FARMINGTON — San Juan Regional Medical Center on Tuesday celebrated the opening of its new Neuro-Spine Center.
An open house and tour allowed hospital medical personnel and administrators, as well as others from the community, to view the new facility, which is located at the San Juan Health Partners Neurosciences building on Schwartz Avenue.
The neuro-spine program, which is based on the hospital's total joint program, offers a specialized in-patient process for those who have back or neck surgery. It also educates the public about spine and back health, with the goal of preventing surgery.
During the four-week program, patients are tested for pre-existing conditions that could complicate their recovery, and they also attend classes to learn about their upcoming procedure and recovery. Program participants also meet with medical professionals who will be involved in their surgery and follow-up care. After their surgeries, the patients are cared for by nursing staff and rehabilitation therapists who have been trained in optimizing the healing process for back and neck patients.
Before the program was initiated, patients were often not prepared for surgery, said LaVeta Bowker, lead nurse for both the neuro-spine and total joint programs.
"What we're trying to do is make sure people are healthy enough for surgery so we can minimize complications," she said. "The four-week program allows the patient to get ready for surgery and for what happens after discharge."
Sandi Gordon, the neuro-spine clinic coordinator, said the biggest difference with the current program is education.
"The big difference is that before, people didn't have the education they needed. They were briefly told what was wrong and sent to the lab, then right into surgery," Gordon said. "Now we're able to explain the surgery and explain how to handle pain. We make sure we answer all their questions and make sure they're as healthy as they can be before surgery. It alleviates a lot of fear and confusion."
Both Bowker and Sanchez said education about back and neck health is important because many people are afraid to seek treatment because they fear surgery. But, they said, only a small percentage of people require surgery for their back problems.
To teach people how to take care of their necks and backs, the center will offer free monthly back and neck seminars starting in October.
Neurosurgeon Mark Flitter told those gathered for the open house that the model adopted by the Neuro-Spine Center represents a shift from provider-centric to patient-centric car
"We are no longer the captains of the ship," he said. "There is a whole team involved, starting with when the patient registers to receives post-op care. With all of this support, we can really maximize what we do."