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Dignity Health program preps joint replacement patients for surgery, recovery

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PHOENIX — Patients seeking joint replacement surgery at Chandler Regional and Mercy Gilbert medical centers can now participate in a program that will help them prepare for the procedure.

Joint Camp is a free, two-hour program where patients can meet their joint replacement team and learn about topics that include home preparation, what to expect on the day of surgery, exercises for a quicker recovery, pain management, at-home recovery and more.

Joan Bolzan, the orthopedics program coordinator at Mercy Gilbert, told KTAR News 92.3 F.M. that people who attend Joint Camp typically have faster recovery times and a better understanding of what they can expect before, during, and after surgery.

“It is part of the journey with surgery. We ask them to come prior to get them prepared,” Bolzan said. “There is plenty of evidence that pre-operative training helps improve outcomes for patients, and it is one of our clinical practice guidelines for our program.”

“Knowledge is power, and it helps patients prepare mentally and physically for surgery. It really empowers them,” she added.

Mercy Gilbert and Chandler Regional each conduct about 500 joint replacement operations annually. They are the only hospitals in the Phoenix area to earn the Gold Seal of Approval from The Joint Commission for their knee and hip joint replacement programs.

Patients could attend the program weeks prior to their surgery date, which would allow them to fully understand what the procedure entails, as well as teach them and their caretaker about how to take care of themselves during recovery.

The program incorporates “coaches,” typically family members or friends, who provide support for the patient. Coaches receive lanyards, whistles, and instructions to help with daily exercises.

Bolzan believes there are three key ways to have a successful joint replacement.

“The first is to plan for the surgery. It is a large procedure and patients are only in the hospital for a couple of days so they need to prepare their home for recovery,” she said.

The second key to a healthy and quick recovery is to understand what is expected while decreasing patient’s fears, Bolzan said.

“The more patients know what is going to happen, the more they can participate with better outcomes and faster recovery,” she said.

The final step is ensuring that patients understand how to communicate.

“Patients undergo surgery and they feel a loss of power because they’re turning their care over to a whole set of people to take care of them,” Bolzan said.

“The more they know how to communicate — we have found through our experience — the simpler it is to create better care for them and also decreases chances for error.”

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