Nephro-Glider Patients Support Each Other

Nephro-Glider Patients Support Each Other

By Stephanie Johnstone, LCSW

In the spring of 2001, several patients at Fresenius Medical Care—San Diego started a walking group called the Nephro-Gliders Health Support Team. Patients met initially in a depression management class run by the social workers at FMC—San Diego. To manage depression, they were assigned the task of increasing their social and physical activity.

“We were isolated, and the depression class taught us that,” the patients recalled. “We wondered how we were going to accomplish this new assignment.” Then they thought of meeting once a week in a local park to “Nephro-Glide” together. The result: a successful physical and social rehabilitation program that has improved functioning and quality of life scores in most participants.

Weekly Walks The group meets every Tuesday morning in Balboa Park at the start of their walking route. The Nephro-Gliders are easy to spot in their bright blue T-shirts, provided by FMC. The Gliders welcome other walkers who join them, including those in walkers and wheelchairs, and any family members who come for support. Grandchildren feed the squirrels, and spouses enjoy support time with other spouses.

FMC-San Diego social workers rotate schedules to be present at the park, to introduce new gliders, and to offer support. However, the program remains patient-driven Eligibility to participate in the program is determined by the patient—s nephrologist.

Many Nephro-Gliders start slowly—at first gliding for less than 1/8 mile. Many improve with time, and several are now up to 1.5 miles each Tuesday morning. It is a go-at-your-own pace event. Gliders tend to cluster in groups that match their abilities. The great thing is that everyone fits in, despite his or her fitness level.

Last spring, on the program’s one-year anniversary, the Nephro-Gliders sponsored a breakfast in the park to recruit new patients into the program. “It was wonderful,” remembered Dr. Kenneth Chung. “Everyone was so happy.” The quality of life data explain why.

Positive Results A sample of 15 Nephro-Gliders, when compared to 43 randomized patients who were medically eligible but chose not to participate, showed that the Nephro-Gliders were more likely to perceive an improvement in three areas on the SF-36 Health Survey. Since starting, 33% of Nephro-Gliders perceived an improvement in role physical, 40% perceived an improvement in physical functioning, and 60% perceived an improvement in the overall physical component summary (PCS) scale.

When asked, Gliders were able to easily explain why they are doing better since joining the program. One noted: “Since starting to walk, I feel more energy and calm. I also feel I have accomplished something by walking and being more active.”

Other Nephro-Gliders reported that having a new “social outlet” and a place to “interact with others in my same situation,” have helped. “It is like we are a big family.” Nephro-Gliders also noted that the program helped them feel stronger, sleep better, experience less pain, and be in a better mood.

The social workers have a similar view. “It is the highlight of our week to see the patients gather. But the real joy is to then watch them, over time, improve in every way.”

Name: Stephanie Johnstone, LCSW
Title: Clinical Social Work Supervisor
Organization: Fresenius Medical Care (FMC)—San Diego
San Diego, CA
Date: 2003

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