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Chronic Heart Failure rehabilitation exercise program at SCU Health Clinic


Sharlene King
13 February 2015
Physical activity is recognised as an important recommendation for the management of Chronic Heart Failure. Now Southern Cross University, in conjunction with the Northern NSW Local Health District, is offering complimentary three-month treatment plans with ongoing exercise sessions.

Chronic heart failure is when the heart is unable to pump sufficiently to maintain blood flow to meet the needs of the body.

The Chronic Heart Failure rehabilitation exercise program recognises specific needs including physical deconditioning, breathlessness, hypertension and cardiac symptoms, which can be carefully monitored during physical activity.

Patients taking part in the program come to the SCU Health Clinic at the Lismore campus where they are assessed by an accredited exercise physiologist. An individualised exercise prescription is tailored to meet their specific needs. Following the initial assessment, patients take part in supervised, individual exercise sessions, guided by student exercise physiologists.

There is no time limit for patients to participate in the maintenance program and the first 12 weeks are free. Sessions run twice a week: Tuesday and Thursday.

Mary Tolhurst-Stuart is the Specialist Cardiac Nurse at Northern NSW Local Health District Heart Failure Service.

“Management of heart failure can be complex as a result of the patients multiple comorbid conditions, polypharmacy, dietary concerns, and psychosocial issues,” Ms Tolhurst-Stuart said.

“A multidisciplinary team approach incorporating a Specialist Cardiac Nurse can support the patient to remain well at home with education including incorporation of exercise and stress management into daily activities to reduce hospital admissions, reduce depression and improve quality of life.

“The heart failure exercise maintenance program at the SCU Health Clinic provides excellent ongoing physical activity advice and support for patients who wish to be more mobile.”

Neil Chapman, exercise physiologist at the SCU Health Clinic, said the program enabled heart failure patients to live more functional lives.

“The exercises are gentle enough that the patients feel comfortable and confident participating in the program. They are seeing practical benefits in their daily lives as a result of participating.

“From a student experience, the opportunities for the students to work with this population is valuable for their development as exercise physiologists. The patients and students are able to build a strong rapport.”

Heart failure patient Allan Griffin, whose tolerance to walking had been declining due to hip pain, said he benefited from the exercise support offered by the service.

“By going to that exercise once a week, it's sort of topping me up. It gets me active again, even if it's only for an hour it's great, it gets me up and gets me interested in doing things again,” he said.

To take part in the Chronic Heart Failure rehabilitation exercise program, patients:
• need a referral from their doctor, cardiologist or chronic care liaison person at the Northern NSW Local Health District
• must make a booking with the SCU Heath Clinic Lismore on (02) 6626 9131.

Photo: Patient Allan Griffiin (centre) with Mary Tolhurst-Stuart, Specialist Cardiac Nurse at Northern NSW Local Health District Heart Failure Service, and SCU Health Clinic exercise physiologist Neil Chapman.