It almost doesn't sound right, the idea of pitting patients against each other.
But as insurance companies demand shorter and shorter hospital stays, the medical staff has to figure out a way to inspire patients to get better sooner.
A little competition does just that and makes recovery fun, too.
Exercise isn't easy for patients who just had joint replacement surgery two days ago. They were up by 7 a.m. the next day and in group therapy that afternoon. It's the same for all the patients.
The Director of Orthopedics, Lisa Bihm, says, "You treat them like they're well, not sick. You get them up in the morning, and you dress them in regular street clothes, and then, they do their group therapy together. They know what's going on. It's great. They're out of here on the third day. They're happy."
Before, the length of their hospital stay was determined by their doctor, each of whom had different ideas.
Following the lead of a hospital in Maryland, St. Mary's decided to streamline its program, calling it "Joint Replacement Solutions."
Pre-op patients meet in a classroom setting and are given material that spells out exactly what's expected of them. And in post-op, they meet in groups for physical therapy and are encouraged to compete with one another.
Bihm explains, "An 83-year-old woman is making a 53-year-old male look bad. He will push himself harder to try to beat her on the board."
Walking the farthest on a new knee or hip moves the horse to the end of the board, giving the patient bragging rights. But it can all change in a day.
Luckily, it's not just competition. There's camaraderie, too.
Most surgery patients are well enough to leave after three days. But if they need home healthcare, they get it. And St. Mary's is proud to offer private rooms.