Ask the Expert: Preparing for Orthopedic Surgery

orthopedic nurses preparing for surgery

In honor of National Orthopedic Nurses Day, we asked Jack Davis, HSS Nurse and Manager of Patient Education Programs, how patients can best prepare for orthopedic surgery.

Q1. What is it like to be an Orthopedic Nurse at HSS?

HSS nurses have a high level education and skills specific to managing patients of all ages with musculoskeletal disease and conditions. We deliver care to infants, adults and older adults patients across many settings: physician’s office, ambulatory setting, operating room, recovery room and on the inpatient unit wards. We are educators, managers and researchers who are dedicated to providing quality care and services to patients and their families.

Q2. How will HSS nurses assist with preparing me for orthopedic surgery?

Nurses will typically provide instructions and materials to you at multiple points of care to reinforce key messages. Our nursing staff develop content and provide you access to written materials as well as face to face or telephone one-on-one consults, group lectures and through links to other preparation via the hospital website. Nurses teach classes during the pre-operative pathway to align expectations, focusing on self-care management techniques.  Nurses in the pre-surgical screening department partner with patients and families to assess health status and reduce the risk of potential complications. Nurses also staff a call center that reaches out to all patients to provide specific, individualized instructions, so patients are well-informed and prepared for the day of surgery.

Q3. This is my first surgery; do you have any tips about coming in for surgery and being in the hospital?

Hospitals are often an unfamiliar environment with numerous locations that need to be navigated. It is normal to experience challenges that may increase anxiety. Asking a friend or family member to be with you throughout the process may be helpful. Nurses encourage you and your family to “speak up” and ask questions – especially if you do not understand something about your care. We encourage you to take notes or keep a journal across your journey to help track your progress. Your journal can be used as a reminder to trigger questions for members of your healthcare team. Nurses encourage you to be an active participant in your own care.

Q4. How do nurses, along with other staff members assist me to have smooth recovery?

Nurses collaborate with all other team members and coordinate care to provide a swift and safe recovery.  They work closely with the surgeon and other healthcare team members as you advance on your journey to recovery. Nurses help manage your pain effectively so you can participate in physical therapy and return to functional activities. Nurses are with you at every phase of care and provide communication from one nurse to the next to assure that you receive safe and effective care. Nurses work to anticipate patient and family needs to provide a highly satisfactory hospital experience and will contact you after you leave the hospital to provide additional post hospital care instructions.

Jack Davis MSN, RN, ONC is the Manager of Patient Education Programs at Hospital for Special Surgery who has over 30 years experience in orthopedic nursing. He has been an active member of the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (NAON) since 1991. Jack serves as Director of the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB) and is passionate about helping others improve nursing practice through specialty certification, research and continuing education.

Topics: Orthopedics
The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.


  1. I had 3 back surgeries in 19 days and in one of them I picked up two bacterial infections. After third surgery I ended up in ICU on the ventilator with heart and kidney failure. After 32 days in hospital I came home. Over the next months I went from bed to wheelchair, to walker and then finally able to walk. Took five months to be able to turn over in bed without help. Without the help and encouragement of the wonderful therapist that came to my house 3 times a week I probably would have never walked again. The sad part is that all the while he was helping me colon cancer was eating him up and in just a few months he was gone. Always be aware that when you go in for any kind of surgery you may come out changed forever. My life will never be the same. Praises for all the good therapist out there.

  2. Having been the recipient of operations involving both hips, a knee , and ankle. and lumbar spine I feel qualified to give highest acclaim to the PT’s and OT’s with whom I have had work on me are among the medical professions most outstanding people. My most recent dealings with them was that in their office they had a sign that read “Not all therapists are sadists……. only the good ones” Keep up the good work!

  3. I take this opportunity to to appreciate the wonderful work that is done by the nurses in the medical department. It may seem difficult but the special surgery nurses have shown their interest in duties and responsibilities.
    Thanyou in advance

  4. I’m one of the proud people who pay honor to an important skill in the medical community, and I wish our friend from PT an OT a happy orthopedic nurse day! May you continue to serve and take care of people who are in need of your talent and assistance. We all know that the complex care required by orthopedic patients is hard sometimes, but you still manage to share and show your medical/surgical nursing skills, all of you deserve a pat on your shoulder since you were able to perform exceptionally well in your expertise. I know it’s very rewarding and exciting for you when a patient is able to walk with minimal pain, perform activities they were unable to complete and have a normal life again. We are all proud of you!

If you’d like to consider HSS for treatment, please contact our Patient Referral Service at 888-720-1982. For general questions and comments, reach us on Facebook or Twitter.