Sport Rehabilitator at the frontline of Covid Recovery

24 February 2021

Treating patients in the ITU

Sport Rehabilitator, Ryan Smith is working with patients recovering from Covid in an ITU ward as a Respiratory Therapy Assistant. We caught up with him to hear more about how he is successfully working with patients on the road to recovery. 

What is your day to day role on the ITU?

I work on the ITU and COVID designated wards carrying out a variety of duties.

“Primarily I implement exercise programs designed to improve cardio-respiratory function, muscular endurance, and general overall strength.”

I also aim to restore our patients confidence in performing their ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living).

Have Exercise programs made the biggest difference in recovery?

Without a doubt, the early implementation of exercise programs, either in the ITU setting or the COVID designated wards, is an essential component of successful rehabilitation. We know that the recovery from COVID-19 is a long process, with issues ranging from severe physical activity limitations to the need for emotional and psychological coping strategies, as a lot of my patients are intubated and sedated on the ITU. 

Regular exercise has proved the difference, not only physically but mentally too, as our patients feel they are contributing to their own recovery which gives them a drive to improve.

How did you establish procedures for success?

It has certainly been trial and error, initially we knew that respiratory function was significantly decreased, so we needed to develop exercise programs to specifically target these limitations. Another challenge was the lasting fatigue due to the long ITU sedation and ventilation, so instead of developing a ‘core’ program we designed a framework template that was specific for each patient. 

This was patient centred rehabilitation; everyone has unique needs due to each COVID presentation being so different. Based on patient feedback and the positive results to date, this new approach is working well and we will continue to adapt our framework template as our knowledge and experience continues to improve.

“Every patient who leaves our service better than when they were admitted, is a success.”