HENDERSON (KTNV) - A Henderson hospital is re-imagining what physical therapy can be and making it fun.
Video poker machines have become an integral tool at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Henderson. It's part of the staff's strategy to bring the real world into the rehab equation.
Angela Ingerson says the games became motivation for her to get out of bed as she recovered from pneumonia and respiratory failure.
Employees say playing video poker can help patients with their strength, balance and endurance.
"You try to have [patients] stand at a table and lift weights and they won't want to do it," said Sandy McGinnis, an occupational therapist at HealthSouth. "But you distract them with video poker, they can stand for 15 minutes and not even think about it."
Patients don't gamble real money. They "bet" imaginary credits.
Sarah Tempest, the hospital's outpatient team leader, says the video poker has proved helpful for patients with head injuries. She says gambling stimulates the part of the brain that deals with memory, focus, reasoning and attention span.
Real-life simulations like the game machines are a theme of the hospital's physical therapy. There's a Skeeball game, an air hockey table and a supermarket stocked with fake food and drinks.
Tempest says shopping forces patients to memorize a grocery list and maintain a budget. It also helps with mobility as they maneuver the shopping cart.
The video poker has been a part of HealthSouth's rehabilitation since November.