“I will meet with the patients and work with them from the time the doctor suggests surgery to the time when they go home and beyond,” she said. “It’s not just a program where we just drop you off at the door in the wheelchair and let you go home. I want to make sure there’s follow through afterward, whether it means a phone call or another visit.”

As program coordinator, Cronin-Waelde said she wants to prepare patients so they understand exactly what will go into their replacement surgery and work with them so the transition back home is seamless. And, she adds, it’s important to make that five-minute telephone call the day after a patient is released so that patients know someone is looking out for them.

“We put these high-tech knees and hips into people, but we sometimes forget to ask how are they getting into their house or how are they getting out of the tub,” she said. “It’s important to ask those questions because we’re giving patients additional years, but they have to learn to take care of themselves and those joints.”

Christine Candio, executive vice president for Lawrence Memorial Hospital and Hallmark Health, said the program came about during strategic planning sessions.

“One of the services we wanted to further develop was surgical programs,” she said. “We looked at the incidents of total knee and hip replacements and thought this would be a good area to start in. We identified a service we thought was needed for the community.”

Cronin-Waelde said the hospital then went out searching for best practices seen at other facilities, which provide similar services and came up with this program.

She said what makes Hallmark’s program so unique is that it includes pre-operative classes at “joint camp” to provide information about surgery and post-surgery services such as therapy or home care to patients so they understand every aspect of their joint replacement and aren’t anxious about what’s happening to them. Cronin-Waelde said patients also receive a “joint journal,” which gives them information on taking care of their new joints once they’re released from the hospital.

The nurse-led project began back in May and Cronin-Waelde said it’s already a success.

“It’s going great,” she said. “We started seeing patients in July and they’re out and doing well. They really like that personal touch.”

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