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Home > Recovering After Surgery During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Home Health Visits

Recovering After Surgery During the COVID-19 Pandemic – Home Health Visits

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Jeffrey R. Carlson, MD

Many things in our lives have been changed by the Coronavirus. Medical practices have had to quickly adapt to these changes for the safety and security of our patients and employees.  Did you ever imagine in February that you would have to wait outside in your car at your physician’s office to be called inside for your appointment and that you would be asked to wear a mask during your visit occurring in April?  At this point in our recovery phase, there remain many uncertainties about the future and how the COVID-19 crisis will end.  In this article, I would like to highlight what we do know, at least for the foreseeable future, about recovering from surgery and what you should expect when home health visits are ordered.

After a major orthopaedic surgery, such as spinal fusion or joint replacement, your surgeon may order a home health nurse to visit your home to assess your recovery and pain levels, take your vitals, and perform dressing changes on your incision.  These nurses to play a vital role in your post-operative care, as their services allow me to send you home safely to recover vs. keeping you in the hospital for a few days. They can also alert me to any issues that occur in your recovery before your first post-operative visit with me.

During the pandemic, these visits may be performed in person or by telehealth video consultations. Home Health agencies are following CDC guidelines for patient safety and the safety of their nursing staff.  Many agencies are testing their nursing staff weekly for COVID-19.  If you elect to have an in-home visit, you may be contacted by phone before the nurse comes to your home to answer questions about the health of your family members living with you and to see if anyone has exhibited COVID-19-like symptoms.  The nurse may also request that only one family member be present with you during the in-home visit and that they maintain proper social distancing during the visit.

If a nurse does come to your home, they will wear a mask and appropriate personal protective equipment to ensure your safety and theirs. They may ask that you wear a mask as well. Many are asking to wash their hands after entering a patient home and that the patient also do so. After doing their health checks and dressing change, they will ensure that you have enough supplies to change the dressing on your incision.  They may then do any follow-up visits by video.

If the consult is done by video, the nurse will ask you to take your temperature, ask about your general health and pain levels, and will want to look at your incision site to assess any potential for infection or poor healing.  They can also walk you or your companion through changing the dressing on your incision site.

We are all learning and adapting to this “new normal”, especially in healthcare.  If you have any concerns or questions about needing home health nursing after your surgery, make sure you address those with your surgeon.  I want my patients to know that their safety after surgery is paramount, and I will work with them to find the best solution possible for their after-surgery care.

Make an appointment with Dr. Carlson or another provider by clicking the “Request Appointment” button below or by calling (757) 596-1900.  

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