Partners in COPD

We love working with patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – so much in fact, we’ve created a support group for them. Our passion for treating patients with COPD started during our first year of the Respiratory Therapy program at Weber State University. We noticed the upward trend of hospital admissions for those with COPD and were fascinated as we learned more about the disease process in our respiratory classes. The fun and witty personalities that seemed to follow nearly all of our patients with COPD aided in our interest and enjoyment when treating them.

Coming Together
Last April, our interest turned from curiosity to action after we attended the annual Utah Society of Respiratory Care (USRC) Conference, a mandatory assignment for all Weber State Respiratory Therapy students. During the conference, Michael Galindo, MD, spoke on the importance of respiratory therapy in reference to palliative care. During his presentation, he said, “You know, it would be cool for someone to start a COPD support group.” Those words resonated with us for months. Once we discussed the idea with each other, the project began a reality by means of Williams’s unrelenting work ethic.

Partners in COPD meets twice a month, and we invite the public to join our free support group at McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah. The meetings are held the first and third Wednesdays of the month from 6:00-7:00 p.m. We encourage family members and friends of those with COPD to join the meetings. Topics change monthly and focus on aspects that will help make activities of daily living easier. The lessons focus on topics such as stress management, nutrition, exercise and medication. We make a concerted effort to cover points that will help in the adjustment and management of living with COPD.

Group Support
Although education is key for patients with COPD, we encourage social interaction among the group to create an environment of both learning and support. Being diagnosed with a chronic disease can make a person feel isolated and alone, but with the support of others experiencing the same diagnosis and lifestyle changes, the group dynamic works to inspire hope and more engaged learning among members. Group members swap tips and tricks they’ve discovered, creating a foundation for friendship and healing that many may not have been able to find on their own.

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The consensus from the group members has been overwhelmingly positive. Each meeting ends with gratitude and compliments. Most seem to be relieved to know that what they are experiencing is normal for their disease process and find comfort knowing that they are not alone in their struggles. Each meeting always ends with comments similar to, “Thank you very much. I feel like I’ve learned so much.” Comments like that only help to inspire us to pursue our plans of helping the support group grow.

Growth & the Future
Growth for the group has been steady and has shown to benefit the most from public announcements or articles written about the group. We are working to make Partners in COPD become a household name for those with COPD in the Ogden area and beyond. By presenting at Senior Centers, passing out fliers, doing early COPD screenings through the DRIVE4COPD campaign, and sending letters to clinics, pulmonologists, home care companies and more, the group is slowly making its mark on the map in the COPD world.

Future plans for Partners in COPD are to become a nonprofit organization and eventually create a Spanish speaking branch. We are saving to pay for costs to become a nonprofit organization so the group can remain free to the public. They are hoping to break into the Spanish speaking sector in the near future to spread education and support across the language barrier.

In addition to education and support, we are also using the meetings to collect data from each of the members. Using surveys, we are looking to see how effective our lessons are as well as learn common issues among patients with COPD. Ultimately, we would like to have a large enough focus group to compile and quantify data to improve evidence based practice and protocols for patients with COPD. We feel that by taking the time to educate and get to know our group members personally, we will be able to gather data that accurately reflects the struggles of patients with COPD and eventually approach the medical community with solutions to the problems.

With Medicaid and Medicare laws changing in 2015, we are seeking to quantify our findings to ultimately save the patient money. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, readmissions within thirty days of acute COPD exacerbations will no longer be reimbursed by Medicaid or Medicare. This new change in policy can dramatically increase the cost to the hospital and the patient. By educating those with COPD and their caregivers about how to properly manage COPD, hospital admissions and related costs can be avoided.

For more information about Partners in COPD, please contact Michelle Williams and Elizabeth Wilson at [email protected].

Michelle Williams and Elizabeth Wilson are Advanced Level Respiratory Therapy students in their final year of undergraduate studies at Weber State University. They are COPD Educator Certified through the AARC and are founders of the support group Partners in COPD. They would like to especially thank their Respiratory Therapy professors Lisa M. Trujillo, DHSc, MS, Paul Eberle, PhD, RRT, Janelle Gardiner, MS, RRT, AE-C, and Mich Oki, RRT, RPFT, NPS, RPSGT, for building the foundation to their knowledge of COPD, as well as helping the group grow and prosper.

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