SMH Rehabilitation Services Making Room for More Patients
After a significant injury, illness, or surgery, going to the right rehabilitation facility is key to regaining mobility and relearning the skills of daily living. Sarasota Memorial’s Rehabilitation Pavilion was designed to provide high-quality inpatient and outpatient rehabilitative care combined with all the comforts of home. Thanks to a recent expansion of its inpatient rehabilitation with support from the Healthcare Foundation, it can now offer that care to an even greater number of Sarasota’s residents and visitors.
Maria DeCarlo, Vice President of Post-Acute Care and Rehabilitative Services, started her career at Sarasota Memorial as a speech-language pathologist, leading the Rehabilitation Division since 2004 when the inpatient rehabilitation unit was 24 beds. She explained that the SMH Rehabilitation Pavilion opened with 44 inpatient rehabilitation beds in 2017. It expanded to 54 beds the following year, but still couldn’t accommodate the growing number of patients. “We frequently had either a waiting list or patients had to leave SMH for their inpatient rehab,” she says. “We were looking at additional space internally to add beds.”
Today the facility features 60 private rooms on two floors. The planning and design were critical. “We wanted it to look and feel like a free-standing rehab hospital, yet be attached to the main hospital, so that if our patients needed any type of consult, emergency service, or diagnostic test, it was a stretcher ride versus an ambulance ride away,” DeCarlo says.
The SMH Rehabilitation Pavilion offers a variety of real-world environments to help patients regain mobility and life skills with the assistance of a multidisciplinary team led by physiatrists. The team includes physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, rehabilitation nurses, and other members of the interdisciplinary team. It features an apartment outfitted with a sleeping area, kitchen and bathroom. Patients can even go to a simulated grocery store, select ingredients from a list, and cook a recipe.
An outdoor mobility garden offers a variety of terrains to traverse. Patients can practice climbing stairs, retrieving items from a mailbox, walking over wet surfaces, ascending and descending a ramp, gardening, and even playing golf on a mini putting green. “If they’ve never used walkers or a wheelchair before, our therapists will take patients out to the garden to learn how to navigate the various surfaces with their mobility devices,” says DeCarlo.
One reason the Rehabilitation Pavilion has been able to provide its patients with such innovative and high-quality care is ongoing support from Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Foundation and its donors.
“With their help, we have been able to take our patient care to the next level,” says Laura Magnusson, Director, Rehabilitation Services. “Each patient floor is equipped with the best rehab equipment, including advanced technology that helps our patients get back to the lives they love—in the shortest time possible.”
The recent expansion of the Rehabilitation Pavilion was made possible by a generous gift from Janice and Ralph Shrader. “Their donation is helping us care for more than 165 additional patients each year whose rehabilitative care might have been delayed or “who might have had to seek care outside our health system,” according to DeCarlo.
Healthcare Foundation funding has also helped provide continuing education and certifications for staff. “Inpatient rehab isn’t any different from the rest of healthcare when it comes to the constant changes we need to keep abreast of,” DeCarlo says. “The Foundation continues to support everything we do in regard to patient care.”
U.S. News & World Report has recognized Sarasota Memorial’s Rehabilitation Pavilion as one of the country’s best Rehabilitation facilities for 2022-2023, and the number one such facility in the state of Florida. The Center earned high marks from U.S. News for its advanced technologies and patient services, as well as for its role in reducing the need for hospital readmissions.
Even more meaningful is the praise the Rehabilitation Pavilion gets from its former and current patients. “Our patient satisfaction scores are in the 95th percentile, and at times higher,” according to DeCarlo. “Patients who return to outpatient rehab on the third floor to continue their therapy come back upstairs to show the therapists, physicians, and nurses their hard work. They’re just so proud of how far they’ve come.”
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