Getting better after a life-threatening illness is not just about physical recovery. Physiotherapist Dr Kimberley Haines wants to see all bases covered for ICU patients and their families.

WHEN Kimberley Haines started her physiotherapy career more than a decade ago, her focus was on the physical recovery of patients.

Working in critical care, she has treated some of the sickest patients in various hospitals in Auckland and Melbourne, helping them regain movement after serious illness.

But over time, Dr Haines realised there were so many more complicating factors for intensive care patients – and their families and friends, too.

“My background is as a critical care physiotherapist and I’ve worked in ICU for about 10 years. I’ve done a lot of what you expect of a physiotherapist, in terms of the classic rehabilitation,” Dr Haines says.

“But I guess over time I’ve realised that recovery after ICU just isn’t about one’s physical recovery. It’s much more complex than that. That’s where I kind of evolved into this space of trying to better understand recovery and survivorship for both patients and families.”

Since then, Dr Haines has become one of Australia’s leading experts on the topic.

She began with a PhD on the recovery of critical care patients and their families in Australia. Various grants and accolades for her work have since followed, including a prestigious award from the US-based Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) in early 2017.

The US$50,000 grant is being used to develop Western Health’s innovative peer support program for intensive care patients and their families.

In 2016, Western Health became the first health service in Australia invited into the THRIVE Peer Support Collaborative, run by the SCCM. The global group meets twice annually and holds phone conferences monthly, with the aim of sharing and devising strategies to develop peer support models for survivors of critical illness.

“It’s a really collaborative group and a very innovative group,” Dr Haines says. “It’s got this spirit of ‘try something and if it doesn’t work, that’s ok’. You just keep trying.”

Dr Haines’ latest project is an Australian-first and involves bringing staff, patients and their families together to design a peer support model to improve recovery.

Dr Haines, recently appointed Victorian state vice chair of the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society, says that just like ICU patients, family members were at risk of Post Intensive Care Syndrome.

“It can be a pretty stressful time so we have been measuring things like anxiety and depression in our recent studies,” she says.

The Greatest Need Project is an online story-sharing website with two major goals – to help patients facing significant hardship and disadvantage, and to facilitate research, at Western Health.

As a staff member, Kimberley Haines is sharing her story in bid to help those at Western Health who need it most.

By making a donation on Kimberley’s behalf – and sharing her story on social media – you are making a difference too. Thank you.

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