Karen Sandusky has been a dietitian in healthcare for 35 years. She has participated in many wellness and health programs in her time as a dietitian, but it wasn’t until she became a leader for the Personal Action Toward Health (PATH) program that she saw the impact the program was capable of having on the people in her class.
PATH is a 6-week health workshop offered by the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan (NKFM), which helps individuals manage long-term health conditions. PATH provides information and skills to adults with all types of chronic health conditions such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, bronchitis, asthma, depression, and more. The workshops are conducted by trained leaders who hold informal, small group discussions and provide easy-to-understand course materials. Leaders discuss ways to reduce pain and stress, cope with fatigue, use medications wisely, and benefit from physical activity.
Karen says that part of the reason the PATH workshop is successful is because of the group-oriented approach. “Talking to groups is really the way to get people involved,” says Karen.
In a group setting, participants learn self-help devices that can enhance daily activities. They are encouraged to practice the acquired skills by making weekly action plans and helping each other achieve their goals.
“I do think that the participants learn from each other,” says Karen. “I was surprised as I saw the evolution of the group from the first class to the last class; how they were so compassionate with each other,” Karen continues. “If one person was having a hard time, another participant would sit with them.”
Karen says that the biggest indication of the success of the workshop was seeing the changes in the participants from beginning to end. Many of the patients gained skills and knowledge that visibly improved their approach to managing their health as well as their perspective on life with a chronic illness.
“One of the participants, who had a stroke 4 years ago, said that he finally had purpose,” says Karen. “Participants were finding purpose in their lives and were hopeful by the end of the class, which showed a change in perspective from the beginning.”
Karen explains that the positive environment created in the PATH workshop was an eye-opening experience for not only the participants, but also the workshop leaders. “Being a leader, you get an awful lot out of it,” says Karen. “I think that we get at least as much out of it as the participants.”
In addition to helping participants learn the importance of managing their health, the class also motivated participants to help others. “There were 3 participants out of the class of 12 that wanted to go on to be leaders after the end of the workshop,” Karen says. “I think that speaks for the program.”
The NKFM’s PATH program is appropriate for people who are newly diagnosed as well as those who have been managing a chronic condition for years. It has been proven in studies to reduce symptoms and physician visits as well as increase self-management abilities and communication with doctors.
PATH is currently offered at various locations throughout Michigan and changes often. For more information about becoming a leader, finding a PATH class in your area, or about the program in general, please contact Meaghan Sholl at 800-482-1455 or check out the PATH page.