Healthy Living in the North

Helping Patients Achieve Surgical Success

A side angle shot of a woman in a green sweater sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen that says "Surgical Patient Optimization Collaborative."

Nicole Dron, Surgical Optimization Nurse.

Some health care professionals compare having a surgery with running a marathon; would you run a marathon without any training?

Running a marathon can be stressful – even traumatic – for your body, and so can major surgery. But by preparing your body for those events, you can help make sure they’re successful.

Some patients already know that preparing for surgery helps ensure success:

  • “They said I would be staying in the hospital about four days and returning to work six weeks later after the surgery. I stayed in the hospital three weeks and returned to work six months later because I developed complications. Much of my everyday life was put on hold. If I had known that getting healthier before the surgery could have helped me to avoid this, I would have done something about it.” (patient report)
  • “They were worried about a couple of things in my health condition right before surgery, so they had to cancel at the last possible minute. I wish there was a way to catch those worrisome things much sooner, so that I didn’t have to wait months again for a much-needed surgery.” (patient report)

Doctors and other health care professionals have long recognized that a patient who’s fit for surgery is more likely to have a good surgical result. This means minimal, if any, complications in the short or long term, a short hospital stay, no readmissions to hospital, and a smooth transition back to everyday life.

Four sites in Northern Health and 13 other hospitals in BC are taking part in an exciting pre-surgical optimization project to help patients become as healthy as possible before major surgery.

The project is the Surgical Patient Optimization Collaborative (SPOC), and it’s a priority of the BC Ministry of Health. The organization Doctors of BC, in partnership with BC health authorities, is leading this project.

The four Northern Health sites are Dawson Creek and District Hospital, the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (UHNBC) in Prince George, Prince Rupert Regional Hospital, and Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace.

Working from evidence-based studies, project leaders have established 13 areas of focus:

  • Diabetes management
  • Heart health
  • Nutrition
  • Mental health
  • Anemia management
  • Exercise
  • Preventing blood clots
  • Frailty
  • Pain management
  • Stopping smoking
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Social supports
  • Sleep disorders

Each site will focus on two to five components. For example, UHNBC will start preparing patients who are scheduled for urologic and gynecologic surgeries by focusing on diabetes management, frailty, social supports, and smoking cessation.

Other sites have chosen other areas of focus. What all sites have in common, however, is the goal of helping patients succeed in their surgical journey.

Pre-surgical optimization nurses will be reaching out to doctors and primary health care teams that have patients booked for major surgery at any of the four NH sites. These nurses will work with doctors and interprofessional teams to ensure patients are prepared for their surgery.

Nicole Dron

About Nicole Dron

Nicole is a registered nurse with the pre-surgical optimization collaborative in Prince George. She is specifically passionate about aspects that focus on health promotion and prevention, and system improvement in rural, acute, and community nursing. Nicole is hoping to use her professional interests towards supporting the Prince George community to become more healthy and active. Nicole raises her three kids with her spouse, and enjoys exploring local and surrounding communities, reading, and various sports.

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Recovering from an injury? Slow and steady wins this race

Jonathon with Jay Feaster

Jonathon, with his crutches, posing with Jay Feaster, Calgary Flames general manager.

Ever had an injury that prevented you from participating in the activities you love? I’ve always loved to play team sports such as soccer, hockey, ultimate Frisbee, curling, and other activities including hiking, kayaking, and golf. Unfortunately, four years ago I hurt my knee playing soccer and the idea that I wouldn’t be able to do any of those while I recovered was more painful than the injury itself.

In December 2010 and July 2011 I went in for surgeries to repair my knee. The first surgery was to repair the meniscus, and the second was to repair my Anterior Crucial Ligament (ACL). From the time that I hurt my knee, to the clearance from the doctor that my knee was good for most activities again earlier this month, it was very hard for me to not be very active.

With any type of injury, it is critical to take care of yourself and ensure you get the proper treatment you need to heal. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Immediately after my injury I went into the doctor, but being young and impatient, I made the impulse decision to play ball hockey anyway. Of course, this further damaged my knee and left me in a great deal of pain. After awhile, I finally realized I needed to take care of myself and I went back to the doctor to start on the path to recovery.

Prior to the injury I didn’t enjoy spending time at the gym, electing to get my physical exercise in other ways. But once I started going to the gym to do strengthening exercises for my knee, I found that being in a controlled environment like that helped me to ensure I wasn’t overworking my knee and potentially re-injuring it. Over time I have found activities at the gym that I enjoy and will continue to do even though I can now return to things like golf and hockey.

All in all, making sure to take care of myself after the surgeries meant being able to eventually return to the things I love. I learned that there’s no point in trying to be manly and walk off injuries.

My advice to anyone who has hurt themselves, especially men playing sports, is to man up and make sure to take care of your injury. For more information on men’s health, preventing and recovering from injuries, visit men.northernhealth.ca.

Jonathon Dyck

About Jonathon Dyck

Jonathon is a communications officer at Northern Health. Originally from Airdrie, Alberta, Jonathon has a broadcasting diploma from Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta, and a BA with a major in communications from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. Jonathon enjoys golf, hockey, curling, hiking, biking, and canoeing. He is also an avid sports fan and attends as many sporting events as humanly possible, including hockey, soccer, baseball, football, rugby, basketball, and lacrosse. (Jonathon no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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