Dana Ashbee, SarahRose Black, Sarah Currie, and Lyndsey DeSouza
(L to R): Dana Ashbee, physiotherapist, SarahRose Black, music therapist, Sarah Currie, physiotherapist, and Lyndsey DeSouza, occupational therapist, are part of the team bringing group therapy classes right to inpatients on the allogeneic stem cell transplant units. (Photo: UHN)

In the Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant program at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, the Allied Health team, including Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physiotherapy (PT), have recently implemented group therapy classes on the inpatient units.

With the opening of the newly designed14C allo transplant unit in September of 2017, the rehabilitation team wanted to bring activity options right to patients on the unit and take a proactive and interdisciplinary approach emphasizing early OT/PT intervention for all inpatients admitted for allogeneic stem cell transplants.

The group therapy classes run twice a week on 14B and 14C inpatient units. On Monday's, in collaboration with music therapist SarahRose Black, PTs Sarah Currie and Cynthia Chung facilitate a gentle movement/yoga and music therapy class.

Patients have the opportunity to stretch and strengthen their physical bodies in a calming, relaxed environment. There is an emphasis on deep breathing exercises and body awareness at the start and end of the class to encourage and teach relaxation strategies and promote mindfulness.

Patients are encouraged to identify musical preferences to allow the session to be relevant and meaningful to them and this has led to the sessions having consistent participation.

Patients have commented, "I enjoyed the music while I was doing gentle movement", "the classes are relaxing as well as energizing" and "love the live music!"

On Thursdays, OT Lyndsey De Souza along with one of the Allo transplant PTs lead a combined exercise and relaxation therapy class where patients have the opportunity to participate in a faster-paced, aerobic and strengthening exercise program.This is followed by a guided progressive muscle relaxation session focused on deep breathing and teaching self-management strategies.

Exercises are catered to each individual's physical abilities, energy level, and what stage they're in in the transplant process. Patients are also encouraged to attend these classes pre-transplant as a form of rehabilitation, to promote optimal functional status prior to transplant.

"It got me out of the room, interacting with other patients," said one patient of the Thursday sessions.

The group facilitators add that many patients have commented on the psychosocial benefits of these classes and the comfort received through connecting with other patients who have had similar experiences and cancer journeys.

The team hopes to continue to provide more opportunities to improve the patient experience through activity engagement, with goals of improving peer supports, patients' quality of life, and sense of wellbeing.​​

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