WalkMore program helps keep patients mobile
If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
That’s certainly true for patients in hospital who are able to walk but don’t because of the misbelief that they either can’t or shouldn’t leave their beds.
Being immobile for any length of time is especially impactful on older adults who can lose muscle strength, balance and agility at a quicker rate than those who are younger.
To this end, London Health Sciences Centre has undertaken a volunteer-based walking initiative for patients who can walk independently, created by Drs. Erin Spicer, Marko Mrkobrada, Rob Petrella and Matthew Ramer.
Aptly named the WalkMORE program, the initiative began at LHSC’s University Hospital in January 2018 within the Medicine Department for patients who are admitted to hospital and not receiving physiotherapy as part of their treatment.
The participants are patients who were fit before they came into hospitals and may have a condition such as pneumonia. They come in for medical needs and then sit in bed during the time they are here. The result is deconditioning, especially in older patients who often feel they get stiff and out of shape quickly.
The goal of the program is to maintain activity and hopefully reduce complications due to hospitalization. Another benefit of the program is that it promotes social interaction while in hospital.
How it works
Participating patients walk with a volunteer ‘coach’ twice a day. Additionally, they receive a pedometer to record their steps which they can also take home to encourage them to remain active.
The volunteer coaches do not assist patients with walking, but rather walk with them and have a conversation, it’s strictly hands off. If necessary, the nurses will get a patient ready for the walk by helping them get out of bed and putting on their footwear. The walks are done on the fourth floor Medicine inpatient unit at UH.
The volunteer coaches are part of the LHSC Volunteer Services program and, in addition to the volunteer program training, have received a further four-hour session to be walking coaches, a session which includes simulation training with an actor.
Research and results
When the WalkMORE program first began, everyone involved was surveyed over the following months and the feedback from patients, staff, physicians and volunteer coaches was overwhelmingly positive.
Importantly, the program was safe - there have been no falls or other incidents that could result in harm.
In June 2018, WalkMORE became a randomized control study looking at:
- Length of stay
- Hospital readmissions rate at 30 days
- Overall patient experience, and
- Steps tracked with a scientific pedometer
WalkMORE Coordinator, Stephanie Handsor, oversees the day-to-day operations and by December approximately 240 patients were eligible and consented to participate. She aims to have 700 patients participate in the study. The program averages about four patients participating at any one time.
“The objective is to prevent deconditioning of patients while in hospital, and the Medicine inpatient unit at University Hospital has a high percentage of patients over the age of 65,” says Handsor.
“It’s a basic concept, but it really makes a difference for our patients. It makes the whole hospital experience that much more positive for the patient.”