Newman Regional Health is continuing its commitment to helping patients recover and reach their fullest potential after disabling injury and illness with the expansion of its Inpatient Medical Rehabilitation Unit.

Housed on the second floor, the unit has recently expanded from seven to 10 beds for patients ages 18 and older who need inpatient care while also requiring three hours of occupational therapy, speech and language therapy or physical therapy per week. The goal is to help patients recovering from strokes, neurological disorders, orthopedic procedures, hip fractures, amputations and major trauma get back to their baseline status.

A ribbon cutting ceremony and open house will be held from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Thursday on the second floor to celebrate the growth of the unit. Snacks and light refreshments will be provided and no RSVP is necessary. The public is invited to attend.

Dr. Alana Longwell, medical director for inpatient rehabilitation and hospitalist program, said the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit interdisciplinary team — that includes therapists, social workers, physicians, unit nurses and the patient — is what makes the program successful.

“It’s an interdisciplinary team that’s led by the physician and the patient, but everybody from nurse aides to therapists to therapy assistants has a role in getting the patient comprehensive care,” Longwell said. “Our team is able to meet every single day, and we talk about most patients every day.”

The team also meets once a week to discuss the specific goals and challenges for each individual patient on the floor. This way the team, along with the patient, are always moving toward a progressing set of goals. Longwell said it’s building on top of Newman Regional Health’s overall mission of improving the health of the community through quality care.

“Our philosophy on top of that is the team,” she said. “It’s all about the team, because as a team we can do thinking outside of the box with the patient very involved in that team. ... That way the patient feels very included in the care that they get every day.”

Rehabilitation Director Sheila Raaf agreed, and added that the team has a goal of treating patients not only physically, but also emotionally.

“Rehab is designed to help patients get back to home or back to their baseline status,” Raaf said. “We want to treat them physically, but their mental health and emotional health is just as important to us, because that’s how they are going to make gains. If they feel like we are investing in their future and well-being — and I think we have a staff to do that — the patients feel very comfortable sharing their feelings with us.”

With patients averaging hospital stays of 30 days or more before coming to the rehabilitation unit, making sure those emotional health needs are met is vital. Patients can go through a grieving process while undergoing rehabilitation, whether they are recovering from traumatic brain injuries that require them to relearn how to speak or do everyday things, like using utensils or learning how to navigate life after losing a limb to amputation.

That’s why it’s important for everyone on the team to acknowledge and validate those feelings.

“They have a long road, and to acknowledge how they’re feeling and why they’re feeling that way, and to make it normal for them is so important,” Raaf said. “We accept them and we’re here to help them. That makes a big difference in how they improve.”

“It’s very much a life-changing event,” Longwell added. “The goal as we’re physically rehabbing them is to help them figure out how their new life is going to look.”

A choice close

to home

Longwell said the important thing for people to know is, they have a choice as to where they receive inpatient medical rehabilitation — even if they are initially patients at another hospital or facility. Being closer to family and friends is a huge benefit during recovery.

“They have a choice to come back to Emporia,” she said. “If they want to come home, all they have to do is tell the discharge planner at the facility they go to that they want to come back to Emporia’s rehab and they will send us a referral. We’ve even had families who know we are here who have asked us to call the case manager to send a referral. We’re here and if they want to come home, we’d be more than happy to help them.”

Raaf said the benefit of of Newman Regional Health’s rehabilitation unit is the privacy of single-patient rooms with around-the-clock nursing care and therapy services. The hospital’s on-site dietitians, imaging services, pharmacy and durable medical equipment helps keep patients from having to seek care out of town, too.

“In a lot of cases we’re equivalent to Kansas Rehabilitation Hospital in Topeka, so if you can save your family from having to drive to Topeka and have family and friends and your support group here, you rehab quicker and do better,” she said. “And, it’s less stress on the family.”

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