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Wellbeing group for cardiac patients proves it's good to talk

Image shows a group of people standing in a line

PICTURED: Dr Laura Davies, Senior Practitioner Psychologist; Occupational Therapists Catrin Oxenham and Rachel Owen with the members of the first cardiac rehab group.


An emotional wellbeing group created by Morriston Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation service has helped some patients become happier personally and professionally.

A five-week compassion-focused therapeutic group was set up to help cardiac patients develop self-compassion skills to manage and reduce psychological symptoms related to their illness and to improve wellbeing and daily functioning.

Image shows a man standing next to a sign Run by a psychologist and two occupational therapists, the weekly meeting was a platform for patients to share any concerns within their group.

They were also taught theory and psychological skills in order to deal with those concerns and overcome them.

PICTURED: Lee Parkin has benefited on a personal and professional level from being involved in the group.

Lee Parkin was part of the course’s first group. He underwent an angiogram in November last year, which led to him having a stent applied to his right artery as it had closed.

The father-of-two returned to his job as an operations manager for a financial firm four months later.

Anxious and stressed ahead of his return to work, Lee says the course gave him the capabilities to deal with that. Easing the stress around his return to work has also had a positive impact on his home life.

Lee, 48, said: “The cardiac rehab team was helping me with my fitness and giving general diet advice as part of my recovery.

“During that time I was offered the opportunity to do the course as I had talked about how returning to work had had affected me mentally. The stress of that was not something I could deal with.

“The course really opened my mind to certain things that I can apply every day.

“Being around people who have been in a similar situation made me feel at ease, and that it was not just me that feels the way I did after what I had gone through.

“I genuinely did not know if I could return to work, but now I don’t allow work stress to affect me. I was taught techniques to deal with certain things, and it’s put me in a much better place.

“The course has made me happy in my home life and my job. I’m happier in general because I can rationalise things which means I am not stressed through work.”

Cardiac rehabilitation is available to anyone who has recently had a heart attack, a cardiac procedure such as angioplasty or having a stent fitted, or heart surgery.

The aim of cardiac rehabilitation is to help patients recover from their heart attack, heart surgery or cardiac procedure and help get them back to their everyday life as efficiently and successfully as possible.

Image shows three women standing behind a sign The service offers education, exercise advice and provides patients and their family with the information and support they need.

Dr Laura Davies, Senior Practitioner Psychologist, helped set up the course.

Giving patients a platform to share their concerns and listen to others in a group setting has been instrumental in the course’s success.

Dr Davies said: “We had noticed since Covid there was a gap in community learning. There has been a lot of research demonstrating how patients can psychologically heal through group interventions, and this was aligned with the health board’s emotional and mental health wellbeing strategy where the focus is on early and preventative intervention by working with groups or communities.

PICTURED: Senior Practitioner Psychologist Dr Laura Davies with Occupational Therapists Catrin Oxenham and Rachel Owen.

“We developed the group so that patients could not only learn about wellbeing but also as a space where they could share their experiences and listen to others in a similar position.

“Patients talk about their problems and worries and learn skills which helps them deal with it.”

Occupational Therapists Catrin Oxenham and Rachel Owen worked alongside Dr Davies to deliver the course.

Catrin said: “They also did self-soothing exercises and breathing and calm-space visualisation. They created their own self soothing boxes which had items to soothe certain senses at home. These skills tap into the brain’s soothing system which when activated can reduce stress and calm the individual.

“They were a different group of people when comparing the first session to the last because they had progressed and learned so much.”

Rachel added: “We are seeing more people with cardiac conditions who have work-related or personal stressors.  People tend to think about risk factors for cardiovascular disease as related to poor diet and lack of exercise; however current research shows direct links with stress and therefore it’s essential for patients to tackle this risk factor.

“You could sense it was a weight off their shoulders knowing that other people are going through the same.”

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