The scoliosis health-care team

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Learn about all the health-care professionals involved in taking care of a patient with scoliosis, including doctors, nurses and other health-care workers.

Key points

  • If your teen requires spinal surgery, the main members of their surgical team will be the orthopaedic spine surgeon, the anaesthetist, the orthopaedic fellow, the orthopaedic resident, and medical student.
  • Your teen's nursing team will include registered nurses, nurse practitioners and registered nurses in the outpatient clinic.
  • Your teen may also see a physiotherapist, orthotist, social worker, child life specialist, discharge planner, and researchers.

If your teen needs spine surgery, they will receive care from a number of health-care professionals. These people are very skilled and caring individuals. They are committed to family-centred care. Your teen’s health-care team will respect the individual needs of your teen and their family.

It can be very difficult to tell what health-care professionals do just by the clothes they wear. Many health-care professionals wear scrubs or white coats. But all hospital staff are required to wear identification badges that include their name and what they specialize in. If you’re not sure what somebody does, don’t be afraid to ask them.

The surgical team

If your teen requires spinal surgery, these will be the main members of their surgical team:

  • Orthopaedic spine surgeon: This is a staff surgeon who specializes in the surgical treatment of spinal diseases and conditions.
  • Anaesthetist: This is the doctor who gives your teen the medications needed to keep them asleep during the entire surgery. The anaesthetist also takes care of your teen’s pain control while they are in hospital.
  • Orthopaedic fellow: A fellow is a licensed medical doctor and a certified orthopaedic surgeon. They are doing additional training (one- to two-year program) in their area of specialty, such as paediatric spine surgery. They will lead the residents and medical students in caring for your teen either in the outpatient clinic, the operating room, or during your teen’s recovery in hospital. Ultimately it is the staff orthopaedic spine surgeon who is in charge of your teen’s care and oversees the medical students, residents, and fellows.
  • Orthopaedic resident: A resident is a licensed medical doctor in training to become an orthopaedic surgeon (five-year program). Residents will be directly involved in your teen’s care either in the outpatient clinic, the operating room, or during your teen’s recovery in the hospital.
  • Medical student: A medical student is in training to become a medical doctor (four-year program). Medical students are not yet licensed to practice medicine independently but may participate in your teen’s care as part of their training.

The nursing team

There will be a variety of nurses involved in your teen’s care:

  • Registered nurses: They will provide direct care to your teen at the bedside.
  • Nurse practitioner: These nurses have advanced education in caring for teens who are having spinal surgery. They may be involved in your teen’s care before, during, and after surgery.
  • Registered nurses in the outpatient clinic: These nurses will see your teen before and after surgery.

Other health-care professionals

  • Physiotherapist: This health-care professional will visit your teen after surgery to help them regain physical activity. Within a few days following surgery, the physiotherapist will help your teen to walk, go up and down stairs, etc. They will also help your teen with breathing exercises.
  • Orthotist: If recommended by the surgeon, an orthotist will make a brace for your teen’s back. The brace will help your teen recover from surgery.
  • Social worker: This is a specialist in counselling, therapy, and finding resources.
  • Child life specialists: These professionals will look at how your teen is coping. They will use methods like therapeutic play to help.
  • Discharge planner: This team member will help your teen get ready to go home from the hospital. If necessary, the discharge planner can arrange a transfer to another place from the hospital.
  • Researchers: These are scientists who do research at the hospital. You may be asked to participate in a study. It could involve filling out a questionnaire, having a blood test done, or participating in a clinical trial.
Last updated: June 1st 2008