapy students.

“Something as simple as taking a breath can be a matter of life and death for those with heart or lung disease,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “This new program helps patients to better manage their condition as well as aligning with the Ministry of Health’s plan to provide more supports in the community to help keep people out of the hospital.”

The Prince George Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program is a partnership between the Northern and Rural Cohort of the UBC Department of Physical Therapy, Northern Health, and the YMCA. The Northern and Rural Cohort, launched in 2012 by UBC and UNBC, consists of 20 Masters of Physical Therapy (MPT) students who do the majority of their clinical learning in Northern B.C. and rural communities across the province.

The certified clinical exercise physiologist and Northern Health physiotherapist will lead the physical assessment, exercise prescription, education, and evaluation of patients in the program. The physiotherapist will also instruct and supervise the MPT students, who will work with patients as part of their clinical training.

“As part of UBC’s effort to train a new generation of physiotherapists in rural and remote settings, we are working with partners to expand educational opportunities, and provide much needed health services in the North,” said Robin Roots, the coordinator of UBC’s Northern and Rural Cohort. “This program follows similar initiatives, including a student-led rehabilitation clinic in Prince Rupert and the implementation of physiotherapy services at the Central Interior Native Health Society in Prince George.

“Many individuals struggle to return to everyday physical activities after acute cardiac events or pulmonary conditions,” Roots added.” This program will assist them in regaining their function to participate more fully in community.”

Funding for the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs comes from UBC Northern and Rural Cohort and Northern Health, with the YMCA providing in-kind contributions through use of its facility and equipment.

“This partnership will help improve access to cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation services in Prince George,” said Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount. “When our family experienced a major cardiac event we learned first-hand the importance of support programs like this one. It is great that area patients will now have access to supports to improve their quality of life, while future health care professionals will gain valuable experience and hopefully decide to stay and practice in our region.”

Each year, more than 400 new cases of cardiovascular disease and 350 new cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are diagnosed in the Prince George area. In 2015, almost 300 patients were admitted to UHNBC for acute coronary syndromes.

“This supervised exercise rehabilitation program in Prince George offers a much-needed service to our residents,” said Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris. “With its focus on healthy living and prevention, patients and their families will be provided with expert advice on building healthy habits for a lifetime.”