Hidden Healthcare: Preparing patients for surgery

Thursday, November 26, 2020 surgery
Hidden Healthcare: Preparing patients for surgery Dee Lahn-Opie is part of the Patient Services team that prepares people for surgery at Bendigo Health.
Hidden Healthcare takes a look behind the scenes at some of the health professionals powering regional Victoria's largest hospital.

For most surgical patients at Bendigo Health, their journey starts with a phone call from the Patient Services team.

Liaison nurse Dee Lahn-Opie has been preparing patients on the obstetrics and gynaecology elective surgery list for the past three years.

As Dee explains, there is a lot of work involved before a person arrives at hospital, from fasting to managing any comordibities. 

“A lot of patients have complex histories or anxiety or mental health issues. We spend a lot of time talking to patients that they are comfortable and understand what is going to happen,” she said.

“Being able to make a difference in a patient's journey through the theatre process is important.”

Some patients are more complex than others.

“One patient believed the doctors were only practicing on her – she didn’t believe she needed the surgery. I spoke to the patient numerous times and went and saw her before she had the surgery to congratulate her on getting through it,” she said.

“Every person is different; every person has different needs.”

A relaxed and informed patient will generally recover better from surgery, Dee says.

“We are very caring, we all try and make sure our patients’ pathways are as easy as possible as coming to hospital can be very overwhelming and daunting for some,” she said.

Dee’s background in midwifery and perioperative nursing provides a crucial link between the patients and theatre staff before they enter hospital.

“In some ways, we are the backbone of theatre. Having worked on the theatre side I never truly understood what was involved in preparing people for surgery until I came here,” she said.

COVID has provided added complexity to Dee and her colleagues’ job, with more screening requirements and pre-operative COVID testing.

“There were shorter windows where we would be able to get patients onto the list. Some people declined surgery because of the extra time the COVID precautions added to the surgery process,” she said.

The Patient Services department has grown from three staff when it began in the mid 1990s, to 16.

Bendigo Health Patient Services Manager Anna Feiss said the department covers all elective surgery at Bendigo Health from vascular to plastics, orthopaedics to dental.

The department also manages the elective surgery regional partnerships across the Loddon Mallee region.

“Bendigo Health partners with other health services in the region to undertake elective surgery as quick as possible, which has become even more important during and post pandemic as elective begins to ramp up,” she said.