Michigan Association of Health Plans

Using Exercise to Improve Patients’ Lives

As an exercise physiologist who works at McLaren Greater Lansing’s cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation center, Laura Vaughn calls herself a wellness coach for people with chronic diseases. In a nutshell, she is trained to use exercise to help people treat various health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or heart disease.

“We measure outcomes and teach people what exercises will help them best manage their conditions, because what’s good for someone with diabetes might not be good for someone with cancer,” said Vaughn. “We think of exercise as medicine. You need to know the right kind, the right strength, and the right frequency for it to be most effective.”

While much of Vaughn’s work is based on science and scientific observation, the human side of it is also extremely important to her. Vaughn views her patients as friends, knowing them so well that she can tell you the names of their dogs, the number of grandchildren they have, and what their personal struggles are.

“I feel I can create trust where maybe someone didn’t have it before,” said Vaughn. “That I can make people feel comfortable with the idea they have a chronic condition, but that doesn’t mean their life is ending. That they can manage it, understand what their disease process is, and learn how to deal with it.”

Effectively coping with a disease or chronic condition often requires one to follow a prescribed exercise and rehabilitation routine. But some lack the health insurance or the financial resources to pay for such care. That’s why Vaughn has worked with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in recent years to secure grants to help patients increase their access to rehabilitation.

“Over the years I have seen countless people who could have benefitted from rehabilitation,” said Vaughn. “But they were unable to participate because their co-pay was too high or their deductible was too much, or the distance they had to travel to get to a rehabilitation facility was too long. They simply did not have the resources needed to get proper care.”

Vaughn’s success in attaining grants resulted in her leading a panel of rehabilitation professionals who spoke about their experiences at the virtual American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR) conference that ran from October 6 to 9. Speaking at the conference made Vaughn eligible to receive a distinguished service award or the Dr. Linda K. Hall Innovation Award from the AACVPR, but she hopes most that the knowledge she shared with her audience will help them secure funds for their own patients.

Vaughn’s concern for the well-being of her patients is a distinct characteristic that is seen among each of the compassionate staff members who work in the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation center at McLaren Greater Lansing.

This article originally appeared in the McLaren Health Blog. Read more here

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