rehab team is transforming lives

Ruth Milican (Blue Uniform), Natalie McGowan (Light Blue Uniform) and the Pulmonary Rehab class
Ruth Milican (Blue Uniform), Natalie McGowan (Light Blue Uniform) and the Pulmonary Rehab class

A small team of health care professionals is transforming the lives of people with breathing difficulties in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Pulmonary Rehab Team is led by Specialist Physiotherapist Ruth Millican and includes Physiotherapist Jennifer Graham, Specialist Respiratory Nurse Margaret Gall and Physiotherapy Support Workers Natalie McGowan, Janet Anderson and Donna Coulter. The team provides a specialised assessment and personalised exercise programme designed to teach people how to manage long term conditions which affect their breathing.

Ruth said: “We work across the region with people who live with a variety of long term conditions which affect breathing including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, bronchiectasis and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). Many of these conditions cannot be cured but a tailored exercise programme can help people to live with their symptoms, particularly breathlessness.

“People are referred to us by GPs, nurses, inpatient wards and other clinics. We invite them in for a pre-assessment where we ask some questions and check how far they can walk and assess their breathing. The following week they start a six week programme - at Crichton Hall and at home - which is designed to exert, without overdoing it. Each week we increase the exercise levels and in the last two weeks people are asked to develop their own plan to increase their independence.

“We also teach them techniques for managing breathlessness and encourage them to continue with exercise after the programme is over. In the final week we repeat walk test and some of the questions. In the majority of cases we see an improvement in their ability to cope with breathlessness and an increase in physical activity.”

Specialist respiratory nurse Margaret Gall said: “This programme is a great example of using early intervention and education to address people’s symptoms before they impact on their daily function. By supporting people to manage their conditions we help them stay at home, feeling well for longer.”

Physiotherapy support worker Natalie McGowan added: “We hold these classes at Cluden Gym at Crichton Hall in Dumfries but we also use the health centre at Sanquhar, the hospital at Newton Stewart and Council gyms in Annan, Castle Douglas and Stranraer. There is a real social element too and we have several patient led groups across the region.”

With socialising in mind the team has organised a muffin and juice sale to mark the British Lung Foundation’s Big Breakfast for World COPD Day on Monday 23 November.

To find out more about pulmonary rehabilitation in your area, please contact Ruth Millican on 01387 241 452.