Date: 5/9/2008

Patient Education is Par for the Course at St. Mary Medical Center Joint Academy

When it comes to joint replacement — especially total knee replacements, St. Mary Medical Center has been a demonstrated leader in the field, recognizing that education, including pre- and post-operative teaching, is a very important part of the healing process. Effective May 1, St. Mary Medical Center is pleased to announce another aspect of patient education with the addition of The Joint Academy, located on the hospital’s third floor orthopedic unit, 1500 S. Lake Park Ave. in Hobart.

From hip surgery to knee replacement, St. Mary Medical Center has received some of the highest marks in the country for joint care provided to patients. St. Mary Medical Center is a recipient of HealthGrades® top rating - five-stars - for overall joint replacement surgery two years in a row, 2007 and 2008. HealthGrades is an independent ratings organization that focuses on healthcare quality. In addition, HealthGrades also ranks St. Mary Medical Center among the top 5 percent of hospitals nationwide for patient safety for the past four consecutive years. That means that the hospital’s healthcare team is consistent in following processes and procedures designed to help keep patients safe; experience fewer complications and have the best outcome possible.

Taking this excellence to another level, The Joint Academy program begins with each patient being fully educated about his or her procedure prior to surgery, and continues with inpatient group therapy, followed by education and readiness for recovery at home. Procedures are scheduled so that patients can relate to others who are experiencing similar joint surgery at the same time. Each patient is assigned their own specialized, dedicated team of orthopedic professionals.

St. Mary Medical Center joint replacement patients are supported by board certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic physicians, specially trained orthopedic nursing staff and surgical technicians through the surgery phase of their procedure. Then, patients continue therapy after discharge at the Outpatient Rehabilitation Center based at the hospital where they receive education and follow up from certified physical therapists, occupational therapists and social workers.

Scott Andrews, M.D., orthopedic surgeon, serves as Medical Director of The Joint Academy.

“Through a combination of innovative techniques in pain management, rapid rehabilitation and education we are able to perform joint replacements that help patients increase their quality of life,” Andrews said. “It allows them to do everyday activities, such as walking, that they want to do without pain. Although a joint replacement is a fairly large surgery, we’re looking for ways to make it a pleasant patient experience; one that they feel more comfortable about.”

Joint Care Coordinator Donna Wieczorek serves as a link for the patient throughout each phase of care.

“The Joint Academy is committed to delivering very good care and meeting and exceeding our patient expectations,” Wieczorek said.

The unit offers private suites with accommodations for a family member or friend who acts as a “coach” (assists with recovery), Wieczorek says. Education continues with a pre-op class. The class is the “official” beginning of the education process and consists of a slide presentation; role of the “coach;” meeting members of the care team; tour of the unit; breathing exercises; review of pre-operative exercises and questions & answers.

“This class helps familiarize them during the hospital stay as well as after,” Andrews said. “A lot of the anxiety has to do with dealing with the unknown — they’re not sure what to expect — this decreases their anxiety greatly and helps them feel much better about the whole process.”

“Our patients will know what to expect every step of the way from six weeks pre-op until three months post-op and beyond,” Wieczorek says. “During a stay at the Joint Academy, our patients participate in group activities as well as have individual care for preparation of discharge. Care doesn’t stop once a patient is home; they receive a follow up phone call as well as an invitation to a reunion luncheon with their coach.”

This is a team effort on the part of St. Mary Medical Center staff to be with the patient every step of the way to ensure the best possible experience and result.

For more information about The Joint Academy of St. Mary Medical Center, call 219/945-4365 or visit our web site at