Personal touches essential component to state-of-the-art orthopaedic care

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The orthopaedic unit at Tucson Medical Center is poised to move into a state-of-the-art building next year, complete with private rooms and the latest equipment.

But don’t be surprised to encounter the occasional waft of citrus.

Every morning, either nurse manager Sandi Triplett or a designated staff member makes the rounds, distributing moist, warm, lemon-scented washcloths to patients while checking to see how their nights went and if they can get them anything to make them more comfortable.

Dr. Jay Katz, who has been known to partake of the citrus washcloths himself on occasion, said that kind of personal touch makes a huge impact on patients. “It is just one more way we show that TMC cares,” he said.

Katz said he’s looking forward to the move to the new TMC Orthopaedic and Surgical Tower, since the goal is to develop a center of excellence. But in the end, it’s still the people who make the difference, he said.

Triplett learned about aromatherapy about a year ago from Kelly Oursler, the nurse manager in Hospice. At night, patients are given washcloths scented with lavender.

“It’s pretty well known that a little scent of lavender is rest-inducing and helps takes the edge off a little bit,” Triplett explained. The invigorating citrus helps patients gear up for therapy, since most of the patients will be out hiking the halls within 24 hours of surgery.

For patients who are a little nauseated, the combination of medication and the scent of peppermint  is often the ticket to settle the stomach.

Patient Peter Granatowski, recovering from hip surgery in late April, took a citrus washcloth from Triplett on one recent morning round as he reported that he slept well and wasn’t experiencing much pain at all. “I wouldn’t go to any other hospital,” Granatowski said.

To help ensure other patients have that same response, Nancy Davis, the nurse case manager on the Orthopaedic unit, designed a class to provide patients with an overview of the hospital experience.  The department is providing two classes a month to help walk patients through what to expect during their surgery and recovery. The class runs the gamut from parking suggestions to what to expect from home health therapists after discharge.

“If you don’t work in a hospital, surgery can be frightening when you don’t know what to expect,” Triplett said. “We are finding that if patients have some concept of what’s going to happen before it actually happens, they are far less anxious and have better experiences.”

The classes started small, but have grown – topping out at 24 people in the last class of April.

Triplett said they explain to patients that they might be groggy when they wake up but that the nursing staff will be working with them as early as that first day to get them up and moving.  She tells them that staff is happy to accommodate special dietary needs, but jokes that if their request is steak and lobster, that’s not a language TMC speaks.

She said they also hear that there might be some pain. “Sometimes, patients hear doctors say, ‘We’ll fix this for you’ and they think they’re going to wake up and it will all be well. We tell them we’ll give them the best medications we have to take the edge off the pain, but that we also need them to be awake and alert and ready to walk.”

“This way, the expectations have been set.”

Triplett, too, said she’s looking forward to the move. “This is an interesting little unit and we love it, but it’s small and because some of the rooms are crowded, it can be a little awkward to care for patients the way we would like to.”

“It’s going to be really nice in the new building. But we still will do all the little things to make patients as comfortable as possible.

That might mean holding the hand of a patient who is anxious.

And maybe letting them breathe in a little lavender relaxation.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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