East Valley hospitals develop program for hip replacement recovery

Former ASU basketball player Dennis Dairman says a “joint boot camp” is helping him recover from hip replacement surgery. (Submitted photo)

Dennis Dairman enrolled in a mandatory “joint boot camp” before having his right hip replaced at Dignity Health Mercy Gilbert Medical Center.

By the time the Mesa resident returned home from the operation in March, he said he was feeling better than he had after undergoing a left hip replacement in 2001.

Mr. Dairman credits the Mercy Gilbert boot camp, “a comprehensive, planned course of evidence-based education and treatment designed specifically for joint replacement patients,” according to a release.

The class is taught by a registered nurse as well as a member of the physical therapy team and a care coordination RN.

“This was a whole lot better than my first hip replacement,” Mr. Dairman, 76, a retired judge, stated in the release. “I think from going to that class, I knew what to do and did it. It got me going faster. The class teaches you what’s important. You have a little apprehension and it makes you more comfortable.”

Mr. Dairman stated his hip problems date to his days as a basketball player at Arizona State University from 1962-65; he still holds the Arizona 5A high school record for the most points in a game – 62 for Phoenix North High School against Carl Hayden in 1960, according to the release.

Mr. Dairman’s experience is typical of patients who have undergone joint replacement at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center and Chandler Regional Medical Center, hospital officials stated.

One two-hour course is required; Mercy Gilbert can also provide a video for patients who can’t attend a session due to work or travel issues. Both hospitals offer one-on-one classes for special circumstances.

“We feel strongly that education is really the key to the patients’ postoperative success,” stated Joan Bolzan, the orthopedics program coordinator at Mercy Gilbert Medical Center. “Knowledge is power, and it helps patients prepare mentally and physically for surgery. It really empowers them.”

Mercy Gilbert and Chandler Regional each conduct about 500 joint replacement operations annually, according to the release, and they are the only hospitals in the Phoenix area to earn the Gold Seal of Approval from The Joint Commission for their Total Knee and Total Hip Joint Replacement programs.

A few years ago, joint replacement patients averaged three to four days in the hospital, Ms. Bolzan stated. Now, the average patient stays fewer than two days, and the class prepares them for home and the recovery ahead.

“There is substantial evidence that pre-operative training helps improve outcomes for patients, and it is one of our clinical practice guidelines for our program” Ms. Bolzan stated.

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

“People covet these whistles,” Ms. Bolzan stated. “These aren’t garage sale items in a few weeks. They wear them with pride.”

Mr. Dairman’s coach is his wife, Charlotte. She said she learned when to push her husband during his rehabilitation and when to go easy on him.

“It was so much nicer to be so much more informed, unlike the first hip he had done,” she stated. “In general, it went just like they said it would. The uncertainty is scary for most people. They told us what was coming every step of the way.”

For Mr. Dairman, the next step is ditching his walker.

“They gave me the exercises, and I learned that walking in the pool really helps,” he said. “I’m very satisfied with the whole thing.”

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