Canadian Lung Association Blog

COPD support team gives as good as they get

“I feel pretty lucky. I get to meet the most amazing people,” said respiratory nurse Beth Hutchins.

Trish Verrier - COPDBeth is one member of the St. Paul’s Hospital COPD Outreach Team, a pilot program aimed at helping COPD patients remain healthy and well at home or in their communities.

“Many of our patients are living alone, without family around.  They’re vulnerable, even more so just after they’ve suffered a lung attack (an acute flare-up of COPD symptoms). So the sooner we can put home support in place, the better. Ideally this happens soon after they are released from the hospital.”

The program emphasizes education and self-management, as well as ongoing monitoring to ensure discharged patients continue to do well at home.

“We help patients learn to take care of themselves and their condition better,” said Beth. “For example, I catch patients doing everything from over-medicating to using their inhalers, but with just a little guidance, some hands-on time in their homes where they’re comfortable, they do so much better.  And of course, I always listen for irregular sounds in the lungs. If necessary, I’ll bring the patient back to the hospital.”

Patients enrolled in the COPD pilot program are supported by an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals including social worker Lisa Krahn.

“When you’re feeling sick and struggling to breathe, the most basic activities can be overwhelming. I help patients fill out Fair Pharmacare forms, find resources such as Meals on Wheels, or search for suitable housing.” said Lisa.

“COPD can be a very isolating disease. As a patient’s condition progresses, everything becomes more difficult and they don’t have the energy or always know how to access programs and services,”she continued.

A proven success, the program has already demonstrated reductions in patient hospital re-admissions and improved hospital/community communications. Unfortunately, at present long-term funding has not been secured.

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Tracey Jirak

Tracey Jirak is a Health Promotor with BC Lung Association's QuitNow.

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