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WRNMMC nurses recognized for work with Virtual Cardiac Rehab

Image of Two military personnel wearing face mask standing on gym equipment. Nurses Tatiana Aupont and Kimberly Chapman pose with some of the equipment utilized for the Cardiac Rehab Program at WRNMMC. Since March of 2021 the Cardiac Rehab Program has been completely virtual. Chapman and Aupont organized and oversee the management of the ongoing virtual program (Photo by: Harvey Duze, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)

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This week the medical community celebrates those who work in the field of cardiac health.

For patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, two nurses, Tatiana Aupont and Kimberly Chapman, have shown dedication and innovation in the field of cardiac health throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. By establishing a virtual cardiac rehab center, Aupont and Chapman are helping their patients heal during this unprecedented time.

Before the pandemic hit the nation, the Cardiac Rehab Center at WRNMMC had patients meet in person for their treatment. According to Chapman, patients would come to WRNMMC three times a week for vitals readings and to do exercise routines. The patients who visited the Cardiac Rehab Center are those who had recently undergone cardiac surgeries, had heart attacks or heart failure, and needed to repair their heart.

When the pandemic hit however, the patients who went the Cardiac Rehab Center were unable to come to the hospital in person. According to Chapman, these patients were at a higher risk due to their health conditions that brought them to the Cardiac Rehab Center in the first place. Chapman and Aupont got right to work and quickly instituted a virtual Cardiac Rehab Center to help their patients. “We didn’t have much turnaround time to do this,” said Chapman.

Chapman went to her leadership to propose a virtual rehab. “We have a large elderly population and we have lots of patients who have had heart surgeries and heart failure that we work with. These people have an increased risk for complications from COVID-19” said Chapman. According the Chapman the leadership encouraged her to create the virtual rehab telling her, “If you create it, we’ll support it”.

 “Within two days I created everything virtual. We did everything through secure messaging within the patient portal. We created virtual exercise cards, and we got everyone virtual,” said Chapman.

According to Chapman the Cardiac Rehab Program has been seeing all of its patients virtually since last March.

While it may seem difficult to successfully do an intensive rehab program virtually, according to Aupont, the patients are quite pleased with the program. “Believe it or not, their adapting quite well. A lot of the patients already had some of the exercise equipment we utilize such as elliptical machines, recumbent bikes, and some even had weights at home,” said Aupont. According to Aupont many of the patients had smart watches and step trackers that they could use to monitor heart rates. Some patients would walk outside and utilize hills and the space around their home for their treatment. “We adapted to what they had available,” said Aupont.

Aupont continued to explain how the virtual rehab has been a success, with most patients passing their post rehab stress test. “This shows that the rehab has been successful, which was the goal of the virtual rehab,” said Aupont.

The virtual appointments have also helped the patients emotionally as well. “We will call patients to check in and see how their doing,” said Chapman, adding, “Many of our patients are elderly and they haven’t been going out much during the pandemic. When we call them and ask how they are doing they get some much needed human interaction. I think it really helps them in not only their treatment, but just their general wellbeing during the pandemic.”

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