Time for change: Rehabilitation service moves into larger space


After suffering a stroke earlier this winter, Ron Pranger of Brownstown lost movement on his right side.

He was unable to walk or move his arm, and his speech was impacted.

Now, Pranger spends three days a week at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour working with specialists on physical, occupational and speech therapy.

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One thing he didn’t lose is his sense of humor. Pranger likes to cut up with his therapists and give them a hard time.

He has made progress in his recovery and is able to walk with assistance from a cane or a walker. He also has recovered much of his speech, all thanks to his determination and the expertise of his therapists. He continues on working to restore range of motion in his right arm and hand.

Schneck Rehabilitation Services, which also includes sports medicine, pediatric therapy and wound care, has moved into the newly renovated third floor of Schneck’s outpatient care center. Up until now, the floor had remained shell space after a $60 million hospital expansion project was completed in the summer of 2008.

Discussions on the rehabilitation services renovation project began in June 2015 and work really got underway at the beginning of 2016.

The new rehab services opened to patients Jan. 18 and is nearly twice as big as the space it had occupied since March 2006 in the former Blue and Co. office building on Walnut Street across from the Jackson County Public Library. Before moving into that building, the department was located on the first floor at Schneck.

“So we’ve come full circle,” said rehabilitation services director Holly Wischmeier. “We were that first phase preparing for all the renovations in the hospital.”

The biggest and most noticeable benefit of the renovated space is the much larger area for the physical therapy gym, a separate pediatrics gym, a private area for wound care patients and an area for sports medicine.

“We went from 6,600 feet to 13,000 square feet,” Wischmeier said. “So much bigger.”

There also is plenty of shell space left on the floor for further expansion, she added.

By moving back to the hospital campus, it allows therapists to better meet all of the patients’ needs in one place. It also increased parking and allows patients to ride the hospital’s shuttle service.

“It’s easier for us to give multidisciplinary care because we can utilize all services here,” Wischmeier said.

After taking the elevator up to the third floor, patients and family walk out into a spacious waiting area. That area features unique decorative windows providing lots of natural lighting, and an uplifting color scheme of bright blue, green and orange.

The old building was outdated and dark inside with wood paneling, Wischmeier said.

The increased space provides for a less cramped feeling and better overall patient experience, especially for those who may be in wheelchairs or who use a walker or cane.

“Our waiting area in our old building had seating for about eight people,” Wischmeier said. “Now, we have seating for about 40. With our increase in space, we have more room for patients to move safely around, more room for privacy and just the whole decor is lighter and brighter. Walking in, it just makes you feel better than where we were at before.”

Another improvement is multiple check-in windows.

“Having one check-in window in our old building created quite the bottleneck of patients,” Wischmeier said. “It took much longer, and no one wants to sit and wait.”

On average, the department is seeing 90 to 100 people a day and in the past five years has seen a 38 percent increase in patients served, she said.

Stephanie Furlow, director of marketing for Schneck, credits the growing need for rehabilitation services to an aging population.

“We have a lot of baby boomers out there, and I think we offer a lot more different types of services,” she said. “It’s not just physical therapy and occupational therapy.”

Physical therapists focus on helping patients of all ages recover from injuries, surgeries, illnesses and accidents. Specifically, rehabilitation services treats musculoskeletal injuries, sports injuries, neurological injuries caused by stroke or other traumatic brain injuries, developmental delays and Down syndrome in children and provides gait and balance training to prevent falls in older patients.

The physical therapy gym features many pieces of exercise equipment, including cardio and strength machines such as recumbent bikes and treadmills to increase strength and stamina, weights to help build muscles and other machines.

“We had 14 people in here today at once working, and it didn’t seem crowded at all,” Wischmeier said.

With floor to window ceilings all around the gym, patients can enjoy looking outside and having the sun shine in on them.

Schneck is one of the few hospitals in the area that provides rehabilitation services for children and has a separate pediatric gym.

With a ball pit, swings and other equipment and toys that promote climbing and jumping and satisfy sensory needs, the pediatric gym is a “happy place,” Furlow said.

“You just want to play, kids and adults,” she said.

Occupational therapy helps people achieve and maintain independence by gaining or regaining skills for everyday activities, such as dressing or bathing oneself. Focus is placed on hand, wrist and elbow injuries, Lymphedema (swelling of the legs and arms) therapy and vestibular (inner ear/balance) rehab.

Speech therapists help in identifying and treating speech impediments and swallowing disorders at an early age so children can develop appropriate speech and language skills. Adults also may need speech therapy after suffering from a neurological disease or injury.

Wound care provides treatment for patients with wounds that are chronic or difficult to heal, leading to less risk of infection, increased mobility and less risk of hospitalization. Services include vacuum-assisted closure, wound dressing, compression therapy and removal of damaged tissue or foreign objects from a wound.

Wischmeier said the design of the newly renovated area is “more patient-centric,” with certain services closer to the front so patients don’t have to walk as far. It also makes the department more efficient, she added.

Another big part of Schneck rehab is sports medicine, which oversees athletics trainers at area high schools, including Seymour, Brownstown, Jennings County, Trinity Lutheran, Crothersville, Medora and Scottsburg.

Students who must have surgeries or treatments related to sports injuries also use the physical therapy gym and sports medicine area at the hospital.

A longer floor space with nothing in the middle gives students room to work up some speed to run and jump.

Wischmeier said the age range of patients is one of the unique and great things about working in rehabilitation services.

“We see the whole life span,” she said. “One of our therapists is trained to do infant swallowing evaluations. She is the only one around that does that service.”

The hospital has a total of 46 employees in rehabilitation services and employs bilingual therapists to address the needs of the local Spanish-speaking population.

For wound care, there is a separate waiting area and five treatment rooms, an increase of two from their previous location. There also is designated storage rooms for supplies.

“It’s all about increasing privacy, dignity and comfort for our patients,” Wischmeier said. “Rehabilitation services is how we help patients improve their quality of life.”

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