Walking the talk: St. Luke’s CEO patient at his own hospital

Published 3:51 pm Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ken Shull, CEO, St. Luke’s Hospital

Walking around the hospital each day to round on St. Luke’s Hospital departments and our patients gives me a great opportunity to check on people and take the “pulse” of how the day will go. Hospital teammates might fill me in that an extra telephone in the department would help work flow. Patients are happy to talk about their caregiver or the great food they ate during the noon meal. Most times I hear things like “wow, impressive!” And sometimes I hear things we need to improve—like more sports channels on the TVs.


I loved rounding throughout St. Luke’s until I felt the pain. Knee pain. Both knees. For several months, “management by walking around” was very difficult, and my usual jokes didn’t seem too funny. So I did like many of you have done. I went to see Dr. Brian Rosenberg.

COLUMNCaringForOurCommunity Ken after surgery


Over several months, he ordered physical therapy, injections, a brace, weight loss, and more. I was faithful to physical therapy, winced with steroid injections, stuffed a knee brace under my suit pants and tried to carry on. We tried all the conservative treatments, but the pain came back.


Now, mind you, I’ve had procedures at my hospital before (thanks Dr. Holleman!) and I’ve had outpatient visits (CT scan of my arthritic knee and back), but I wasn’t quite ready for a short stay as a patient in my own hospital. I worried about those hospital gowns and wondered how it would fit me. I worried about privacy and even pranks on the CEO. I worried that my wife would have to walk the dogs by herself or that I might miss our board of trustees meeting. But the pain was limiting, and from rounding on our orthopedic patients and testimonials from friends, I knew there was a life free of knee pain.


As a matter of fact, St. Luke’s and Dr. Rosenberg have teamed so well together, the orthopedic program at our community hospital has exploded! We’ve been the hospital of choice for many people near and far—from Rutherfordton to Cambodia! So why would I hesitate?


Our community hospital offers advanced procedures with improved outcomes, a great team for surgery, rehabilitation and nursing care and now, a beautiful new patient care wing with large rooms (good for me!) and peaceful views. We’re proud of our new Rehabilitation Center that features an impressive gym with private treatment space, one-on-one aquatic therapy, a special harness to help patients continue their exercises without the fear falling and ADL lab.


ADL stands for Activities of Daily Living. This therapy is designed to help patients return to those activities we do every day – like sliding in behind the steering wheel of a car, stepping up on the curb, reaching high in the cabinet for a can of soup or getting in a tub or shower safely after an accident or surgery. We can’t send patients home until they’ve demonstrated their ability to manage at home while continuing their recovery.


Add to the facilities improvements, St. Luke’s was recently recognized by The Joint Commission for quality care and by the Centers for Medicare-Medicaid Services (CMS) for excellent patient satisfaction. In fact, our hospital and St. Luke’s Physicians’ Network have gained national attention for providing quality care, high patient satisfaction and improved patient safety initiatives.


With all this good news, why would I hesitate to have my bad knee replaced with a good knee? Well, honestly I didn’t hesitate for one instant. I am well aware of the quality care people receive at St. Luke’s Hospital, but I did worry a tad about the gowns, the whole issue of personal privacy, and yes, of course, pranks on the CEO.


After much discussion with my surgeon, my wife, my administrative team and board, we looked at the calendar to pick a day for a new knee. June seemed a fine month—at least there’d be no footballs games (I’m a big Gamecock fan!) nor golf tournaments (too hot!)  to miss. And it was as soon as I could get it scheduled to get that pain relief.


From all accounts, my surgery two weeks ago was a breeze. Everything went according to plan, thanks to the information given out during Joint Camp. Held the week prior to surgery, Joint Camp ensures orthopedic patients know what to expect. My group heard from nurses, rehab specialists, anesthetists and discharge planners. We were armed with information to know what to expect before, during and after surgery.


I was completely prepared and ready for my new knee. I was even prepared for a prank on the CEO so I wasn’t surprised to find my large, comfortable room decorated in arch rival Clemson orange and white streamers and Tiger Paws. I enjoyed the joke, the laughter and comments from all my visitors—some even brought USC Gamecock décor of garnet and black to help relieve my, err, pain.


I’ll admit, my recovery time has not moved fast enough for me, but I am continuing to improve every day. With one good knee, I’m looking forward to my second surgery in October. As the CEO and now a patient of St. Luke’s Hospital, I still think we need an alternative to the current hospital gowns that can fly open when we are up and walking after surgery–very soon after surgery. It is good that we have all PRIVATE rooms since we have semi-private gowns!


I sincerely hope to be back at work and rounding, walking pain free to meet our patients and hear about their hospital experience. Because of my personal experience, I can walk the talk that St. Luke’s Hospital provides exceptional care, very close to home.


This is the first of many insights and announcements of the happenings, services, people and events at St. Luke’s Hospital and in the healthcare industry. I look forward to hearing your comments and questions, suggestions and personal stories that will help us provide the best care for our community. To reach me, please call 894-3311 ext. 3250 or 4720 or email Ken.Shull@carolinashealthcare.org.

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