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Bronxville Nurse Lends Patients Comfort, Education

Recently, Mary Anne Rittenhouse has seen a trend developing among her fellow baby boomers. After years of exercise and daily wear-and-tear, many are now experiencing painful arthritis and other degenerative joint diseases.

“Mine was the first generation that got into aerobics and running. Now our hips are shot,” said the Bronxville resident. “I can feel it in my knees when I go down the stairs. The cartilage is going.”

Rittenhouse is a registered nurse as well as an orthopedic and spine care coordinator at Lawrence Hospital Center in Bronxville. There, she acts as part of the Total Joint Program and navigates patients through their total joint replacements beginning with the pre-op classes all the way through intra-op, post-op and finally to either rehab or home.

She even leads a community seminar every other Tuesday afternoon called “Painful Joints,” which educates patients on what causes joint pain and how to prevent it. A dietitian and physical therapist then offer their advice on how to stay healthy.

Rittenhouse also hosts pre-operative classes where she prepares patients for surgery and collaborates with physical therapists, nurses and case managers to ensure a smooth recovery.

“It takes the mystery out of it," she said. "We educate people so they feel like they are participating in their own care."

Rittenhouse even works with the anesthesiologists to manage patients' pain before and after surgery as a "comfort team." As part of her pre-operative interview, she notes which medications they may be taking on a daily basis as to not create any conflicts during or after the procedure. She says the anesthesiologists practice the latest techniques to minimize pain.

Rittenhouse said keeping tabs on each patient’s case is not only imperative to their safety, but is also reassuring to them. For example, she had been working with a woman who was scheduled to go into surgery but had to postpone it after developing a urinary tract infection. Since Rittenhouse routinely gives out her business card and cell phone number, the patient was able to give her a call to voice her concerns about the procedure.

“I think it was a comfort to know I was available to talk to her,” she remembered. “They want us to tell them what’s going to happen and that it’s going to be OK.”

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