Orthopedic Surgeons Ask Joint Patients What They Can Do To Improve Care
For the past 10 years, AAMC’s Dr. Steele has held Joint Luncheons for patients who recently had joint surgery at AAMC, to determine ways the hospital can continually improve its Joint Camp. Joint Camp is a specialized program to help patients get back to a normal life as quickly as possible after surgery.
The July 20 luncheon was packed with more than 50 people anxious to speak their minds. While there were many compliments, some folks came armed with complaints, and this made the hosts of the event very happy.
“The lunch is free as long as you come up with three good suggestions for improvements, otherwise we’re going to have to charge you,” joked Dr. Marshall Steele, Medical Director of Anne Arundel Medical Center’s Joint Replacement Center.
The system for improvement has worked so well that visitors from all over the world come to see how the Joint Camp works in order to create one in their own hospitals.
“There are 31 programs similar to ours in Holland right now,” Dr. Steele told the patients. “That’s why it’s very important that you find things we can improve so we may continue to have an excellent program.”
Close-knit patients motivate each other
As the patients began to brainstorm, it was clear they considered themselves part of a closely knit group, not only with the staff, but also with each other. The patients had all recently had surgery and some—like Johnnie St. Clair of Mitchellville and Deborah Burke of Laurel—had surgery almost at the same time.
“He had his a few weeks before me which is why I am still using a walker,” said Ms. Burke, displaying a bit of the friendly competition fostered at the camp. After surgery, but while patients are still in the hospital recovering, they will compete against other patients for the greatest number of steps taken. This friendly rivalry helps patients gauge their recovery and gives them a reason to strive.
“It’s also the staff ’s way of trying to add some fun to a tough recovery process,” said Juli Pastrana, R.N, AAMC’s Joint Care Coordinator.
The patients’ fondness for the Joint Camp program was their impetus for offering the doctors and staff ways to improve the program.
“I wish I was told to do more upper body conditioning before my surgery,” said one patient. “And I got blisters from using the walker.”
Patient suggestions used in future treatment
“I found that bicycle gloves helped with that,” another patient responded. This suggestion was written down by the staff, who planned to include it in a patient care booklet that each patient is given before surgery. This booklet, as well as a pre-operation class, informs patients about what is in store for them from start to finish and gives them tips for how they can make their recovery process as successful as possible.
Most of the patients brought their “coaches,” often a spouse or child who served as their caretaker during their recovery, and even the coaches had suggestions for improvements. “I think the coaches should spend more time caring for their loved ones while they are in Joint Camp so they know better what to do once they get home,” a patient’s husband said.
Dr. Stephen Faust and Dr. James MacDonald, who helped host the July 20 luncheon along with Dr. Marc Brassard and Dr. Steele, urged the group to be even more critical of the Joint Camp staff.
“You are letting the Physical Therapy Department down easy,” Dr. Faust said. One coach then raised her hand and suggested patients swap the names of good physical therapy centers they attended after leaving Joint Camp. Some are better than others, she said.
Finally, the patients went back to complimenting the dozen or so Joint Camp staff members who all attended the luncheon and mingled with their patients.
Patients catch up, share with staff
“You need to tell more people about this program,” said one patient. “I don’t think enough people know about you.” Another patient said the luncheons needed to be longer “because you all are doing great.”
Mr. St. Clair,who had surgery on May 31 and returned to work July 18, said he had no complaints about the Joint Camp, but thinks the luncheons are worthwhile because they give patients a chance to share their experiences.
“People recover in different ways, therefore it’s wonderful to get all of the patients in one room to share ideas,” he said. “I came because I was treated so well I felt compelled to share my experience with others. There is probably a lot of fear about having surgery like this done.”
Orthopedic surgeon Paul King, M.D., said of the luncheons, “The joint luncheons are a great chance for us to continue to improve our services and get a status check from our patients.”
For more information about joint surgery and the Joint Camp, please visit on the web at AAMC Center for Joint Replacement or call askAAMC at 800-MD-NURSE.