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First-Ever Equine Home Care Nursing Program at New Bolton Center

December 21, 2010, Volume 57, No. 16

Home Nursing Care
Margaret Duprey (holding the rope) with Jennifer Wrigley (examining the horse).

The level of nursing care needed by ill or post-surgical horses who have returned home often falls somewhere between the capabilities of the horse owner and what is provided by a veterinarian. To fill that gap, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center, in Kennett Square, PA, is launching an Equine Home Nursing Care Program called Equi-Assist. The program will provide compassionate care at home, and officially began December 6. It is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, and possibly the world.

Margaret Hamilton Duprey, a well-respected, lifelong horsewoman in Chester County, played a pivotal role in the creation of the program. It was through personal experience with her own horses, at home, that she recognized the need for a service offering qualified, experienced professional care to bridge the gap between hospital and home care, and that which the horse- owner could safely and competently provide on their own. Once the idea was born, she was instrumental in guiding the design of the program, and made a magnanimous gift to see it realized. “I’m thrilled to see a dream, a vision and a program setting quality of care standards for equine health, become a reality,” said Ms. Duprey.

The Equi-Assist program will make available high quality clinical and post-hospitalization nursing services to equine patients at their home barns or lay-up facilities. The continuity of care provided for the equine patient who has been discharged from New Bolton Center will improve the patient’s chances for a speedier and more complete recovery. Wound management, eye care, intravenous medications and other complex treatments are examples of the kinds of services the Equi-Assist professionals will provide. For horses afflicted with laminitis, services will include monitoring pain management for the laminitic horse and nutritional consultation, as examples of the nursing services available. The expertise and experience of the Equi-Assist professionals will allow for the rapid recognition of an emergent problem, and serve as a communication bridge between the owner, primary care veterinarian, farrier and New Bolton Center doctors.

Home health care has become the fastest growing segment of the human health care industry, due in part to shorter hospital stays. At the George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals, at New Bolton Center, hospital stays have also become briefer, decreasing from an average seven days in 2006 to approximately 4.5 days in 2009, a situation that makes the need for more skilled home care even more compelling.

“This is a win-win,” said James Orsini, associate professor of surgery and director of the Laminitis Institute at New Bolton Center, from which the program originated. “The patient will be receiving quality care in a familiar environment, thereby decreasing his or her stress. The primary care veterinarian will have more time to practice specialized skills. The owner can be confident that their horse is getting the best possible care at a great value.” He added, “This new generation of clinical care will redefine what is possible in stall-side nursing, while, at the same time, provide valuable data for research to test our hypothesis that equine patients recover faster and with fewer complications at home than in a hospital. We hope that this program becomes a model for the standard of care in the home environment.”  

Patty Welch, associate director of Equi-Assist added, “This amazing program is a patient centered model linking the primary care veterinarian, owner, trainer, farm manager, New Bolton Center clinicians and farriers together, so that the finest health care is delivered to the equine patient at home.” Ms. Welch will be overseeing the day-to-day operations for the home care nurses.

“I am absolutely delighted that Margaret Duprey, working with Penn Vet, is making possible the development and implementation of the first equine program that will take the lead in home health care,” said Dr. Joan C. Hendricks, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine.“This innovation is completely in line with the historic role of New Bolton Center in leading the way in improving healthcare for the veterinary profession.”

Jennifer Wrigley, a certified animal health technician, will serve as the program’s first Equi-Assist nurse. She has had 15 years of clinical experience in critical care, medicine and surgery. She has received training in nutrition as well as equine massage, and is studying Spanish so that she can communicate with more of the grooms and caregivers with whom she might be working.

“At New Bolton Center we strive to provide first class services that our clients desire for their horses,” said Dr. Corinne Sweeney, associate dean and executive director of New Bolton Center. “This innovative program fills a much-needed niche. I anticipate that once a horse owner experiences the benefits of home care, they will be enthusiastic about Equi-Assist.”

For more information, call (610) 444-5800.


Almanac - December 21, 2010, Volume 57, No. 16