Nurse Kathy Patelski Challenges Herself and Educates Her Patients

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 9:57 AM comments (0)

Kathy PatelskiKathy Patelski has been a nurse at NorthShore Skokie Hospital for five years but she has been caring for patients in various nursing roles since 1979. Her passion for the medical field developed early and has only grown over the years. Not content to rest on her laurels, Kathy never misses a chance to seek out new challenges and opportunities for personal and professional growth. She currently works in ambulatory surgery, but four years ago she jumped at the opportunity to become a part of the Patient Education Program at the NorthShore Total Joint Replacement Center. In these patient-focused classes, she prepares prospective total joint replacement patients for the journey ahead.

As part of Nurses Week, Kathy tells us what first inspired her to become a nurse and why a “thank you” from a patient means so much: 

What brought you to nursing? Was there something that inspired this career choice?
Many years ago, I used to watch Marcus Welby, M.D. and some of the other medical shows on TV and I just thought, that looks like such a cool, fun thing to do. And that’s just where it all started. 

From there, I started as a nursing assistant when I was in high school, and even before that I was a candy striper. Throughout, I always thought, this feels good. I can do this. As I was going through college in nursing school, a good friend’s father, who was an anesthesiologist, gave me some advice. He told me that when I got out of school, I should go immediately to an ICU or an ER. He said, “That is where you continue your education. That’s where you don’t develop bad habits. That’s where you get all the good habits.” He emphasized, “Go to those two departments and you will become a better nurse because you will have to.” And it’s true because you have to think on your feet and react quickly.

So that’s what I did. I listened to him and I worked in the ICU for many years, and, now ambulatory surgery. And now with NorthShore, I have this nice perk of working with joint patients.

You work in ambulatory surgery at NorthShore but you're also part of the Patient Education Program at NorthShore’s Total Joint Replacement Center. What role do you play in the patient education process?

[Note: The Patient Education Program guides patients through the entire process of total joint replacement. Patients are asked to attend a class prior to surgery conducted by specially trained nurses. The class educates patients on how to achieve the best possible outcome before, during and after surgery.]

Patients come in just wanting to have a knee or a hip replaced. And in our experience, patients aren’t necessarily breaking down our doors to come to the class, which isn’t required but recommended prior to surgery. Most are told that they need to come by their doctors. But at the end of every class I heard, “You know I really didn’t want to come. I was really pushing my doctor not to make me come, but I’m so glad I did. It put my mind at ease. I’m not as afraid as I used to be.” And I like being a part of doing that. 

The nurses who teach the classes get to help patients know more and be less afraid. They’ve heard lots of different information from friends, family and all kinds of people telling what this surgery is going to be like.  Some come to the classes and they are in so much pain, hobbling and limping. They’re using canes and walkers and they are just looking miserable. And to be a part their transition … that’s a great thing to see. 

Why do you think educating patients is so important?
Patients that are educated understand what’s coming. The nurses on the floor can always tell if a patient has been to class or not. The educated patient knows what the treatment plan is and they know what their part in it is as well. The patients that have been to class are like, “Okay let’s get going. Let’s get moving and do it.”

Orthopaedics isn’t part of your day-to-day job in the ambulatory surgery department. Why did you decide to take on an extra task like this?
I thought it was a neat opportunity. I had worked orthopaedics years and years ago while I was still in nursing school. It’s something in medicine that is great to see. Patients come in one way—hurting and in a lot of pain—and then they leave almost with a new lease on life. They’re just feeling so much better and they can see that their walking, sitting, bending are in a better place, and will only improve. When the opportunity to be a part of it arose, I thought I should give it a try.  

It’s a great spectrum of experience. So while we don’t directly oversee the care of the patients after surgery, we do have input into their care. And it is fun to teach a patient class and then see them the day of surgery. They come in and they are little nervous and then they see your face, a face they recognize, and they immediately feel that someone’s in their corner, someone is going to take care of them. 

And then I always see them after and ask, “Did the class help?” And 99 percent answer, “Everything you said, it happened exactly as you said it would.” When a patient says that what I taught helped, that’s music to my ears. 

Do you have a favorite memory from your career thus far?
It’s just when patients thank you. Not just a, “Hey thanks,” but when it is from their heart. You can tell. Or when someone from their family comes up to you to say that you really made a difference in how we handled this process, when they just genuinely want to say thank you.  You didn’t do anything but do your job, but they appreciate it so it feels good. 

This week you can Say Thanks And Recognize (STAR) NorthShore's remarkable nurses by contributing to our Nursing STARs Scholarship Program here.

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A Healthcare Partnership: Total Joint Replacement at NorthShore

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 4:32 PM comments (0)

Puri“First and foremost, we’re looking for the best possible outcome,” says Lalit Puri, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon and Division Chair of Adult Reconstruction at NorthShore. And, according to Dr. Puri, the philosophy of the Total Joint Replacement Center at NorthShore is that the best possible outcomes are created from strong partnerships between patients and healthcare professionals. 

Dr. Puri shares more information on the partnerships formed between patients and their orthopaedic care teams at the NorthShore Total Joint Replacement Center:

Why is the partnership between patient and healthcare provider so important?
If we enter into a partnership with our patients, we’re asking the patient to give his or her best before and after surgery, just as we’ll give our best throughout as well.

We know that surgery can certainly be anxiety-provoking, but we don’t want patients to come into NorthShore feeling like that. So our partnerships are about trying to demystify the process. Our partnerships start with an open and honest dialogue. 

Part of that demystification process is patient education. Why is educating the patient before surgery so important?
It’s critical that the patient has an understanding of what to expect before surgery. Most importantly because it reduces anxiety in the patient’s mind so that he or she is more comfortable with what’s ahead. I also think that the more educated a patient is about surgery, the more he or she can participate in his or her care. A more informed patient has a better understanding of what is happening, and therefore may be a more active participant. 

What does patient education at the Total Joint Replacement Center involve?
A key element of our partnership with the patient is our comprehensive Patient Education Program. This program guides patients through the entire process of a total joint replacement before surgery even happens, from pre-surgery preparation recommendations to full rehabilitation. 

Patients are encouraged to attend a class prior to surgery that is run by a team of specially trained orthopaedic nurses. In this class, they learn what they can do to be active participants in their own care, and have an opportunity to interact with many of the clinicians who will be a part of their care teams.

The Patient Education Program is not just about educating patients though. Our multidisciplinary team uses this time to learn about the individual needs of each patient by asking and answering questions, getting to know each individual patient, to discover the best way to help patients maximize their health before the surgical procedure.

Find out more about the Patient Education Program and Total Joint Replacement Center here: northshore.org/orthopaedics

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Watch Your Step – Avoid Foot and Ankle Injuries this Season

Friday, February 17, 2012 7:46 AM comments (0)

Foot-Ankle_InjuryWhat do you do to avoid slipping? Do have a preferred method for staying injury-free?

Our feet and ankles get a workout every day – even if it’s just from walking around the house or to and from the car running errands. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, one hour of strenuous exercise puts up to one million pounds of pressure on your feet. Now imagine how much additional stress your feet and ankles can be subjected to when roads and sidewalks are icy and snowy.

Lan Chen, MD, an orthopaedic physician at NorthShore offers her insight on how to avoid a foot or ankle injury this season:

  • Wear the right shoes for the right weather.  High-heeled boots may be fashionable, but flat or low-heeled boots with good traction soles are best for the snow.  Avoid wearing long flowing dresses or coats as they can get tangled with your feet and cause you to lose your balance.
  • Use caution and check for slick walkways or roads when exiting your car or home.  Keep doorways clutter-free and watch out for slippery areas. Most importantly, keep your hands free for better balance and support in case you begin to fall.
  • Don’t ignore an injury.  If you have pain, swelling and inability to put weight on your foot or ankle, or just feel as if something isn’t right, seek medical attention.  Some seemingly minor sprains can lead to significant ligament and cartilage damage resulting in long-term pain, instability and, ultimately, arthritic changes if they are not treated.
  • If you aren’t able to immediately see your doctor, use the R.I.C.E method:
    o    R: Rest your foot or ankle.  Staying off it will minimize pain.
    o    I: Ice your injury to help reduce swelling.  Never put an ice pack directly  
         onto bare skin; use a thin towel to cover the ice pack and ice for 20
         minutes at a time.
    o    C: Compress the area of swelling with an ACE wrap or an elastic brace.
    o    E: Elevate the foot above the level of the heart. 
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