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Hospitalists Like Dr. Cheryl Zuccaro Make the OHOW Difference in Patient Care

At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we pride ourselves on our ability to provide personalized care for each patient that walks through our door. It’s part of what sets us apart from other hospitals and creates The OHOW Difference. One of the ways we provide this level of care is with the help of our hospitalists.

Hospitalists like Dr. Cheryl Zuccaro are the in-patient physicians who work hands-on with patients throughout their surgical journey. Their work allows us to help patients who have pre-existing health conditions that may complicate the surgical process. They also assist with any other patient health issues that may arise during their stay at our full-service hospital.  

Our roster of hospitalists at OHOW allows us to provide this specialized care to our patients 24/7. Today, we’ll share insight from one of our dedicated hospitalists. Dr. Cheryl Zuccaro is a physician with a background in family medicine who has a vibrant passion for personalized patient care.

Dr. Cheryl Zuccaro Has Built a Life-Long Passion for Patient Care

Dr. Cheryl Zuccaro, or “Dr. Z,” as some of her patients call her, knew she wanted to become a doctor at a very young age.

“I remember as a little girl, my mom and dad took me to a hospital at different times to see a family member,” Dr. Zuccaro recalled. “I was always fascinated by doctors and patient care.”

As she went into middle school and excelled in her math and science classes, her teachers and parents told her she could one day become a doctor. The idea excited her, and for one summer in high school, she shadowed a family physician. Throughout this early experience, she fell in love with the idea of helping patients full-time. 

Dr. Zuccaro studied to become a doctor at the University of Wisconsin Madison and finished her studies at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. While completing her education, she participated in a rotating internship at Northwestern University, where she later got accepted into the Cook County emergency medicine program.

When practicing emergency medicine, Dr. Zuccaro recalled her teenage experience of shadowing that family physician. A couple of months into the program, Dr. Zuccaro switched her focus to family medicine as a result of wanting to personally connect longterm to patients – something that is not possible with emergency medicine. 

She completed a family medicine medical residency in Denver, Colorado, where she rose to the position of chief resident after a year. She then returned to Madison and became a professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin.

After several years of teaching, Dr. Zuccaro practiced family medicine for Columbia St. Mary’s for around 15 years before becoming an orthopedic hospitalist. In January of 2013, Dr. Zuccaro joined the OHOW team.

What Is a Hospitalist? Your Dedicated Specialist Throughout Your Stay

Many people aren’t familiar with the job of a hospitalist, but they play an essential role in the surgical process. What is a hospitalist? They’re your physician during your time at the hospital, before and after your surgery.

At OHOW, our hospitalists’ work begins before a patient ever has surgery. Around 3-4 weeks before a scheduled surgery, our hospitalists work with the pre-operative clinic to review any relevant medical information that may help prepare patients for a successful surgery and swift recovery. They ensure an individualized treatment plan. The plan commonly helps patients manage diabetes or high blood pressure for their surgery. They also monitor and review patients’ health conditions that may increase the risk of infection. 

Hospitalists like Dr. Cheryl Zuccaro work hand in hand with every team at OHOW, from our surgeons and nursing staff to physical therapists and case managers. After surgery, they set patients up for success throughout their post-operative care.

“Our surgeons focus on the surgery, and the hospitalists will take care of everything else,” Dr. Zuccaro said. “If a patient experiences symptoms like pain or nausea—things that commonly come following surgery—we’re here to help out immediatly.”   

24/7 Assistance from Hospitalists Improves Nursing Confidence

The presence of the hospitalists helps nursing staff feel very comfortable and provide the best possible care to patients. Having a specialized physician like Dr. Zuccaro on staff allows for nurses to ask questions and address concerns as soon as they arise. 

“I’ve experienced other hospitals where a lot is going on; they often don’t recognize something is wrong with a patient until the problem is well down the road,” Dr. Zuccaro said. “At OHOW, our nurses are attuned to recognize if a patient is running into an issue. They’re right on top of patient care, and let me know immediately.” 

Amy Leppla, Inpatient Nurse Manager, said hospitalists are an invaluable resource for our nursing teams to take a collaborative approach to each patient. 

“Because we are so small and specialized, the hospitalists at OHOW share their time with each patient,” Leppla said. “They are very involved in their care and accessible to the nursing staff.”

In addition to being a fantastic resource for staff, Leppla also notes that Dr. Zuccaro and her fellow hospitalists help keep OHOW apprised of the latest research and information coming out of the medical world.

“Dr. Zuccaro has so many great ideas and spends a lot of time researching, teaching, and helping us move forward as an organization,” Leppla said. “She’s a huge advocate for people’s health.”

Dr. Zuccaro Maintains a Family Approach to Care

During her year of experience as a hospitalist, Dr. Zuccaro has maintained her family-centric approach to patient care. 

“When I first transitioned from a family practice to orthopedic hospitalist work, I was worried I would lose the connection to my patients,” Dr. Zuccaro said. “But that isn’t the case. In the two or three days that patients spend at OHOW, I get to know them well. Plus, I enjoy meeting new people all the time.

While she no longer has a private family practice, she finds taking care of community members just as rewarding. Since many of the patients she cares for are retired, she often chats with them about their fascinating career history or hobbies.

“I’ve taken care of neighbors and people from my church. Sometimes people come up to me in public and say, ‘Hey Dr. Z!’ It’s fun because instead of just a patient who had knee surgery, I learn a lot about them as people, and their family.”

Dr. Zuccaro also carries her family-centric approach to how she engages with other OHOW staff, having started staff initiatives like the OHOW knitting group. She says that the friendly social atmosphere between staff members is a part of what makes OHOW excel in patient satisfaction

“The whole staff here at OHOW is like a family, and we work well together. I think that helps to make OHOW a great place to have surgery,” she said. “Patients can tell that the staff enjoys their job. They tell me they can sense it in the pre-op clinic the minute they get here.” 

At the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, hospitalists like Dr. Cheryl Zuccaro bring the warmth and individual attention that ensure every patient has a positive experience. Hospitalists are a valuable piece of the OHOW team, providing outstanding orthopedic care to each patient that we treat. For more information about how you may encounter a hospitalist during your stay at the Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, contact us today. 


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