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Joint Replacement Program Has Patients on the Move

Row to Recovery
A knee replacement patient tracks her steps as part of the new Joint Replacement Program at Lowell General Hospital.

Lowell General Hospital recently enhanced its orthopedic service offerings with the introduction of a Joint Replacement Program. Led by Dr. David Prybyla, Medical Director, the program gives total hip and total knee replacement patients a highly personalized experience with the goal of returning them to an active lifestyle as quickly as possible.

“We have designed a patient experience based on a team approach with a strong focus on wellness,” says Barbara Viens, MSN, RN, CNML, ONC, Orthopedic Service Line Manager. “Research shows patients who are mobile after surgery recover much faster, and have a greatly reduced risk of complications.

“We tell our patients they aren’t sick, instead, they are taking steps towards a better life. On the same day of their surgery, most of our patients are up out of bed. The second day, our patients are dressed and ready for their first exercise class — no johnnies allowed.”

Another key element of the program is the group physical therapy class, where patients are taught exercises and educated about what they can and can’t do after surgery. In addition to drawing strength from each other, patients have a designated support person assigned as their “coach.” Daily newsletters arrive with breakfast to prepare patients for the day’s activities, as well as tips on how they should be feeling. There is “homework,” and their coaches have a daily checklist to complete.

A large 10-foot board hangs in the Orthopedic Center encouraging patients to “Ride the River to Recovery.” A large photo of the UMass Lowell Bellegarde Boathouse and various landmarks throughout the city provide a nice visual backdrop for patients to track their steps by moving their assigned magnet, shaped in the form of a crew boat, across designated distance intervals. The team hopes the board will drive a little friendly competition and encourage patients to push themselves.

Julie Grace, PT, DPT, Manager of Rehabilitation Services, says the response to the group physical therapy classes has been extremely positive.

“The patients are really excited and encouraging each other,” says Grace. “The ability to talk and share with other patients and having a support person with them makes them feel like they aren’t alone. Just being dressed and out of your room makes you feel better.”

Another quality feature of the program is the consistent, standardized approach that begins at the surgeon’s office and follows the patient throughout the entire continuum of care. The orthopedic surgeons at Lowell General have been part of The Joint Replacement Program planning from inception, from establishing best practice surgical protocols and procedures, from anesthesia to pain management after the procedures.

“A patient can interact with 50 or more different people when undergoing a surgical procedure — from the physician’s office, to pre-operative testing and preparation, in the operating room, on the unit, and then with rehabilitative services when they are discharged,” says Viens.

“What we’ve done here is make it a total team effort — from every aspect of their care inside and outside our walls. It begins at the consultation and continues with recovery at home with Circle Home and outpatient physical therapy. It’s truly Circle Health’s promise of Complete connected care.”

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