Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists, A Place of Competence, Compassion, Empathy, Encouragement and Respect

Written by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Edited by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Digital photographs by Tony Mussari, Sr.
Copyright 2014
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

I believe compassion is accepting, loving and supporting yourself and others when they need it most – in whatever way you can. Amanda Gore

The Last Step

On an overcast July day, Kitch and I drove 32 miles toClouds SOS_IMG_3478 Dickson City to honor an appointment at Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists. There we met with members of Dr. Harry Schmaltz’s support staff in preparation for Kitch’s total knee replacement surgery.

According to the CDC, there were 719,000 total knee replacements in 2010. Some predict that by 2030, there will be 4 million knee operations annually.

These operations are not without complications. For the patient and the caregiver, they cause a good deal of anxiety and fear.

Our friend Amanda Gore teaches this truth: “Most of our challenges and difficulties are in our imaginations – the stories we tell ourselves about what will happen.”

Life Is Bumpy_IMG_3490Kitch and I know full well the practical implication of this truth. In the past seven years, we faced quadruple bypass surgery and breast cancer surgery. We know something about coping with fear and controlling the stories we tell ourselves about the surgery and its aftermath.

To be honest, both the patient and the caregiver need competent and compassionate care that includes encouragement, help, information and respect from all the members of the surgeon’s team.

That’s exactly what we experienced from the moment we entered the door at Scranton Orthopaedic Associates.

How Can I Help You

Someone once said the first steps are the most difficult. That’s exactly how we feel every time we enter a clinic, a 1 Georgia_ Receptionhospital or a medical doctor’s office. The person who greets us sets the tone for the visit.

The person who greeted us at the reception area of the place we affectionately refer to as “SOS” was a polite young woman who asked if she could help us.

We answered in the affirmative, and she directed us to her cubical, Number 5. There, she entered the information Kitch provided into her computer, and then she assured us we would be called in a few minutes.

Georgia was pleasant and helpful.

Amelia E. Barr described the important role Georgia played in the success of our visit when she wrote these words:

One of the great helps to success is to be cheerful.

Getting Started

We sat quietly in the waiting room for about 10 minutes. In the 2 Kathleen IMG_3385background, we could hear the mummer of hushed conversations from other patients and unnerving reports of violence in Ukraine and Gaza from a television set mounted on the wall. A door opened, and a nurse with a very pleasant smile announced the next patient to be seen with one word, Kathleen.

We entered the inner sanctum as it were, and the nurse asked Kitch to stand on a scale in the hallway. After she teased me about taking a picture that included the digital print out of her weight, Kitch stepped on the scale, and I snapped a discrete picture.

Our next stop was a small but comfortable room where we would spend most of our time during this visit.

The nurse checked Kitch’s blood pressure and temperature. Before she left, she told us the physician assistant would arrive in a few moments.

She was efficient and very pleasant while doing her work.

Touching all the Bases

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants tells us there are over 95,000 certified physician assistants in the US. They see 7 million patients every week. This year, 3 Kathleen W Medical HistoryIMG_3389US News and World Report ranked physician assistant as one of the 15 best jobs in America.

Just before noon, we met one of the best PA’s in America.

Kathy Whitney graduated from Marywood University in 2013. She became Dr. Harry Schmaltz’s physician assistant shortly after her graduation.

If ever there was a person tailor-made for this profession, it is Kathy. Her communications skills and bedside manner are excellent. She greeted Kitch with a warm and heartfelt handshake. Her demeanor was calm, thoughtful, respectful and welcoming. She explained what she was going to do. She focused her attention on all the things that would be helpful to the surgeon and his team.

Kathy Exam_IMG_3408

Kathy was able to make a human connection with Kitch. There was a special kind of warmth in her conversation and her actions. She made her patient and the caregiver feel comfortable and relaxed.

As I watched her examine Kitch, I thought to myself, Kathy has the gift of caring about her patients. She was not rushed. She was considerate, diplomatic, sensitive and kind. She included the caregiver as an equal partner in the process. More than once she asked me if I had any questions or concerns.

It was a pleasure to work with Kathy because she attended to all the little things that reduce stress levels.

At the end of the session, she did not point to the X-ray department. She took the time to walk Kitch to that part of the clinic, and she introduced her to the X-ray technician.

Kathy Whitney fits the description Charles Dickens used to describe excellence:

Whatever I have tried to do in life, I have tried with all my heart to do well; that whatever I have devoted myself to, I have devoted myself to completely; that in great aims and in small, I have always been thoroughly in earnest.

Taking Pictures

Diane, our X-ray technician, greeted us with a warm smile. She was most accommodating to Kitch, and she enabled me to take the pictures I needed for this article.

She is a very positive person who practices the art of problem solving.
4 Diane H XRay_IMG_3442

We did not spend a lot of time with her, but the few minutes we were in the radiology department were productive.

Why you ask?

Diane knows what she is doing, and she does it efficiently, effectively and without much inconvenience to the patient.

These are essential attributes of good patient care, but Diane takes an additional step. She humanizes the process.

Diane gives special meaning to William Arthur Ward’s aphorism:

A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.

Going Home

Less than an hour after we entered the examination area, we were standing in the check out area.

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There were three people in front of us, and that gave me some time to think about our experience.

It was very obvious to us that the people we met did everything they could to guarantee a successful outcome for Kitch. They also were willing to do everything they could to make our visit pleasant.

An adaptation of the words of Orison Swett Marden describes the goal of the team at Scranton Orthopaedic Specialists:

They are determined that their work is going to stand for quality… that they are going to stamp a superior quality upon everything that goes out of their hands, that whatever they do shall bear the hallmark of excellence.

We would put it another way. They are determined to reflect the light of American medical care at its best.

Thank you, Georgia.

Thank you, Kathy.

Thank you, Diane.

Thank you, Dr. Schmaltz

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