Thrive by IU Health

March 09, 2021

Cardiac Rehab: ‘Giving Life Back to Patients’

IU Health Bloomington Hospital

Cardiac Rehab: ‘Giving Life Back to Patients’

When someone has a heart attack, we often hear about the role of quick intervention in saving that person’s life. What we might not hear about is the role of the ensuing rehabilitation process in helping the patient avoid a future cardiac event.

“Our programs are all about giving life back to those patients,” said IU Health Bloomington Hospital Cardiopulmonary Rehab Services Manager Allison Southern, RN, MSN, CRRN.

The nation’s No. 1 killer of adults, cardiovascular disease is also highly preventable, especially among those who already have experienced a cardiac event. That’s why the team providing cardiac rehab services at IU Health Bloomington Hospital focuses not only on strengthening hearts, but also on long-term lifestyle changes.

A leader among cardiac rehab programs, the Bloomington operation relies on an interdisciplinary team working on three fronts: physical rehabilitation immediately after an event, ongoing rehab and education in the following weeks, and long-term rehab to establish healthy habits.

“This process truly starts immediately after an event,” said Sandy Wallace, MSN, RN, CNML, who serves as manager of clinical operations for cardiovascular recovery. “We start the education in the ICU,” Wallace said. “We bring it to the bedside.”

To address the need for physical rehabilitation, the team works with patients on a range of exercise machines and fitness equipment in a regimen tailored to each patient’s ability and comfort level. Education and counseling programs support the patients and help them eliminate bad habits (such as smoking) and improve diet and daily routines.

Launched in the 1970s as the vision of Dr. Larry Rink, MD, FACC, and with key financial support from the late Bill Cook, the Bloomington program that started in a room in the hospital’s basement anticipates relocating soon into space in the hospital’s new medical office building – a move also made possible by generous donors, many of whom are patients and patients’ family members, Wallace noted.

Southern added that additional philanthropic support could help to expand the program in Bloomington and beyond, making its impact available to more patients, especially those who live in rural areas far from IU Health Bloomington Hospital.

Such an expansion could mean a healthier future for a lot of Hoosiers, given the program’s record of success. “We have the lowest readmission rates in the IU Health system for heart attacks,” Wallace said. “Our team really does a great job managing the patients as outpatients and keeping them out of the hospital.”

If you would like to financially support cardiac care or learn more about cardiac rehab services, please contact IU Health Director of Philanthropy, South Central Region Diane Buzzell, MA, CFRE. She can be reached by email at or by phone at 812.322.4129.

Related Services

Cardiac Rehabilitation

Cardiac rehabilitation is a program designed to help you recover from heart-related events or procedures. The supervised exercise and education can help you with a wide range of heart-related issues.