Kathy 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?
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
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
“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:
Have medications and physical therapy done little to relieve your joint pain? Are you hoping to find a way to get
back to the things you love without having to worry about pain? Total joint replacement might be the next step, but it’s a step you shouldn’t take without asking some important questions first.
Ravi Bashyal, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon, specializing in minimally invasive hip and knee replacement surgery at NorthShore, answers questions on total joint
replacement surgery, from what makes someone a good candidate to recovery, rehabilitation and beyond:
Who is a good candidate for joint replacement surgery?
Total joint replacement surgery is an excellent option for patients who have "worn out" their hip or knee joint, found little relief from conservative management options such as injections or medications, and who feel that their worn-out joint is significantly
impacting their ability to enjoy their daily activities and life.
Are there minimally invasive options for total joint replacement?
Yes. There are many new techniques and implants that allow total joint replacements to be done now in a much less-invasive fashion than in the past. These innovations can allow for shorter surgical times, lower complication rates and faster recovery. Talk
to your surgeon about his/her personal approach, and how you might fit into this as an individual patient.
What should a total joint replacement patient do prior to surgery?
There are numerous steps one should complete prior to a joint replacement surgery:
First and foremost, meet with an orthopaedic surgeon to make sure you are a good candidate for this type of surgery. He or she can talk to you about possible risks, recovery times and patient outcomes. Also make an appointment with your medical doctor and
any other specialists (i.e. cardiologist) to make sure you are medically cleared to safely proceed with surgery.
Attend a class regarding joint replacement at the NorthShore Total Joint Replacement Center. This is an excellent opportunity to participate in a program focused on hip and knee replacement. You'll have a chance to meet with nurses, physical therapists,
social workers, and other team members that will explain the ins and outs of what to expect before, during and after your surgery and during your hospital stay.
Make a pre-operative appointment with your surgeon and his/her team. This will give you a chance to review what you have learned during the pre-operative process, discuss any questions/concerns that may have come up, and to feel comfortable and confident
going into your surgery.
What can a patient do to help to ensure the best possible outcome?
Become a partner in your care. The Total Joint Replacement Center at NorthShore is there to guide patients from beginning to end, from pre-op to rehabilitation. Patients are encouraged to communicate with their surgeon but also with our highly trained orthopaedic
nurses and staff throughout the process. We feel that it’s important for our patients to have a thorough understanding of what to expect before, during and after surgery.
How long should you expect to be in the hospital after a total joint replacement?
Most of our hip-replacement and knee-replacement patients are ready to be discharged 2-3 days after their operation. Some patients are even ready to go home the day after. Many of our patients go directly home after surgery with in-home nursing and therapy
arranged by our social work team, while others elect to go to an inpatient rehab center prior to going home. Ask your surgeon what to expect, and discuss with him/her what would work best for your individual situation and preference.
While recovery time varies case by case, what timeframe for recovery should a patient of total joint replacement expect?
Recovery is different for everyone. With our use of minimally invasive techniques and advanced post-operative care, many patients are recovering at a much quicker pace than 10 or 15 years ago. We have many patients back to work and activities within a few weeks.
Of course, this is subject to individual recovery times, and the specific activities that each patient will return to after surgery. A discussion with your surgeon about your recovery is an important part of the pre-operative process.
What about long-term? How long should someone expect an implant to last?
Innovations in joint replacement technology have dramatically increased the longevity of many types of implants. Many currently available implants can survive for 20 or more years, and even if these devices "wear out," currently technology allows us to replace
only the worn-out part without having to re-do the entire operation or replace all the parts.