Health Care Leadership Expert Gets an Inside View of Model Teamwork

BERMUDA RUN, N.C.—Bermuda Run Mayor Kenneth A. Rethmeier, Dr.P.H., is also an internationally known consultant in health care administration. Armed with some 45 years in public health management, Rethmeier got the chance to look at health care from the bedside instead of the boardroom.

A golfer who also enjoys cycling and hiking here and abroad, Rethmeier began experiencing hip pain in 2015. The discomfort in his left hip became so debilitating that he could not walk the relatively short distance from his home to his post office kiosk without stopping several times in severe discomfort.

Rethmeier sought treatment at the facility he ranks as one of the best he’s seen: “The medical staff, nursing staff and all of the ancillary staff at Wake Forest Baptist Health – Davie Medical Center—I cannot say enough good things about how attentive, caring, focused, and on top of things they are.”

Doctors and nurses at Davie Medical Center have many grateful fans among their patients, but Rethmeier had a wider perspective than most. He had been commanding officer of the Naval School of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He was also the lead consultant in developing a physicians’ executive leadership program for the Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence.

John Shields, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon at Davie Medical Center, recommended a hip replacement via a minimally invasive posterior approach. Rethmeier identifies Shields, Maxwell K. Langfitt, M.D., David C. Pollock, M.D., and all those who took care of him as “community heroes” who exemplify all the best practices he has studied and taught worldwide.

Davie is “well above” other hospitals

“When I was consulting I went to more than 50 different hospitals looking at operations,” Rethmeier said. “Davie Medical Center is well above any hospital I have seen. As a patient, I had what some in industry call a ‘cold eye’ review.” (The term describes a process where someone not involved with a particular system looks at it with fresh eyes to identify areas of improvement.)

So, by the time Rethmeier was in a hospital bed looking up at medical treatment with the critical eye of a joint replacement patient, he had spent thirty years on health care ventures and made a mark on how medicine is delivered. His work with the Hospital Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), had been recognized for its contribution to the national dialogue about how to manage networks of health care services. 

A milestone day in May

Rethmeier’s hip replacement surgery was on May 16, 2017. He said once the operation was completed he could tell from the high level of care that the first hours after surgery were critical.

“The nursing staff, physical therapists and anesthesiologists have a very tough job immediate post op,” he said. “Their job is to get you comfortable, ambulating well and out of the hospital. They have to move with the speed and acumen of military A6 pilots doing touch and go’s.” He said the Davie team’s efficiency reminded him of the Navy and Marine Corps pilot maneuvers he saw before heading for his tour of duty in Vietnam.

Rethmeier was grateful for the expertise of his anesthesiologist, Ashley Talbott, M.D., who was responsible for his pain management. “As anesthesiologists, our goals are to optimize patient safety and pain control throughout the entire journey,” Talbott said. “We offer world-class regional anesthetic techniques that not only keep patients safe and comfortable during their procedures, but also continue to provide pain relief during the initial days of recovery, allowing patients early mobility and enhancing their recovery.”

During rehab and recovery, all the benchmarks Shields told him to anticipate occurred on schedule. “I was without a walker or cane two weeks after surgery, and off pain medications in three weeks,” said Rethmeier.

Rethmeier acknowledges that at age 72, the recovery pace is slower. He said, “At 32, I had both knees operated on in March and was back running in June. But still, it’s amazing that after this hip replacement, at about 8 weeks I was back to normal.

“Now I feel strong,” said Rethmeier. “I stay in touch with John Shields on email through myWakeHealth.com, and have had no problems or issues with the hip feeling odd or abnormal.”

Shields said Rethmeier’s successful experience with hip replacement is not unusual, and that hip replacement has one of the highest success rates among surgeries. “If you’re sitting on your couch wishing you could take a walk or go play golf or tennis,” he said, “but you cannot because of hip pain, you are probably ready for a hip replacement.

“If you decide to have the procedure, read all the data when you’re choosing a surgeon and a facility,” said Shields. “Choose a facility, like Davie Medical Center, that does high volume and be sure to select a fellowship-trained total joint surgeon who does a significant number of hips per year.”

Rethmeier said it is obvious where he would send a friend or family member. His next piece of advice would be to follow the recommendations of physicians and physical therapists religiously.

From “Inspired leadership” to inspiring recovery

Rethmeier’s history with Bermuda Run began in 1998 when he was hired as a senior vice president for Wachovia Corporation. The move to North Carolina was welcome; his wife, the former Judy Oestrich, had grown up near Fayetteville before becoming a registered nurse.

And if Rethmeier develops additional seminars or publications on inspired health care management, the medical staff at Davie Medical Center might well expect to see their brand of compassionate care and rigorous skill held up as a model of exemplary practice.

As Shields said, “From our hand-picked surgical team and all the OR staff to the nurses on the floor, the greeters, the transport folks and the dining staff, we want the patient’s experience to be positive. Our patients’ comments and our Press-Ganey [hospital evaluation] scores say we’re hitting these marks.” 

Rethmeier is reminded every day of the Davie Medical Center team’s attitude and expertise: “Three weeks ago I was in Alaska, walking everywhere. I kept up with my grandkids who are 16, 14, and 11 years old!”