Regional Bariatric Care Centre Profile: Meet Debbie Walsh
by Caitlund Davidson
Throughout the month of November we are highlighting staff at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre who play a key role in bariatric care. Today, we’re sharing a Q & A from Debbie Walsh, a kinesiologist at the Regional Bariatric Care Centre (RBCC) and Paediatric Healthy Living Program.
What does it take to be a kinesiologist at the Bariatric Care Centre and Paediatric Healthy Living Program?
Compassion is important to support people on their journey to improve their quality of life through physical activity. You also need to be patient, flexible and creative with your approach to exercise interventions. An understanding of the science of obesity as a chronic disease and strong motivational interviewing skills are also important.
What inspired you to work in Bariatrics?
I am passionate about exercising and helping others become more active. Having experience working in a clinical setting for chronic disease management, I felt my skills would be transferable to this field of practice. I saw an opportunity to help grow both programs through providing specialized exercise programs specifically tailored to our clients.
What is unique about your role?
Kinesiology is a fairly new role in bariatric care. This gives me the opportunity to be more creative in my practice. For example, I get to teach education classes, create new materials and provide exercise counselling. I have a role in both the medical and surgical bariatrics programs as well as our paediatric parent and teen groups on healthy living through exercise.
How does your role impact patient care?
Our clients have access to exercise programs (onsite and offsite) as part of their care plan. We have the Bari-Active program for our adult patients and a youth intro to fitness program for our paediatric patients. These programs are tailored to our patients’ needs and provides a safe and supportive environment for them to feel comfortable to exercise.
Promoting a healthy lifestyle is part of your daily messaging to patients. Do you have any personal tips on how to stay healthy?
Exercise for health rather than weight loss (i.e. sleep better, improved mood, stress relief). Rather than an all or nothing approach, focus on consistent, habitual exercise, making it part of your day. Do what you can even if you can’t do a lot. Track your steps to see your overall daily movement and remember that everything counts.