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BGH Announces New Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program

By Kathy Hubbard

Chronic lung diseases that are categorized as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): emphysema, chronic bronchitis, bronchiectasis, and chronic asthma can be controlled, but they cannot be cured. Learning to live with a debilitating disease is difficult; that’s where Bonner General Health comes in.

A pulmonary rehabilitation program was identified as a significant need for residents living with COPD in Bonner County, as there are no other services like this in our area. It is being implemented with the support of the respiratory therapists, RNs, and exercise physiologists at BGH.

If you are one of the 15.3 million people in the U.S. suffering from COPD, talk to your primary care provider and find out if the pulmonary rehabilitation program would benefit you.  Sessions are offered on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and are covered by Medicare.

“Pulmonary rehabilitation is a program of education and exercise to increase awareness about your lungs and your disease,” the American Lung Association explains. “You will learn to achieve exercise with less shortness of breath. The classes are offered in a group setting, so you get the chance to meet others with your condition.”

Pulmonary rehab is specifically designed to combine patient-centered exercise training, education, nutritional assessments, and interventions. The program is overseen by a medical director and managed by Franci Marks, RN BSN, Nurse Manager ICU, Cardiopulmonary, Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation

“We are very excited to add this new program to the services offered at BGH beginning Tuesday, March 3rd. The patients that participate in our cardiac rehabilitation program see improvement in their quality of life by managing their condition with healthier lifestyles. We are looking forward to seeing the same results for the patients who participate in our pulmonary rehabilitation program,” Marks said.

Additional support can be received by attending the Better Breathers Club, in affiliation with the American Lung Association. The group meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 1:00 p.m. in BGH’s classroom.  Through group education and discussion, attendees develop a better understanding of their disease and how to cope with activities of daily living.  These classes are free of charge for anyone with COPD or chronic lung disease, and their family or support system.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says that prior to pulmonary rehabilitation, your healthcare team may perform one or more tests. These tests may include an exercise stress test, and a pulmonary function test to measure your oxygen level, blood pressure, and heart rate while you exercise. In addition, prior to beginning the program, you may take a six-minute walk test to determine your baseline of activity tolerance.

Your pulmonary rehab plan may involve learning breathing techniques to better control your breathing and avoid feeling out of breath. “You may learn specific techniques such as pursed-lip breathing, yoga breathing, or breathing with computer-aided feedback. You may also learn ways to help clear mucus from your lungs,” NHLBI says.

In group or individual sessions, your pulmonary rehab team can answer questions about your lung disease and help you to manage it. “You may learn to recognize the signs of a flare-up early and develop a plan to avoid or manage one. You may learn how to conserve your energy and avoid feeling short of breath by finding easier ways to do daily tasks,” they say. And, if you smoke, they say that the team can help you quit.

In some instances, psychological counseling is advised. Often people with chronic lung disease suffer from depression, anxiety, or other emotional problems. And, we all know that those conditions can lead to overeating, so a portion of the rehab focuses on “what foods to eat and how to prepare meals to manage your condition and feel your best.”

The exercise portion of rehab will aim to strengthen your back, arms, and legs along with the muscles you use to breathe. “Training can also help you build stamina and flexibility,” NHLBI says.

“Patients will attend a one-on-one pre-assessment appointment with a Registered Nurse or Exercise Physiologist who will develop an individualized exercise plan specifically for them prior to starting the rehabilitation classes,” Marks explained. “The patient will attend classes twice a week for approximately eight to ten weeks, depending upon their individual needs.”

For more information, go to www.bonnergeneral.org or call 208-265-1045.


Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.


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