Congratulations, it is an Honor to Feature
Lauren Labra, PA-C
Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine & Sports Medicine
Despite seeing a huge variety of orthopaedic patients, Lauren Labra uses the same piece of equipment at almost every appointment: a desktop computer.
For Labra, a Physician Assistant, the exam room computer is a place to show patients exactly what is going on inside their bodies – not just tell them. Reviewing X-rays and other images helps them better understand and adhere to therapeutic plans, she believes.
“I take a very educational approach, and I’m also a very visual person,” she says. “It’s one thing to say, ‘You have significant arthritis’ or ‘You have a torn ligament’ or ‘Your joint is bone-on-bone’, but to see it makes so much more sense. I’m grateful to have time for those important conversations with my patients.”
Labra joined Hampton Roads Orthopaedics Spine & Sports Medicine (HROSM) in 2017. She works with Jon H. Swenson, MD, F.A.A.O.S., who specializes in minimally invasive joint replacements, sports medicine and arthroscopic surgery.
In the operating room, Labra assists on shoulder, knee and hip surgeries, from total joint replacements to minor arthroscopic procedures. She typically helps with retraction and positioning and then closes incisions.
During in-office hours, Labra often sees post-operative patients to review follow-up X-rays, check on incisions, test range of motion, and discuss pain management and progress in physical therapy. She also does many cortisone and lubricant injections, most for arthritis patients.
“Nobody likes to get injections, so part of my job is to get them talking to distract them,” she relates. “I enjoy that challenge of taking their mind off the situation, and it’s nice to get to know them better at each appointment.”
Labra began to consider a career in medicine midway through high school. Before that, she dreamed of going to culinary school and becoming a pastry chef. In her hometown outside Pittsburgh, Pa., she was whipping up homemade bake sale cookies by third grade and decorating elaborate cakes for Dairy Queen as a teenage employee.
In her junior year, however, Labra found herself intrigued by an anatomy class. A high school friend encouraged her to apply to Gannon University in Erie, Pa., where she went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Health Science and a Master of Physician Assistant Science.
The PA path appealed to Labra because she could have more time with patients and help handle a diverse medical and/or surgical caseload. As a fan of both anatomy and hands-on work, orthopaedics always stood out as a specialty.
“I love the intricacy of how well everything in the body fits together and works together, and how we can fix parts if they become damaged,” Labra says.
Witnessing the move toward more outpatient surgeries, even for total joint replacements, has been exciting, she adds: “Patients are doing great, and we’re lowering the risk of hospital-acquired infections. A lot of the time, they also feel better, are more comfortable, and sleep better when they get home to their own environment, which helps a lot with recovery.”
Outside work, Labra likes to paint, cook, listen to music, go to the beach, and hang out with friends and her dog Boo, a Boxer/Chinese Shar-Pei mix that she describes as “a cute wrinkly Boxer”. She stays active with weight-training and distance running, including her recent training for a half marathon.
Helping her patients also get moving again is highly rewarding.
“While orthopaedic problems aren’t usually life-threatening, they are definitely debilitating,” Labra notes. “We have so many patients who want to be more active, but they just can’t because of a joint problem. Getting them back to where they want to be – or as close as we can get them to that point – is really an awesome feeling.”
We are grateful for local Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants who serve our health care community!
Please let us know if there is an NP or PA you would like to see honored in a future edition.