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A patient’s perspective, the Glenfield and Leicester Hospitals Pulmonary Rehabilitation Programme
27 October 2023

Julie Slawson

Back in April this year we celebrated the five-year anniversary of the PRSAS programme. Part of the celebrations included an interview with Julie Slawson for a new take on the pulmonary rehabilitation experience: the patient perspective. Featured in the RCP's Commentary Magazine, her feedback has been a unique insight to the patient journey.

Julie has spent 30 years as a teacher and took on a role as caretaker for her family later in life. She was recommended a course of pulmonary rehabilitation, which was encouraged by her doctor, Professor Morgan.

Julie joined a 6-week programme at Glenfield and Leicester Hospital’s pulmonary rehabilitation programme. At first Julie was apprehensive of the pulmonary rehabilitation programme – as many patients are.

‘My first thought was, ‘How can I exercise when I’m ill?’’ Julie remembers. ‘But the staff emphasised that I’m not ill, it’s that I struggle to breathe. They helped me relax into the exercises and guided the class excellently.’

After 12 sessions, she showed great progress. However, she caught on to the high demands the staff were facing.

‘I noticed that the team had a lot of patients,’ Julie recounts. ‘They were having difficulties with having so much to do but would still take the time to support each of us.’

Julie signed up to volunteer with the programme, and swiftly completed the requirements.

‘When I finished the programme, I felt like there was something there that I could continue, and I could help the team that had helped me.’ Julie explains. ‘I had kept up my exercises through COVID, and when I returned to face-to-face, it was like I’d never left. The staff at Glenfield have really embraced me as part of the team.’

Now Julie volunteers as part of the programme, offering support in class to patients who are completing pulmonary rehabilitation for the first time.

’As new patients come in, I try to support them and show them that it isn’t a huge ordeal. At first, they can be nervous about feeling uncomfortable or in pain, so I try to help them feel that they can do it. I do the exercises along with them, and it shows them they can do it too. I find people talk more, especially about their background and their worries, and part of that is because they’d like to talk to someone who knows how they feel. There’s nothing like the lived experience. Making them feel comfortable and in a friendly environment helps them relax.’

Nikki Gardiner (clinical lead for cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation at Glenfield and Leicester) adds, ‘We’ve had some really good feedback from patients on this initiative. Alongside the team, the volunteers like Julie offer a huge amount of peer support which goes a long way to encourage patient engagement with the pulmonary rehabilitation programme.’

Another aspect to Julie’s role as a volunteer is her participation in the promotion of the service. Glenfield celebrated being one of the first 100 services registered to PRSAS in November 2022 – Julie was there celebrating with them, taking part in the sit-to-stand themed competition, as well as enjoying their fabulous lung-themed biscuits. At the event, she talked to many staff and the public about the work done by the respiratory team.

‘A lot of people don’t recognise or even know the work done by respiratory and pulmonary rehab teams. A lot of the people who visited the stall were even staff just from a different department who didn’t know what was happening.’

Glenfield and Leicester’s pulmonary rehabilitation programme was awarded accreditation in July 2021. Their service was commended for their strong team culture, creating an environment of inclusion. Assessors highlighted the patient information available and the involvement of patients in QI projects, especially in effective use of patient feedback. Julie says:

‘The team are incredible. I am very pleased that the work of the team is recognised, I would never have doubted that they would achieve accreditation.’

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