How training revitalized our aquatics program

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Joe Hilleary, Wesley Glen Retirement Community
Joe Hilleary, Wesley Glen Retirement Community

When a facility invests in a high-end modality, on-going training and programming around this equipment is vital.

I became Wesley Glen's Director of Therapy in February of 2017. Our facility is home to a high-end, state-of-the-art therapy pool. Sadly, when I reached Wesley Glen, the pool was underutilized. Those who had spearheaded the project aquatics program many years ago had moved on and with no programs or systems in place, the program lost focus.  

I wasn't much help; my aquatic experience was next to nothing. I knew the warm water therapy pool could help many of our patients but neither myself nor the staff knew how to integrate it into our existing outpatient or inpatient programs.

Training matters

We remedied this problem by working with the pool's manufacturer. They sent a customer “expert,” to help, someone who had walked in our moccasins in a similar facility. This training was a turning point. She opened our eyes to many treatment ideas and approaches that we could employ in scores of protocols. She educated us on the benefits of the system, which combines the value of water and technology (underwater treadmill, resistance jet, deep tissue massage and underwater video). The training sparked the therapists' minds and gave them the confidence to use the pool regularly for many patients.

That was several months ago. Our usage of the pool has increased and we're continually finding new applications for its use, helping many of our patients see gains they thought otherwise were unlikely or impossible.

Take Mary (name changed), in her mid-50s, suffered from chronic back pain. She had been through therapy many, many times at other clinics, reaching disappointing results through each round. She was discouraged.  

We put Mary in the water. We emphasized stretching and used the properties of water in her favor, such as buoyancy to take the extra pressure and strain off her joints. The viscosity and hydrostatic pressure reduced swelling and gave her constant resistance. Water increased the kinesthetic awareness of her body and promoted relaxation.  We were able to strengthen her in a way we weren't able to do with traditional land-based therapy. She saw immediate and lasting benefits.

Later, Mary joined our health center and continued with aquatic therapy. She verbalized many times to myself and our staff that, after working out in the water, “everything was easier, from the time I got up to the time I went to bed.” Her life was changed and it was amazing to see.  

A PR boost

Having the therapy pool and consistently using it has impacted our business through heavy word of mouth referrals. Patients tell their friends and physicians about their outcomes in the pool. Our reputation for improved outcomes is strengthening, month by month.

Besides improved outcomes, using the pool has changed our facility's culture. Non-therapy staff now bring up the pool, wondering if it might help a given patient. Word of its effectiveness has spread through the community and everyone is on board. They understand that the warm water therapy pool is here as a resource and a tool to help the patients, that it works, and that a vast and varied patient mix can benefit from aquatic therapy.  

Investing in modalities that bless our patients is the right thing to do. For these amenities to achieve maximum effectiveness — both from a revenue and a health standpoint — it's imperative that we continually train our staff and build programs.

Joseph Hilleary is a 2012 graduate of Rhodes State College in Lima, Ohio. He has over five years of experience treating patients in a variety of settings in the Columbus, OH area. Recently welcoming the birth of their first son, Noah, Joe and his wife Shelbey are enjoying the fun and excitement associated with parenthood. Wesley Glen, in Columbus, Ohio, offers a wide range of senior care and services, including independent living, assisted living, skilled rehab, and long-term care and is dedicated to providing the best services;   giving family, friends and residents peace of mind.


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