Patient Care

Walk This Way: Program on Wilmot Inpatient Unit Encourages Patients to Get Moving

Apr. 23, 2021
Scott MacArthur poses for a selfie with his newly earned medals.

A self-described “crunchy granola guy,” Scott MacArthur loves keeping active with cycling and yoga, but being hospitalized for large B-cell lymphoma meant putting those activities on pause.

At the same time, he wanted to avoid taking blood thinners, so his Wilmot Cancer Institute team emphasized getting out of bed and being active each day. They helped him enroll in the Walk n’ Roll program on Wilmot’s Hematology/Oncology Unit on the seventh floor (WCC7).

This would allow him to track the amount of walking he did around the unit.

“I put it in my head that I was going to walk a mile every day and turns out I could do two, a mile after breakfast and a mile after lunch,” he says.

He walked so quickly and often that some staff on the floor nicknamed him “Speedy.” By the time he was discharged after three five-day hospitalizations, he’d walked 30 miles and received a bunch of medals to celebrate.

Cheri Kringer

“The medals made it worth it!” he says with a chuckle, reflecting back to his discharge day when the social worker presented them.  

Cheri Kringer, hospitalized for acute myeloid leukemia, seconds that. During her 30-plus days on the same unit, she’s already earned two medals.

“To get a little reward, it was kind of fun,” she says. “And you get the exercise you need.”

Launched by Megan Donovan, RN, the Walk n’ Roll program encourages patients to walk more during their hospitalization.

“Walking helps patients better handle treatment, prevent blood clots; there are so many benefits,” Donovan says. “Plus, it’s important mentally. When you are looking at a long stay, you’ve got to have something to look forward to.”

Patients have walked laps around the WCC7 for years. Someone figured out that 13 laps around the circular unit is one mile so Donovan created a tracker sheet to motivate patients. Fleet Feet Rochester donated medals to add an extra incentive for those who completed the distance equivalent to a 5K (3.2 miles), 10K (6.4 miles), half marathon (13.1 miles) or marathon (26.2 miles).  

The COVID-19 pandemic paused the program temporarily, but in recent weeks, it’s been re-energized. Since the program started in 2019, patients have walked a total of more than 250 miles. Five patients completed full marathons while 33 completed a 5K, and each received the respective medal. Donovan and her colleagues have also tailored the program for patients who want to walk shorter distances. They receive WCC7 Walk Star ribbons.

Research shows being physically active during treatment – even a short walk around the block – can make a difference. MacArthur felt those benefits during treatment.

“I got through the chemo a lot better. The exercise alone made me feel better, mentally and physically,” he says. “Just lying in the bed there, it’s not good for your psyche or your body physically. I tried not to be in the bed as much as possible. I’m so glad they told me about the program, because it helped.”

Cheri Kringer's husband, Mark, helps her put on her new medals.

Cheri Kringer agrees. Her first week in, she did a mile a day. While she’s had to take days off now and then, she still tries to do laps when she can.

“It’s been nice. I enjoy walking and it did help with my breathing,” Kringer says. “It gets me out of the room. You get to interact a little bit with other people, even just a wave or saying hello.”

Donovan is thrilled about the way the program has taken off.   

“You can visibly see the patients benefiting from the motivation” she says, “and it adds some positivity to staff members’ days to be able to provide encouragement to their patients.”