Heart Week: Meet Katie Palmer

Meet Katie Palmer – physiotherapist, Monash University PhD candidate and Victorian Heart Hospital Allied Health Transition Lead.

Can you explain cardiac rehabilitation and the work you do? 

Cardiac rehabilitation is about helping people make improvements to their lifestyle following a cardiac event or after a cardiac intervention, to support their recovery and return to a normal life. 

Our programs include educating people about exercise, diet, relaxation activities and better lifestyle choices, so they can make a meaningful recovery. We know depression can often follow a cardiac event so relaxation and more holistic activities can help add to a patient’s quality of life. 

How important is collaboration in improving cardiac rehabilitation? 

Without collaboration we wouldn’t have this program at the Victorian Heart Hospital. It was developed as part of my PhD at Monash University and there was extensive collaboration with clinicians. We also worked closely with consumers to ensure our program is engaging and patient-centred. 

What are some of the biggest challenges in cardiac rehabilitation? 

The biggest challenges are first identifying a patient who would benefit, then encouraging them to participate, and finally getting them to complete a program to improve their lifestyle. We offer a range of programs, including after-hours and via Telehealth so we can make it easier for people to participate. We know when a doctor encourages a patient to attend cardiac rehabilitation we get a higher take-up rate.  

What needs to happen in cardiac rehabilitation to achieve improved health outcomes for all? 

To improve outcomes we need enough programs to support the number of people coming through hospitals. Only one in five patients get access to rehabilitation and completes their program.  The research is clear that cardiac rehabilitation can prevent a secondary cardiac event or reduce the severity of an event.  

Can you share one key message you want people to know about (your area of expertise)/action they can take to improve their health this Heart Week? 

The key message is that any changes to improve your heart health can have a positive impact. We know that exercise and lifestyle changes can make a huge difference to your recovery and prevent future cardiac events. The hardest thing for anyone is actually making those changes and building that habit.