Published on May 03, 2019

OMC’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation: Improving Life One Breath at a Time

By Kim Wood

Pulmonary Rehab Patients

It’s Friday and Ozark Medical Center’s (OMC) Pulmonary Rehab patients and family members are gathering for their monthly luncheon.  They are wandering in and out of a dining room containing a mouth-watering array of lunch items.  This is the Ozarks, and these are some genuine country cooks.  The delicious smells greet you as you arrive at OMC Rehab. The friendly group is quick to invite you in, sharing their favorite recipes and recommendations for the best dessert.  

This event is about the fellowship for this group of patients, most of whom contend with moderate to severe lung disease, typically Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  These patients are faced with a chronic and progressive disease and often feel little hope in light of their diagnosis.  Anxiety and depression can be an unsettling side effect of COPD, in as many as 40 percent of patients.

OMC Pulmonary Rehabilitation can help sufferers of lung disease improve their ability to function and thus the quality of their life.  It is a program of education and exercise to help manage breathing issues, improve stamina while decreasing shortness of breath.  It does not replace medications but used in conjunction with them.  It helps put patients in charge and take back their quality of life.

After a thorough assessment, the OMC Pulmonary Rehab team creates a specific plan for each patient.  It may include a supervised exercise program, nutritional counseling, education, breathing exercises, and counseling or group support. The program will typically be 2 or 3 times a week, and last for four to twelve weeks or more.

OMC’s Pulmonary Rehab patients have had great success in managing their conditions.  For example, after discharge from a hospital stay for an acute exacerbation (AECOPD), they typically experience a re-admittance rate of less than 3 percent.  The national average is 19 percent within 30 days of discharge.  OMC Pulmonary Rehab participants armed with the tools to effectively manage their condition, significantly decrease this likelihood.

Another meaningful way in which OMC patients are succeeding is in quitting smoking.  A critical component of any Pulmonary Rehab program, OMC patients achieve an impressive 45-50% rate of quitting, compared to the national average for similar programs of 30%.

The therapists at OMC Pulmonary Rehab not only help these patients regain their quality of life but inject their care and enthusiasm for helping their neighbor.  When you work at a smaller healthcare system, everyone is somebody’s parent, grandparent, etc. which inspires compassion from the caregivers at OMC.

One such caregiver is Ruth Nabors, a Registered Respiratory Therapist with over 28 years of experience, who supervises the OMC Pulmonary Rehab program at OMC.  In an environment of shrinking resources, many other programs have shut down over the past few years, Nabors, with the help of her team, has been able to grow OMC’s program significantly.  She restructured the program in 2011 with four patients a day, and currently, she and her team see 20-30 patients a day, with more on a waiting list. The Pulmonary Rehab team includes Becky Russell, Rehab Tech, and Claribel Newton, RRT,  which are a vital part of this successful department.

At the luncheon, everyone greets one another like old friends with big smiles and hugs for one another, and especially for Nabors.  She welcomes everyone with enthusiasm and humor.  She and her fellow clinicians’ dedication to these patients are apparent, not just as caregivers, but as friends.

A vital part of a successful pulmonary rehabilitation program is the skill and knowledge of its healthcare providers.  Recently Nabors earned the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Certificate developed jointly by the American Association of Respiratory Care (AARC) and American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). The certificate program provides pulmonary rehabilitation specialists the knowledge necessary to be a productive member of the pulmonary rehabilitation team and demonstrates their adherence to best practices in their field.

“Ruth is an inspirational person, leader, and therapist. She constantly maintains an attitude of optimism and joy, spreading happiness throughout her staff, their patients, and other coworkers.  Ruth truly takes ownership over the pulmonary rehabilitation program and will do absolutely anything necessary to ensure the best possible outcome for patients,” said Josh Drummond, Director, OMC Rehabilitation Services.  “Ruth is an exceptional asset to OMC in our community, there are not enough good things to say about her, her staff, and the program that they run.”

In speaking with Nabors, she can’t help but gush about the friendships and support that have resulted from the program. “There are lots of beautiful smiles (in these pictures),” said Ruth Nabors, RRT, OMC Pulmonary Rehab.  “Several patients have become friends and started meeting to eat breakfast or meet at the Senior Center.”

For more information about how OMC's Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program can help people suffering from chronic lung conditions learn to get more enjoyment out of life, call the OMC Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department at 417-257-5959.

Ozarks Medical Center is a system of care encompassing eight primary care and 16 specialty clinics, along with complete rehabilitation, behavioral healthcare, and home care services. While the 114-bed acute care hospital cares for more than 5,400 admissions, the entire medical system has more than 364,000 patient visits annually, in South Central Missouri and Northern Arkansas.

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