Major: Kinesiology and Health
Minor/option/emphasis: KIN-Exercise Science
Hometown/State: Ankeny, Iowa
Type of experience: Internship
Company/Organization: Mercy Medical Center
Company/Organization website: www.mercydesmoines.org
Title: Student Intern - Cardiac Rehab
Destination: Des Moines
Timeframe: 1/11/16, 4/21/16
Advisor/Coordinator Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I was responsible for...
My main responsibility in phase 1, which is their in-patient rehab, was to get the patients out of bed and take them on a short walk. The length of the walk always depended on their condition and how they were feeling. I started by taking their blood pressure and oxygen saturation just to make sure everything was in check before taking them for their walk. It was important to make sure they didn't have low blood pressure as that could put them at risk of becoming light-headed, and possibly fainting during the walk. We also had to make sure their oxygen saturation was above 90%, as well as hook them up to an oxygen tank if needed. Most patients would use a walker for stabilization, and I would strap them with a gait belt so that I could hold on the them for safety. When we get them back to their room we take their vitals one last time so that we can see how the exercise affected them. The final step is to chart this information, and how well they tolerated the walk. Phase 2 and 3 was their out-patient rehab. These patients are typically 2-3 weeks post-surgery, so they are getting strong enough to tolerate either walking on a treadmill, or riding on a recumbent bike or NuStep. Every patient is different due to what type of surgery they had, and how well they are recovering. When patients arrive they hook themselves up to a 3-lead EKG. They are trained how to do this at their initial interview, and we help them their first few times until they get it down. I would then be responsible for leading the patients through a quick 10 minute warm-up using either light weight dumbbells, or resistance bands. After that the patients hop on whatever machine they feel most comfortable using. We had two monitors that had every patients heart rate and rhythm's so they could be safely monitored during their exercise. This helped make sure that no patients were exercising at a dangerous rate. I would then be responsible to check vitals on 2-3 patients at least twice during their exercise. The patients then cool-down, and we require them to sit and wait until their heart rate and blood pressure come down to a normal rate before we send them on their way. The final step is to chart their information, and look at their EKG readings and make note of any irregular rhythms (e.g. PVC's & PAC's).
I will never forget...
My favorite part of this experience was getting to know some of the patients on a more personal level, and forming relationships with some of them. There is one patient that stands out to me because we got along really well, and I think I played a strong role in him getting stronger and staying motivated to push himself. When he first started he was really weak, and hadn't exercised in a very long time and was pretty skeptical about it. He had a very low resting heart rate due to all of the beta blockers he was on because of the surgery. At first he could only exercise on the NuStep machine for around 15 minutes, and his heart rate wouldn't get above the high 60's. He made a goal to try and get that heart rate up higher so that he could feel like he really was working his heart and getting it stronger. By the time he was finishing up in phase 2 he could walk on the treadmill for 40 minutes, and his heart rate would get up around 100 beats per minute. It was really cool and rewarding to see someone that I got so close to improve as much as he did, and know that I played a big part in keeping him motivated.
Advice for others...
My advice is to really pay attention during your last couple semesters of the exercise science program, because that's definitely the information that I used the most during my internship. I also recommend taking the EKG course that Iowa State offers if you plan on getting into cardiac rehab. I had little to no experience about EKG rhythm's going into my internship, and I had to take it upon myself to do some learning outside of the job. Being good with people and being personable is probably the most important part of this job. A lot of these patients come into the program skeptical, and not comfortable at all with exercise. It is your job to educate them, motivate them, and help them become more comfortable, ultimately making them realize the importance of exercise in improving their quality of life.