Open Accessibility Menu

A new approach to spine surgery

The Peak Spine Center, a comprehensive program based on national best practices and the fundamental principles of wellness, opens on February 27 at St. John’s Medical Center.

“This is not your typical hospital program or hospital stay,” according to medical director Christopher Hills, DO. “We are changing the way people think about and experience spine surgery.”

Dr. Hills and Mary Neal, MD, are orthopedic surgeons who, along with the administrative and clinical team at St. John’s, developed this innovative program to provide a superior experience for individuals having spine surgery.

“First and foremost, we do not see our patients as being sick,” Dr. Hills explained. “They are healthy individuals who come to the hospital because they have back pain, and want to live a better quality of life by having surgery.”

This fundamental concept of wellness is executed throughout the entire program, which integrates the most advanced surgical techniques and pain management with an environment that maximizes patient recovery through education, a culture of early mobility, and family involvement.

Superior Outcomes
According to national best practice studies, the result of this new approach to surgery is less pain, quicker recovery, and superior outcomes. “We evaluate each patient on multiple clinical, functional, and patient satisfaction criteria,” explained Jackson. “These outcomes are analyzed during monthly performance improvement team meetings, enabling St. John’s to become masters of teamwork.”

Data on spine surgery at St. John’s already exceeds national averages. In 2016, St. John’s spine surgery patients spent an average of 1.9 days in the hospital, compared with the national average of 2.7 days. 94% of St. John’s spine surgery patients expressed overall satisfaction with their experience, compared with 71% of patients nationwide.

The Peak Spine Center Experience
The Peak Spine Center experience actually begins in the physician’s office. Once someone decides to have spine surgery, they are provided with a comprehensive guidebook, explaining their upcoming surgery and a list of activities that they need to begin prior to surgery. This guidebook also serves as a clinical diary that is brought to a pre-operative class, all appointments, and the hospital. According to orthopedic program manager Jaime Jackson, RN, “Setting expectations is a key component of our program.”

The orthopedic program manager oversees the patient’s entire stay and serves as a resource before, during, and after discharge. All staff at the Peak Spine Center receive special training, and are chosen to work on the unit because of their expertise, upbeat nature, and high motivational skills.

The fundamental concept of wellness is also executed throughout an individual’s stay in the hospital. Patients wear comfortable gym clothes and follow a structured daily schedule outlined in a daily newsletter.

Care doesn’t end after discharge. Patients receive calls from the orthopedic program manager within 72 hours of discharge. Reunions for spine patients and caregivers are held twice a year with surgeons and their entire care team.

For more information on the Peak Spine Center, go to or call 307-739-6199.


Media contact: Karen Connelly, 307.739.7380,
St. John's Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming, offers patient-centered clinical excellence and community wellness services through a full-service hospital, primary care, and specialty physician practices, and a long-term care Living Center. For more information, visit
The mission of the St. John’s Hospital Foundation is to secure philanthropic support to advance the mission and strategic objectives of St. John’s Medical Center, including patient-centered care, clinical excellence, and community wellness.