"It's not a typical hospital setting," said Kyla Evans, community education manager for MDMC's In-patient rehabilitation services.
Described by the staff as "less institutional" and as an "upgrade" to the skilled nursing unit it replaces, the unit's rooms have only one bed each, making the rooms more spacious. Patients don't wear hospital gowns - they wear their own clothing. They are not served meals in bed.
"Everybody gets to eat together," said Brooke Reed, occupational therapist for the unit.
Life in the unit is very structured and scheduled with the average stay being around 12-14 days, according to Evans.
"It depends on their progress," she said. "They can stay longer as long as they are progressing toward a goal."
As the patient will participate in "a combination of therapies" during their stay in the unit, Reed, speech therapist Jennifer Steelman and physical therapist Jamie Nix were all reassigned to staff the In-patient Rehab Unit full time. The hospital then expanded its therapy staff to cover other In-patient therapies such as those offered at ReStart.
"I work with patients' speech, language and cognitive difficulties as well as intensive swallowing therapy for stroke victims," said Steelman.
Nix is working toward a geriatric clinical specialty, and Reed recently completed a twelve-week intensive training course in neurological development treatment. "It's essentially a stroke specialty in rehab," said Reed.
While stroke-related rehabilitation is expected to account for the highest percentage of the unit's patients, it will offer services for a wide range of debilitating conditions which may make the patient dependent on others for self care and mobility such as amputations, hip replacements, burns and a variety of neurological conditions.
Designed to provide a safe environment in which to practice "activities of daily living," MDMC's In-patient Rehab Unit not only has 12 private rooms, but also its own kitchen and laundry facilities which are sometimes used by patients as part of their therapy.
"It's all about promoting their independence," said Nix. The unit, she explained, attempts to simulate a home environment so patients can practice everyday skills they will need once they get back home.
"We take their goals and apply them to real life situations. We want to make sure they succeed," Reed said. "The benefit is you receive three hours of therapy per day with the goal of returning home to live independently again."
Therapy can include everything from simple household chores to grocery shopping and preparation of meals.
Instead of nurses bringing medications to patients, each patient has their own medication sheet which they reference to retrieve their medications from the nursing station. This helps them practice managing their medications so they don't have to rely on a caregiver upon returning home.
The unit's staff also help patients study their medications "so they know what they're taking and why," said Nix.
Officially opened Wednesday following a trial period with three patients that began mid-September, the unit has been issued a letter of compliance after being inspected by the Missouri Department of Health and has received high marks from those who participated in the trial period.
"Everything was excellent," said Jeremy Ferguson, one of the three patients who completed two weeks of rehab therapy during the trial.
"The rehab team made sure Jeremy used all of his abilities to be as independent as possible and at the same time he still felt safe and secure in every facet of his daily routine," said his wife, Christy Ferguson.
The timing for the unit's opening is just right, Evans noted: "The month of October is National Physical Therapy Month."