The 500th joint replacement

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Tri-County Health Care recently celebrated the 500th joint replacement.

In the winter of 2021, Tri-County Health Care’s orthopedics team hit 500 joint replacement surgeries. Sometimes people get obsessed with statistics without thinking about what the numbers represent. In this case, 500 joints have been effectively replaced, meaning hundreds of people are free from chronic pain and even immobility. Dozens of people can play with their grandchildren once again, mow the lawn, go shopping, or just live life. Carla Schwantz is our 500th joint replacement recipient. Her story is special and serves as an excellent breakdown of the patient experience at Tri-County Health Care.

2021-The beginning

Carla Schwantz

Carla Schwantz

Carla is an active lady; she loves bike riding and enjoying the outdoors. Family means a lot to her, but pain has crept into her life in recent years. In 2021, this pain became too much to bear, so she decided it was time to do something about it.

June 9, 2021-First meeting

Early in the summer of 2021, Carla met with Ben Robertson, M.D. to discuss the pain. The pair decided that hip replacement surgery was necessary.

July 6, 2021-Thinking of the future

Carla’s case is unique. She was enduring multiple sources of joint pain. While dealing with her hip pain, Dr. Robertson found that Carla could also benefit from bi-lateral knee replacement. That surgery was scheduled for December 6, 2021.

August 23, 2021-Surgery

Carla and Dr. Robertson discussing the procedure.

Carla had hip surgery toward the end of summer. Carla also went through a physical therapy regimen in the fall. She often commented on the lack of pain she experienced post-surgery.

December 6, 2021-Knee surgery

Finally, the big day arrived. Carla underwent her second surgery. After some prep time, Dr. Robertson signed her knees, and she was off to surgery. Everything went as planned.

December 10, 2021-Therapy

This time around, physical therapy was more intense. Carla worked to restore range of motion and learned how to walk again. Typically, a recipient of this type of surgery usually has to go through 12 therapy sessions.

The future

Carla is recovery well after her surgery.

Carla is doing well and is nearing the end of her physical therapy. It takes around six weeks of recovery time, but patients will have to focus on at-home exercise for months after.

Tri-County Health Care would like to congratulate the orthopedics team and Carla on the 500th joint replacement. For more information about orthopedics and take a free joint health assessment, please visit TCHC.org/firststep. Call 218-631-3510 for scheduling.


Understanding your bill: Our top five tips

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Challenge yourself to make healthcare less of a chore in 2022. The world of insurance claims may seem painfully boring but being aware of the process can make visits to the clinic less of a headache. So here are our top five tips for understanding your bill.

  1. Insurance

The billing department’s issues usually stem from insurance confusion. There are many insurance plans with different levels of coverage and individual deductibles. Getting to your appointment and dealing with the bill goes much smoother when the patient understands their basic coverage. Additionally, billing specialists at Tri-County Health Care highly recommend meeting with an HR professional at your place of employment or simply visiting your insurance’s website. Plan information should be accessible by making an account.

  1. Deductibles

Deductibles are a pivotal point of most insurance plans. A deductible refers to the out-of-pocket expense the policyholder is responsible for paying before the insurance company will provide payment assistance. Many billing issues start with the deductible. Deductible information is found on your insurance information or accessed via a website account.

Watch this video for more information about deductibles and payment.

  1. Timelines

Unfortunately, most things in life take some time, including insurance claims. Many insurance companies require up to 14 days of processing time. Anticipate this while seeking care or the bill.

  1. The value of approval

Avoid the disappointment of insurance denial and consider getting preapproved by your insurance company. No claim gains guaranteed approval, so calling ahead is effective. There are certain loopholes insurance companies will use to avoid paying out, so if you find yourself in a unique situation, it never hurts to ask first.

  1. Limitations of occupation

It’s important to understand that nurses and doctors focus on healing, not necessarily your bill. From sheer proximity, these individuals do have a good working knowledge of insurance and billing but ultimately that is not their job. At Tri-County Health Care, the claims and billing department works extensively with providers on coverage information from patient to patient. We do this so the patient can receive the best possible care without breaking the bank.

Bonus Tip: keep your insurance card handyAn insurance card is a very important part of receiving care efficiently.

Many insurance and billing issues can be avoided by simply keeping an up-to-date insurance card handy. This sounds easy enough but thousands continue to lose track of this essential piece of plastic. This card allows patient access representatives to help you more efficiently throughout your visit. An insurance card provides the easiest and quickest way to detect plan changes.

Tri-County Health Care has several teams ready to help with any billing or claims needs if you have questions that you can’t find online, feel free to call us at 218-631-3510.


Choosing the right provider

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Happy new year, everyone! I’m excited to start the new year with fresh eyes and exciting new goals. One goal, in particular, is to continue living the mission of Tri-County Health Care and sharing that mission with potential providers. Choosing the right provider is tough, so I would like to start the new year with an added layer of transparency. I hope this blog will help me do that. In the world of recruitment and hiring, I see a lot of misaligned expectations and miscommunication. I want to clear all of that up and share my insider perspective about hiring potential providers with you. I hope that students will find this blog and take this information on their career adventure.

Students to professionals

Provider Recruitment is very different from typical recruitment as it is a longer, more complicated process. Often times, recruitment occurs over many years. I start tracking students and go to events to meet all sorts of people studying in the medical field. Each student that comes through our building is a potential hire. I start talking to them when they are still in undergraduate school. This is a planting the seed moment because I get the opportunity to introduce my organization while they are still finding their place in the world. Sometimes people need a little guidance or even a little push in the right direction. I want Tri-County to be a student-friendly place that can harness all natural and earned talents.

Lifelong learningChoosing the right provider is about choosing the right student.

My background is in education and what I admire most about providers is their appreciation for education. They spend so much of their lives pursuing knowledge and are lifelong learners. I observe this every day when I interact with our staff. Hearing them talk about this illness or that fracture, or even just talking about the human body in general, is always so fascinating. What I’m really getting at is, if I think someone is a good fit for Tri-County, they need to have an intense drive to acquire knowledge. Recruiters should look for perpetual learners that absorb every shred of knowledge they can. I want the people who stay up until 2 a.m. watching the Discovery Channel or someone who would rather play a trivia game instead of shooting pool during a night out.

Expectations and the changing medical landscape

I don’t want to alarm anyone reading this, but the medical community is in a state of disarray at the moment. I’m not just talking about the pandemic. There is a lack of trained medical staff in our country. Then, COVID hit and every provider was stretched professionally and personally. We can’t afford to lose providers. When I’m out on a recruiting mission, I see the value in each potential hire. I often find myself saying, “This is someone who could save lives; they just need the appropriate facility and tools.” Students should be aware of their value moving forward in their career but also know with high value comes great responsibility and often high expectations from employers. In many ways, choosing the right provider is about selecting the right student. Remember that.

What am I really looking for?

I think about that a lot so I sat down to itemize the things I’m looking for in a potential provider. I think this makes up a good candidate, and I actively look for these things when I’m recruiting.

 

  • A good fit is someone who wants to live in a rural area. Any provider we bring to interview must know upfront that we are in a rural area. Lots of trees and cows, if that’s not for you, we understand. If a provider is looking for a certain lifestyle that doesn’t fit what we can offer, it wouldn’t be a good mix.

 

  • A solid self-starter is always an attention grabber. I look for physicians who can handle working independently with a certain level of autonomy. To a certain extent, they will be operating their own practice; I want them to feel a sense of ownership and even crave it. This fosters a positive work setting for them instead of an overly corporate “do what you are told” environment. This leads to everyone being a lot happier, physicians and patients alike.

 

  • I’m always on the lookout for someone compassionate and caring. I need to detect a genuine desire to help others. A person can have all of the fancy degrees, be at the top of their class, and still have terrible bedside manner with no desire to care for the patient. The difference is readily notable; you can’t hide it.

 

  • Knowledge is a big part of choosing the right provider! You need to be smart or at least display the ability to gain knowledge semi-quickly. Like I discussed above, being a lifelong learner is pivotal in this role. You won’t make it in any hospital or clinic if you don’t keep your mind sharp. Learning doesn’t stop after you take the cap and gown off.

 

  • A clean record is always good. Over the years, I’ve trained myself to look for red flags. I work with a dedicated team that assists me in noticing if a potential candidate is running from something, quits jobs abruptly without notice, or likes to overly embellish their expertise. Be honest with yourself and me.

Susan Marco

The end goal

My hope is someone will read this blog, maybe one of those students eyeing graduation, wondering where life will take them next. I hope you will consider Tri-County Health Care. I promise I’m not that hard to please. Choosing the right provider is important. I just want Tri-County to align with people who genuinely care about helping others.

Susan Marco-Provider Recruitment Specialist

As a former professor, Susan is a purveyor of lifelong learning. Five years ago, she joined the Tri-County family and has since recruited some of the finest physicians and advanced practice providers around. She is an avid reader, published author and enjoys spending time with family when she isn’t exploring TikTok.


Looking back at 2021

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Looking back at 2021 leads to thoughts of joy and moments of reflection. Tri-County Health Care endured many challenges throughout the year but came out on top! Please look at some of the milestones, events and changes that came to our longstanding healthcare system.

 

Looking back at 2021 involves the Kelderman family.

January 4 – First baby of 2021

Tri-County Health Care prides itself on bringing new life into the world. Sawyer Jay Kelderman was the first baby to grace our OB department in 2021.

 

David Fjeldheim

David Fjeldheim

 

 

February 3 – MHA trustee certification

David Fjeldheim is a Tri-County Health Care board member and superintendent of the Sebeka Public School System. In early 2021,  he completed advanced leadership training designed for healthcare board members.

 

March 30 – More vaccines

At the end of March, the COVID-19 vaccine was made available to all Minnesotans, 16 and older.

 

April 6 – Donate Life flag raising

This annual event honors organ and tissue donors. This year, Sarah Fisher shared the story of her son’s passing and his organ donation.

Vaccines must be apart of looking back at 2021.

 

May 20 – Vaccine available for 12 and over

The COVID-19 vaccine was made available to individuals 12 and over.

 

March 16 – EMS Night

This year, EMS personnel gathered once again for an evening of training. EMS Night 2021 featured Brain L. Bardsley, who shared procedures associated with being a battlefield medic.

 

Groundbreaking was a huge achievement for TCHC.

May 21 – Groundbreaking

After months of planning, groundbreaking on the new building arrived! The event drew a small crowd of staff, administrators, board members, community leaders and state representatives.

Carissa Mitchell, DC

Carissa Mitchell, DC

 

June 14 – Chiro kicks off

Carissa Mitchell, DC, joined the Tri-County family in mid-June. With this new addition came the Chiropractic department, which has continued to grow into a bustling care offering.

 

Alyssa Jackson, FNP

Alyssa Jackson, FNP

 

 

July 26 – Alyssa Jackson, FNP, joins the team!

Alyssa Jackson started at Tri-County Health Care in July 2021. She primarily works at the Sebeka Clinic.

 

July 28 – Lown Institute accolades

The Lown Institute recognized Tri-County Health Care as the #1 hospital in Minnesota for charity care and community benefit.

Brock Spandl, DC

Brock Spandl, DC

 

 

August 16 – Brock Spandl, DC

Brock Spandl joined the quickly growing chiropractic department and works with Carissa Mitchell, DC. The duo helps people with aches, pains and issues stemming from the spinal cord.

 

August 19 – Rebranding

During the annual employee picnic, Tri-County Health Care announced it would begin a rebranding process to Astera Health. Looking back at 2021, Tri-County had many high points, and this one may be the highest.

Jody Ruthermond, PA-C

Jody Ruthermond, PA-C

 

 

September 7 – Jody Ruthermond, PA-C

Orthopedics at Tri-County has been growing rapidly. Due to the growth and success, Jody Ruthermond joined the team to help with ongoing operations in September 2021.

John Lindblom, DO

John Lindblom, DO

 

 

October 22 – John Lindblom, DO

John Lindblom joined Tri-County Health Care in late October. Dr. Lindblom specializes in osteopathic medicine and focuses heavily on the mind, body and spirit.

 

November 2 – Mammogram paddles

Several technology upgrades were introduced in 2021In the fall, Tri-County Health Care began using new mammogram paddles. The paddles’ design makes mammograms more comfortable.

 

November 10 – Pediatric vaccination

In November, vaccination finally opened up for children 5-11.

 

November 17 – Virtual Quality Improvement Mentor

Tammy Suchy, director of quality and risk management at Tri-County Health Care, was selected as a national Virtual Quality Improvement Mentor. A mentor reports and uses data to support rural hospitals.

 

November 23 – Third doses

Due to waning immunity, health officials approved third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Shortly after the announcement, Tri-County Health Care began offering the booster.

 

Looking back at 2021 is definitely the year of metamorphosis.

December 1 – Marketing awards

In December, the Marketing Department at Tri-County Health Care received two awards for 2021. Primary care marketing advertisements and a rebranding video received special distinctions.

 

December 6 – 500th Joint Replacement

The orthopedics team completed their 500th Joint replacement in December. The milestone set off an organization-wide celebration complete with cake pops and t-shirts.

 

December 20 – The last piece of steel

On a cold day before the Christmas holiday, a select group of Tri-County Health Care employees attended a topping-off ceremony at the new building site. The group watched as the final piece of steel hoisted into the air and fitted into place.

 

Looking back at 2021 is necessary for setting goals for 2022. At Tri-County Health Care, we took a moment to look at all the progress made while we continue to push forward. Happy new year, and please enjoy the holiday responsibly.


Holiday health guide: Surviving the bulge

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Christmas is right around the corner, and so are cookies, eggnog, candy, a maybe even a glass of wine or two. The holidays are a time of indulgence, but stomach aches and perhaps a few added inches on the waistline come with it. This is a beautiful time of year filled with joyous gatherings and fun times, including the food and drink accompanying them. However, all good things should be enjoyed in moderation, so use this holiday health guide from Shelby Hunke, RD, LD, to navigate the health challenges of the holidays.

Sweet drinks and empty calories

Don’t drink your calories! It’s super easy to drink your entire caloric requirement from just a few drinks. Alcoholic beverages are a prime culprit, along with classic staples like hot chocolate and cider. Enjoy a festive beverage, just not a pitcher of it.

Moderation mode

Moderation is key. Eat that brownie, munch on those Christmas cookies, ’tis the season after all. This time of delightful treats only comes around once a year, so enjoy it but keep in mind portions. Try not to attend gatherings or parties with an empty stomach. Using mini portions can also be a great way to enjoy everything the season offers without going overboard.

Exercise in a winter wonderlandEmbrace holiday health with good exercise.

Exercise is a great way to beat the bulge. Going to the gym during the holidays seems a little meh. Exercise doesn’t always have to be a boring session on the elliptical. Put on some snowshoes and head out into the beautiful Minnesota wilderness. Something fun like ice skating can easily burn hundreds of calories.

Calories and Water retention

Avoid calorie overload and bloating. We want you to feel good for all of those long-held Christmas traditions. This year, focus on gift-giving and dodging the tummy aches. Try using a calorie tracker app or write down food items throughout the day. These apps are also good for tacking sodium intake, the main driver of bloating. Most people do enjoy dropping the dietary constraints around the holidays, and most only put on a little weight, but that weight does add up over the years. Unfortunately, calories do not disappear around December 25. Keep in mind that one pound is comprised of 3,500 calories. Remember to count those calories and not feel the need to be chained to arbitrary meal times.

Recipe: Homemade hot cocoa

Finding healthy alternatives to holiday staples requires foodie ingenuity. To send you off, let’s look at a wonderful recipe for homemade hot cocoa. This fun and easy recipe will give you all the blissful joy of premade cocoa mix, but without the extra calories.Holiday health and good recipes go hand and hand.

Things you’ll need

  • 3 cups of nonfat dry milk powder
  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ cups of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ cups of white chocolate chips
  • Skim milk

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl—transfer half of the mixture into a food processor. Process the mixture until the chocolate is broken down. Then put the chocolate mixture into a sealed container. Repeat this process for the remaining mixture. This mix will hold up for around three months.

Tri-County Health Care wishes you a joyous holiday season. The holiday health guide in this blog is apart of a larger mission to improve the overall health of everyone in the communities we serve. Consider changing your eating habits this holiday season so you can live a happier, healthier life in 2022!


The stress test team

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As COVID-19 swept the nation, many retreated to their homes to wait for when it would blow over. Unfortunately, things are taking a bit longer than expected with healthcare workers dealing with the pandemic’s brunt. They need our help and volunteers have been stepping up to give them much-needed assistance. Tri-County Health Care’s medical staff have been in a tug of war match with this virus for nearly two years. Volunteers help them by taking over some of the support tasks so healthcare workers can focus on saving lives. This support is very apparent in the cardiac rehab department. For years, a team of dedicated volunteers has given up their personal time to assist providers and nurses stress test patients. This team is an essential component of cardiac rehab, where the heart is monitored during various exercises.

Chris Olson

Chris Olsen helps patients during a stress test.

Since her retirement, Chris has been a volunteer at Tri-County for 15 years. She has the delicate job of ensuring each patient is safe and taken to their appointment area. Much of the job is sitting with them and making them comfortable. Several patients coming for a stress test are scared, so her favorite part of the job is putting them at ease.

The test is broken up into three parts. In-between the second and third portions of the test, she prepares a small snack for the patient. This snack usually consists of toast and coffee, which helps enhance the last part of the test. Before the pandemic, volunteers would take the patient down to the cafeteria, but that is no longer possible.

“I truly love being there.” – Chris Olsen

Carol is a member of the stress test volunteer team.Carol Melcher

Carol has been helping behind the scenes for the better part of 13 years. Before being a volunteer in the cardiology department, she worked at Tri-County Health Care for 30 years. She started as a ward secretary and then moved on to records later in her career. Carol knows a thing or two about the hospital environment. She understands the value of good help and encourages others to explore volunteer opportunities at Tri-County Health Care.

“You get whatever you want to put into it.” – Carol Melcher

Darlene helps nurses and doctors stress test patients.

Darlene Matthes

Darlene has been volunteering for 16 years and was initially introduced to the volunteer program by her cousin, Lois Miller, the cardiac rehab manager. She has assisted in other areas but is especially fond of helping the stress test team. Darlene enjoys volunteering and knows the nursing staff really appreciates the extra help.

“Fun to know your helping out.” -Darlene Matthes

Appreciation

“Our volunteers help make stress tests less stressful for our patients and they make a big difference in our day. The entire process runs more smoothly because of these wonderful, caring ladies,” said Lois Miller. Appreciation for the team reverberates throughout the facility. It is clear the stress test volunteers have a genuine love for helping others.


Flu and masks

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Healthcare systems across the country have been battling COVID-19 for nearly two years. Face coverings are proven to be one one of the most important tools in keeping this virus at bay. Cloth masks are a popular infection control method worldwide, but they are a new prevention strategy in American life. Although they have become controversial, it is undeniable they slow the spread of COVID-19 and the flu. The flu and masks should be a common association.

Please take a few minutes to watch this PBS program on the importance of masks.

The impact

It seems like every year, thousands of people contract the dreaded flu. This terrible illness has become a part of our seasonal culture. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimated that 28,000 people died from influenza from 2018 to 2019 in the United States. From 2017 to 2018, an estimated 52,000 people died in our country alone. Every year thousands meet an untimely death from this virus. Data trends and studies on the effectiveness of masks have some wondering if they should be worn more often.

Masks aren’t about necessarily protecting ourselves. They are about protecting others from contaminated droplets. Wearing a mask during the flu season might be the best way to protect our communities.

Infection prevention

Cheryl Houselog is Tri-County Health Care’s infection preventionist. She has the duty of stopping the spread of contagions. For the last two years, she has worked non-stop to provide safe working environments for the staff and patients of Tri-County Health Care. When asked what she felt was the best way to prevent the spread of the flu, she quickly stated the importance of respiratory hygiene. To her, a cloth mask is one of the most important barriers between you and sickness. Cheryl doesn’t think you need to constantly wear a mask but choosing to wear one in certain situations makes sense. When you plan to be around several different people, wearing a mask, especially during the flu season, can be a very wise decision.

“The fact that we did not see a lot of colds or influenza last year indicates that masking helps prevent transmission of many respiratory diseases,” – Cheryl Houselog

Masking is more important than ever! They may not be convenient or fashionable, but they can save lives. Data from the Influenza Surveillance Network has been included below. If you compare rates of influenza in the State of Minnesota, it is clear that mitigation efforts were having a strong impact on the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses. This winter, make sure you’re protected from the flu by wearing your masks and getting your flu shot.

Flu and Masks statistics.


First aid kit: Building a lifesaver box

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Solid preparation and safety are a part of the Minnesota way. Everyone should make a concerted effort to protect their health. Having access to a first aid kit should be taken just as seriously as fire alarms and flashlights. You never know when disaster may strike, but you can be ready to take on the brunt of injuries and illness that come with it.

Should I buy or build?

Browsing through the dozens of premade first aid kits online can be a fun time sink, but nothing will ever beat the DIY approach. This is an opportunity to make the kit of your dreams, complete with every tool or gadget needed to suit your lifestyle. The first aid kit a car mechanic needs in his shop may differ significantly from a suburban housewife’s in a drawer by the sink. As a bonus, by choosing pieces individually, you can maintain a higher level of quality control while truly learning the inner workings of your kit.

Only the essentials

Building a first aid can be a great family activity.

Building a first aid kit can be a great family activity.

Tri-County Health Care Emergency Medical Services Manager Cole Lugert weighed in on the topic and shared some of the essential items he believes should be in every personalized first aid kit. Find his list below.

  • Band-Aids
  • Gauze
  • Medical tape
  • A towel
  • Tourniquet

Additionally, Cole stressed the need to choose the best location for the kit. Just throwing it in the closet or on a shelf under your socket set isn’t good enough. Place the items in a secure watertight case of some kind. They should be kept away from liquids and storage temperature should always be considered. Ultimately, the best place is one you won’t forget and can be accessed quickly in stressful situations.

Personalize it!

Make the kit your own by adding items specifically tailored to the health needs of you and your family. Furthermore, make sure to include special medications, inhalers and EpiPen’s. Just be careful not to overpack the kit. While packing, ask yourself, Do I need this item? Do I even know how to use it? Be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid to seek out additional training.

Use the American Red Cross as a guide for more information on first aid kits and watch the video below.


Sebeka Clinic: My first impression

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Working in a rural community is a unique experience. You get a real sense of the people and the bonds they form with others. Handshakes are firmer, smiles are brighter, and conversations never seem to be forced. I love the Sebeka Clinic and my work family, so I felt like sharing my thoughts on the initial few months of working at Tri-County Health Care.

The Sebeka Clinic has been a fixture in the small community for years.

The perfect fit

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first started. I was a little cautious because when you work in a rural clinic, sometimes the resources you have at your fingertips are different than working in a larger clinic. Rural health care is critical. In some areas, people simply don’t have access to solid medical health. Luckily that isn’t the case in Sebeka.

After the first week, I came to the conclusion that I absolutely loved it here. We are located close to large population centers, so higher levels of care are just down the road. The flow and feel are just different in the rural satellite clinics and it just works for me!  I also grew up in northern Minnesota, so I’m no stranger to rural life.

Talent and teamwork

It’s true that some days can be challenging, especially during a pandemic, but I genuinely believe the team I work with makes every challenge more manageable. We have the best staff and we all work so well together. The atmosphere of teamwork at Tri-County Health Care makes the day fly by smoothly. We all balance each other out because, ultimately, we are here to provide quality patient-centered care.

Joining the team

Tri-County Health Care is an amazing place to work. Right now, we have a wide range of openings across several departments. This is an excellent opportunity to join a team that feels like family. Check out the careers page and see if we have an opening for you. This video is a little old, but I thought it was a nice portrait of the surrounding community. Please enjoy!

Alyssa Jackson is often the only primary care provider at the Sebeka Clinic

Alyssa Jackson, APRN, FNP

About the guest author: Alyssa Jackson, APRN, FNP

Alyssa Jackson is a nurse practitioner at the Sebeka Clinic with experience in hospice, palliative and primary care. She places a high value on administering care tailored to the unique needs of each patient. Alyssa loves animals, so when she isn’t at the Sebeka Clinic, she can be found riding horses, chasing chickens, and playing with her five dogs.


Embarrassment and colonoscopies

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Every year thousands of people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Our medical staff and surgeons have some of the most incredible tools that exist. However, no amount of tools will ever replace the early detection of cancer. Being able to catch cancer before it spreads opens up so many options. The problem is, early detection requires an active approach. They have to want to beat cancer before it starts. This kind of preemptive thinking is hard for some people. We get so busy with our lives, the last thing we want to think about is cancer. That needs to change. We need to change our perception of the procedure, so embarrassment and colonoscopies don’t go hand and hand.

Normalizing colonoscopies

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed form of cancer in the United States. This is a troubling statistic because it shouldn’t be so prevalent. We understand this disease and have ways to deal with it, but we still need to participate. When a person gets to 45, a colonoscopy should be an expected procedure. It should provoke little to no anxiety. It’s just another check-up with a bit more homework.

We’ve seen it all

I observe a lot of disgust for the procedure. I know the preparation for a colonoscopy is unpleasant, usually resulting in many trips to the bathroom, but it isn’t as bad as you think. What really concerns me is how embarrassed some people are about safeguarding their own health. Embarrassment and colonoscopies seem to be fused, especially in our community. In a hospital, medical staff is trained to confidentially treat a massive range of patients from every walk of life. I guarantee you, the surgeon performing your colonoscopy has seen it all. There is no need to be afraid or embarrassed.

Take a minute to watch this informative video. This video explains the procedure and its benefits.

Take action

If you find yourself avoiding a colonoscopy out of fear or embarrassment, ask yourself, is cancer embarrassing? Sometimes we have to do things that make us uncomfortable and a colonoscopy is definitely on that list but so is cancer. I want people to make the right choice! Be an active participant in your health. If you’re staring down 45, don’t wait for your doctor to bring it up; just ask about getting a colonoscopy. For more information about colon cancer screening at Tri-County Health Care, click here. Call 218-631-3510 to schedule an appointment!

About the guest author: Travis Swartz, DO

Dr. Swartz has a long history of helping people overcome health challenges. His passion for people is evident in and out of the operating room. When he isn’t with patients, Dr. Swartz enjoys spending time with family or fitting in a remodeling project.


Paddles and mammograms

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I know mammograms are invasive and uncomfortable, but I have good news, Tri-County Health Care has added the Hologic SmartCurve Breast Stabilization system to our workflow. The new technology we have is wonderful because it makes compression more comfortable during your mammogram through the use of conforming paddles.

Many women dislike mammograms because they are uncomfortable. You are in a vulnerable state when you have a mammogram. It is not only uncomfortable physically, but women are also uncomfortable mentally and emotionally. You are entrusting your body and your health to someone you just met. All of that anxiety on top of the fear of breast cancer can be exhausting. The outcome is unknown and could change your life.

The new paddles can accommodate a wide range of patients.

The new paddles can accommodate a wide range of patients. They conform to the size and shape of the breast while applying more even pressure.

Changes and improvements

We switched to using these new curved paddles with patient comfort in mind. We encourage women to get mammograms and are always looking for ways to make the procedure more pleasant. Mammograms are still the most sensitive test that we have to detect cancer in its earliest stages. One of the biggest reasons women don’t get a mammogram is because they are uncomfortable. These new paddles can help women feel more at ease during the exam with less pulling and evenly distributed compression throughout the breast—these paddles curve with the shape of the breast and the chest wall. Many women complain of the pulling at the chest wall, and these new mammogram paddles have a more natural curve that resembles the shape of the breast.

Safe screening

We have already received a flurry of positive comments about the new paddles and I know we will receive more. There has never been a better time to schedule a mammogram at Tri-County Health Care! If you’re 40 or older or have a family history of breast cancer, please consider this life-saving screening. I have personally witnessed this testing save lives. It can be scary, but it is worth it. Click here to learn more about our 3-D Mammography or call 218-631-3510 to schedule an appointment!

I found a short video that gives more information on the technological aspects of mammograms. Please watch and don’t hesitate to ask questions about mammograms during your next primary care appointment.

 

Guest Writer: Kate Lachowitzer, Diagnostic Imaging Manager

Kate has been working at Tri-County Health Care for over seven years. She started as a staff technologist and became the department manager after two years of dedicated service. She loves the people-first atmosphere of Tri-County Health Care and enjoys working with a team that cares so much!


Step-by-step guide to colonoscopies

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All too often, people fear the unknown. In the realm of healthcare, this is especially true. Part of receiving care at a hospital or clinic is getting quality consultation about procedures, medication and better living practices. Colonoscopies are no different. If a person is approaching 50 years of age, it’s time to start thinking about scheduling a colonoscopy. However, many people in this age range put it off. Using this guide is a step in the right direction.

Travis Swartz, DO, has spent a great deal of his career performing this procedure, helping hundreds stave off colon cancer. According to Dr. Swartz, the main reason people avoid a colonoscopy is embarrassment. They think being sedated and having an endoscope inserted into their rectum is an invasion of privacy with outcomes not worth the hassle. This belief is simply not true. Although it is not a fun activity, screening is a great tool to discover cancer.

A step-by-step guide

A great way of reducing anxiety is to break things down into pieces. Dr. Swartz has put together a guide to coloscopies at Tri-County Health Care. It covers everything from the initial consultation to discharge.

Travis Swartz, DO, wants you to take steps toward better colorectal health.

Travis Swartz, DO

  • According to the Mayo Clinic, a person should receive a colonoscopy around 50. Follow-up colonoscopies will depend on a patient’s risk for cancer.
  • Typically, a primary care provider discusses a colonoscopy during an appointment. If they don’t, ask about it. An active approach is the best way to prevent colon cancer.
  • The procedure usually takes place about a week after scheduling.
  • There is preparation to do before a colonoscopy. Cleansing the colon is the most difficult aspect of the process. A patient will need to consume around a gallon of liquid mixed with a medicine that will force bowel movements.
  • Avoid red or blue liquids because they create issues with the imaging equipment.
  • You will get a confirmation call before the appointment.
  • After check-in, you are brought to a private room and to meet with the surgeon. Shortly after, patients meet with the anesthetist.
  • The patient goes back to the colonoscopy suite. In the suite, a surgeon, a reporter and an assistant will complete the procedure.
  • The patient is sedated during a colonoscopy. The actual procedures takes around 30 minutes. The entire process takes around three to four hours.
  • After, the patient returns to the private room. The patient enjoys a meal and sent home.

Efficiency

Technology, colonoscopies have come a long way. The screening only takes a few hours. The patient goes home the same day with no special instruction for recovery. According to Dr. Swartz, patients are usually very tired from being up most of the night. Most go immediately home to enjoy a nice nap.

Tri-County Health Care offers multiple colon cancer screening options. Visit TCHC.org for more information about screenings. Call 218-631-3510 to schedule.


Mind, body and spirit: Dr. Lindblom

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What is osteopathic medicine?

Osteopathic medicine focuses on the body as a unified system. To truly help someone, an osteopathic doctor will treat the whole person, not just the symptoms. This approach is a more holistic form of care that emphasizes the connection of mind, body and spirit. This form of care primarily uses physical manipulation of the musculoskeletal system, but the overall outcome depends on the patient living a healthier life.

The mind, body and spirt are treated collectively in osteopathic medicine.

John Lindblom, DO

John Lindblom, DO, has dedicated his life to the pursuit of improving the lives of others from the ground up. His style of care is as unique as his discipline. Meeting with Dr. Lindblom for the first time goes beyond simple evaluation and measurements. Osteopathic medicine is about the whole body, the mind, and the spirit that guides it. During an initial meeting with Dr. Lindblom, he gets to know the whole you.

“I love taking things apart and putting them together. In high school, my desire to help people steered me toward medicine. My hands-on nature and my drive to help others came together with osteopathic medicine.” – Dr. Lindblom

Osteopathic medicine health treats the whole body, including the mind and spirit.

John Lindblom, DO

Prevention

A core tenant of osteopathic medicine is prevention. Treating the mind, body and spirit is about building a person up to stave off illness in the future. Dr. Lindblom is all about helping you today so that you can be healthy tomorrow! Regular appointments with Dr. Lindblom can assist with a wide range of ailments. Aches and pains are common reasons for scheduling an appointment, but osteopathic medicine can help with far more complex issues. In some cases, it can even prevent the need for invasive procedures.

Dr. Lindblom is from the Fergus Falls area and has a strong passion for the outdoors. He enjoys metalworking, welding and exploring the wilderness of Minnesota with his trusty metal detector.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lindblom, please call 218-631-3510. To learn more about our providers, please visit tchc.org/primarycare and follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for regular updates.