Lillie Harris, BSN, RN, CCRP has been with CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier’s Cardiac Rehab Program long enough to appreciate the difference between a traditional cardiac rehab (CR) program and a more comprehensive Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab (ICR) program. We recently connected to learn more about her program and experience with Pritikin ICR.

Lillie’s career path closely mirrors the story of CHRISTUS’ path to becoming an Intensive Cardiac Rehab provider. After graduating from college in the mid-90s, Lillie started working in the cardiac rehab program as an Exercise Physiologist. In 2008, Lillie decided to continue her education and head back to class, this time for a nursing degree. Shortly thereafter, the CHRISTUS cardiac rehab program underwent a revamp when it relaunched as a Pritikin Intensive Cardiac Rehab Program in 2015. When Lillie re-joined the cardiac rehab department as Clinical Director in 2018, an enhanced patient and staff experience was waiting for her.

CR to ICR: Comparing Experiences

Before introducing Pritikin ICR, CHRISTUS’ cardiac rehab program was about 90% exercise and 10% education. Occasionally, staff or Registered Dietitians visiting from the hospital would share a heart-healthy recipe or speak to patients about the importance of healthy lifestyle practices. The Pritikin ICR Program has offered much more structure to patient education with a strong emphasis on a heart-healthy eating plan, managing stress, cooking classes, and individualized consultations. As Lillie describes, “Intensive Cardiac Rehab is so much more thorough than the cardiac rehab that I remember!  Pritikin ICR practically spoon feeds us cardiac rehab…we run our program the Pritikin way, and it has been very successful.” Armed with comprehensive education at every visit, patients are motivated to make the most of their cardiac rehab experience and adopt lasting lifestyle changes.

While COVID waves have affected the program in the past few years, it has continued to be impactful in the Shreveport-Bossier Community with positive patient outcomes, a newly expanded facility, and a highly knowledgeable and compassionate team.

The CHRISTUS Shreveport–Bossier Cardiac Rehab Patient Experience

Referral/Scheduling Process

Once a patient has been admitted to the hospital with a qualifying diagnosis, they immediately begin their cardiac rehabilitation journey through risk factor education sessions. For those scheduled for surgery or a planned cardiac procedure, pre- and post-op daily education, as well as discharge teaching, are conducted by the inpatient cardiac rehab nurse.  As soon as possible, they are encouraged to get up and get moving by performing range-of-motion exercises and frequent ambulation.  Initial outpatient cardiac rehab appointments are scheduled before they ever leave the hospital. Depending on their diagnosis, patients typically attend their first outpatient cardiac rehab session 2-3 weeks after their hospital stay.

To accommodate patients’ hectic schedules, five different class times are offered. Most patients attend cardiac rehab 3 days per week. With continued social distancing, the max of patients per class is 12 with a total capacity of 50-60 patients per day.

Staffing

When patients arrive, they are immediately welcomed by the friendly staff comprised of exercise psychologists, registered nurses, a registered dietitian, and ICR Director Lillie Harris. Before getting started, patients complete several assessments. This includes a 6-minute walk test which is repeated at completion of the program where they often see 20%-30% improvement.

Patients know that ICR staff are the eyes and ears of their cardiologists, reporting back and occasionally identifying issues early on. This dedicated team routinely goes out of their way to check in with patients that have missed a session or two. “My team truly cares for each and every one of these patients – they become like family, and we treat them how we would want our own family members to be treated.” Outside of ICR, the team is involved in their community by administering health screenings, participating in American Heart Walks, and the annual American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women event of which CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier Health System is the local signature sponsor.

Facility Equipment

To accommodate different fitness levels and physical limitations, CHRISTUS offers a wide variety of exercise equipment and uses telemetry ECG devices to monitor heart rhythms.  Patients have access to the following equipment on site.

· Treadmills
· Recumbent/Upright Bike
· NuStep Recumbent steppers
· Rowers
· Recumbent Ellipticals
· Upper Body Ergometers
· Strength Training Machines
· Free Weights

Graduation

Once patients complete the cardiac rehab program, they are celebrated with a graduation ceremony. They play the infamous graduation song, “Pomp and Circumstance”, and take a picture next to their favorite exercise machine with their certificate of completion. Photos of program graduates are displayed on a big photo wall to encourage new and current participants. At the end of a patient’s cardiac rehab experience, these graduation ceremonies are often emotional as strong relationships have been built with peers and staff.

Program Highlights

With strong bonds made during the cardiac rehab journey, it’s not uncommon for patients to regularly return to visit the staff. There are two graduates that really made an impact on Lillie. The first patient, a retired surgeon, started the program in a wheelchair. He was initially quite grumpy and frustrated with his physical condition. Throughout the program, he made huge improvements and no longer needed his wheelchair.

The second patient was a young woman in her 30s who fully embraced the program. Not only did her rehab experience change her life, but it improved the lives of her family and support system. She successfully taught her young children how to prepare healthy food and prioritize their heart health. She is optimistic that her children will avoid having heart issues at such an early age.

We are honored to have the dedicated staff at CHRISTUS among our growing network of Pritikin ICR providers. Heart patients in the Shreveport-Bossier area are fortunate to have this ICR team serving their community.  CHRISTUS Shreveport-Bossier is indeed their Home for Heart Health!