DiversityNursing Blog

Doctoring, Without the Doctor

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, May 26, 2015 @ 02:59 PM

By 

www.nytimes.com 

26NEBRASKA master675 resized 600There are just a handful of psychiatrists in all of western Nebraska, a vast expanse of farmland and cattle ranches. So when Murlene Osburn, a cattle rancher turned psychiatric nurse, finished her graduate degree, she thought starting a practice in this tiny village of tumbleweeds and farm equipment dealerships would be easy.

It wasn’t. A state law required nurses like her to get a doctor to sign off before they performed the tasks for which they were nationally certified. But the only willing psychiatrist she could find was seven hours away by car and wanted to charge her $500 a month. Discouraged, she set the idea for a practice aside and returned to work on her ranch.

“Do you see a psychiatrist around here? I don’t!” said Ms. Osburn, who has lived in Wood Lake, population 63, for 11 years. “I am willing to practice here. They aren’t. It just gets down to that.”

But in March the rules changed: Nebraska became the 20th state to adopt a law that makes it possible for nurses in a variety of medical fields with most advanced degrees to practice without a doctor’s oversight. Maryland’s governor signed a similar bill into law this month, and eight more states are considering such legislation, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Now nurses in Nebraska with a master’s degree or better, known as nurse practitioners, no longer have to get a signed agreement from a doctor to be able to do what their state license allows — order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications and administer treatments.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is such a wonderful victory,’” said Ms. Osburn, who was delivering a calf when she got the news in a text message.

The laws giving nurse practitioners greater autonomy have been particularly important in rural states like Nebraska, which struggle to recruit doctors to remote areas. About a third of Nebraska’s 1.8 million people live in rural areas, and many go largely unserved as the nearest mental health professional is often hours away.

“The situation could be viewed as an emergency, especially in rural counties,” said Jim P. Stimpson, director of the Center for Health Policy at the University of Nebraska, referring to the shortage.

Groups representing doctors, including the American Medical Association, are fighting the laws. They say nurses lack the knowledge and skills to diagnose complex illnesses by themselves. Dr. Robert M. Wah, the president of the A.M.A., said nurses practicing independently would “further compartmentalize and fragment health care,” which he argued should be collaborative, with “the physician at the head of the team.”

Dr. Richard Blatny, the president of the Nebraska Medical Association, which opposed the state legislation, said nurse practitioners have just 4 percent of the total clinical hours that doctors do when they start out. They are more likely than doctors, he said, to refer patients to specialists and to order diagnostic imaging like X-rays, a pattern that could increase costs.

Nurses say their aim is not to go it alone, which is rarely feasible in the modern age of complex medical care, but to have more freedom to perform the tasks that their licenses allow without getting a permission slip from a doctor — a rule that they argue is more about competition than safety. They say advanced-practice nurses deliver primary care that is as good as that of doctors, and cite research that they say proves it.

What is more, nurses say, they are far less costly to employ and train than doctors and can help provide primary care for the millions of Americans who have become newly insured under the Affordable Care Act in an era of shrinking budgets and shortages of primary care doctors. Three to 14 nurse practitioners can be educated for the same cost as one physician, according to a 2011 report by the Institute of Medicine, a prestigious panel of scientists and other experts that is part of the National Academy of Sciences.

In all, nurse practitioners are about a quarter of the primary care work force, according to the institute, which called on states to lift barriers to their full practice.

There is evidence that the legal tide is turning. Not only are more states passing laws, but a February decision by the Supreme Court found that North Carolina’s dental board did not have the authority to stop dental technicians from whitening teeth in nonclinical settings like shopping malls. The ruling tilted the balance toward more independence for professionals with less training.

“The doctors are fighting a losing battle,” said Uwe E. Reinhardt, a health economist at Princeton University. “The nurses are like insurgents. They are occasionally beaten back, but they’ll win in the long run. They have economics and common sense on their side.”

Nurses acknowledge they need help. Elizabeth Nelson, a nurse practitioner in northern Nebraska, said she was on her own last year when an obese woman with a dislocated hip showed up in the emergency room of her small-town hospital. The hospital’s only doctor came from South Dakota once a month to sign paperwork and see patients.

“I was thinking, ‘I’m not ready for this,’ ” said Ms. Nelson, 35, who has been practicing for three years. “It was such a lonely feeling.”

Ms. Osburn, 55, has been on the plains her whole life, first on a sugar beet farm in eastern Montana and more recently in the Sandhills region of Nebraska, a haunting, lonely landscape of yellow grasses dotted with Black Angus cattle. She has been a nurse since 1982, working in nursing homes, hospitals and a state-run psychiatric facility.

As farming has advanced and required fewer workers, the population has shrunk. In the 1960s, the school in Wood Lake had high school graduating classes. Now it has only four students. Ms. Osburn and her family are the only ones still living on a 14-mile road. Three other farmhouses along it are vacant.

The isolation takes a toll on people with mental illness. And the culture on the plains — self-reliance and fiercely guarded privacy — makes it hard to seek help. Ms. Osburn’s aunt had schizophrenia, and her best friend, a victim of domestic abuse, committed suicide in 2009. She herself suffered through a deep depression after her son died in a farm accident in the late 1990s, with no psychiatrist within hundreds of miles to help her through it.

“The need here is so great,” she said, sitting in her kitchen with windows that look out over the plains. She sometimes uses binoculars to see whether her husband is coming home. “Just finding someone who can listen. That’s what we are missing.”

That conviction drove her to apply to a psychiatric nursing program at the University of Nebraska, which she completed in December 2012. She received her national certification in 2013, giving her the right to act as a therapist, and to diagnose and prescribe medication for patients with mental illness. The new state law still requires some supervision at first, but it can be provided by another psychiatric nurse — help Ms. Osburn said she would gladly accept.

Ms. Nelson, the nurse who treated the obese patient, now works in a different hospital. These days when she is alone on a shift, she has backup. A television monitor beams an emergency medicine doctor and staff into her workstation from an office in Sioux Falls, S.D. They recently helped her insert a breathing tube in a patient.

The doctor shortage remains. The hospital, Brown County Hospital in Ainsworth, Neb., has been searching for a doctor since the spring of 2012. “We have no malls and no Walmart,” Ms. Nelson said. “Recruitment is nearly impossible.”

Ms. Osburn is looking for office space. The law will take effect in September, and she wants to be ready. She has already picked a name: Sandhill Behavioral Services. Three nursing homes have requested her services, and there have been inquiries from a prison.

“I’m planning on getting in this little car and driving everywhere,” she said, smiling, behind the wheel of her 2004 Ford Taurus. “I’m going to drive the wheels off this thing.”

Topics: mental health, AANP, health, healthcare, nurse, medical, patients, medicine, patient, treatment, psychiatrist, psychiatric nurse, health laws

Innovations: Testing A Digital Pillbox To Improve Medication Compliance

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, May 20, 2015 @ 03:10 PM

By Darius Tahir

www.modernhealthcare.com 

Digital pillbox.jpg&q=40&maxw=600&maxh=600 resized 600In the fall of 2012, Nick Valilis was diagnosed with leukemia just as he was starting medical school. In treatment he found it difficult to remember to take his medications at the proper time and in the right order.

“He struggled handling the sheer complexity,” said Rahul Jain, Valilis' classmate at Duke University. “He went from no meds to 10 meds a day. How is an 85-year-old cancer patient supposed to handle that same regimen?” 

Since then, Jain, Valilis and a few other Duke classmates have formed a startup company called TowerView Health with the goal of making it easier for patients to manage their medication regimens. Jain is CEO of the company, which was incorporated last year; Valilis is chief medical officer. They are about to launch a clinical trial, in partnership with Independence Blue Cross and Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, to test whether their technological solution helps patients understand and comply with their drug regimens.

That could be an important innovation. Poor medication adherence is estimated to cause as much as $290 billion a year in higher U.S. medical costs, as well as a big chunk of medication-related hospital admissions.

TowerView has developed software and hardware that reminds patients and their clinicians about medication schedules, and warns them when a patient is falling off track.

Dr. Ron Brooks, senior medical director for clinical services at Independence Blue Cross, said he thinks TowerView's solution is a notable improvement over previous medication-adherence technology. “Most of the apps I've seen are reminder apps,” he said. “It might remind you to take a medication, but you have to input that you actually take it. There's no closing of the loop.” By contrast, TowerView automatically provides reminders and tracking, with the opportunity for clinician follow-up.  

Here's how TowerView's system works. When clinicians prescribe drugs and develop a medications schedule for a patient, the scrips and schedule are sent to a mail-order pharmacy that has partnered with TowerView. The pharmacy splits the medications into the scheduled dosages on a prescription-drug tray. The tray is labeled with the schedule and sent to the patient, who places the tray into an electronic pillbox, which senses when pills are taken out of each tray compartment. 

The pillbox sensors communicate with connected software through a cellular radio when patients have taken their pills and when it's time to remind them—either through a text message, phone call or the pillbox lighting up—that they've missed a dose. The system also compiles information for providers about the patient's history of missed doses, enabling the provider to personally follow up with the patient.

But some question whether tech solutions are the most effective way to improve medication adherence. A 2013 literature review in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association identified nearly 160 medication-adherence apps and found poor-quality research evidence supporting their use.

Experts say it's not clear whether apps and devices can address the underlying reasons why patients don't comply with their drug regimens. For instance, patients simply might not like taking their drugs because of side effects or other issues. “I'd wager that improved adherence—and a range of other health benefits—are ultimately more likely to be achieved not by clever apps and wireless gadgets, but rather by an empathetic physician who understands, listens and is trusted by her patients,” Dr. David Shaywitz, chief medical officer at DNAnexus, a network for sharing genomic data, recently wrote.

Jain doesn't disagree. He notes that his firm's system empowers empathetic clinicians to provide better care. “This solution allows more of a communication element,” he said. “We'll be able to understand why patients don't take their meds.” 

That system soon will be put to the test in a randomized clinical trial. TowerView and Independence Blue Cross are enrolling 150 diabetic patients who are noncompliant with their medication regimens; half of those participants will receive usual care. The goal is to improve compliance by at least 10% over six months.

If it works, Jain and his company hope to sell the product to insurers and integrated healthcare providers working under risk-based contracts. The idea is that patients' improved adherence will reduce providers' hospitalization and other costs and boost their financial performance.

Topics: pills, software, technology, health, healthcare, medication, medical, patients, medicine, patient, treatment, digital pillbox

Triage And Treatment: Untold Health Stories From Baltimore's Unrest

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, May 05, 2015 @ 11:28 AM

LEANA WEN

www.npr.org 

balto cvs e23a995f198933efd10610d8a1c39b0ac803594d s800 c85 resized 600Over the last week, Baltimore's unrest has captured the nation's attention. Images of burning cars, the sounds of angry protesters and then peace rallies have dominated the airwaves and headlines.

As the city's health commissioner, I heard other stories. I spoke with a 62-year-old woman who had a heart attack a year ago and who had stopped taking her blood pressure and blood-thinning medications. Her pharmacy was one of the dozen that burned down, and neither she nor the other people in her senior housing building could figure out where to get their prescriptions filled. Her pills ran out two days before, and she'd planned to hold out until the pharmacy reopened.

A 55-year-old man called our health department. His mother was "stringing out" her inhalers and now had a cough and difficulty breathing. He also told us he had difficult-to-control diabetes and was using insulin every other day. He now was urinating frequently and reported blurry vision — symptoms of out-of-control diabetes. We called an ambulance to transport them both to the ER.

In the wake of fires and violence, the initial priority for health officials was to make sure that our acute care hospitals were protected and that staff and patients could get to them safely. In the immediate aftermath, our focus was on ensuring that injured patients got triaged and treated.

Nobody knew what lay ahead and how much more violence was to be expected. We worked with hospitals, the Fire Department, and other city and state partners to develop a hospital security plan and to convene daily phone calls with every hospital and health clinic.

As the days went on, we heard from more Baltimoreans. These were not the ones waving signs or appearing on national TV. These were people who were just trying to get by.

There was a 74-year-old woman who had abdominal pain for two days. She stayed in her apartment and put up with the pain rather than seeking care, because she thought she'd heard that her health center was closed. A middle-aged couple worried about their 22-year old son who was suffering from a manic episode. They didn't know who was available to help.

Our health department, under the leadership of Mayor Rawlings-Blake, worked with the Maryland health department and private partners around the city and state to provide these essential services. We set up the Baltimore Healthcare Access List to provide up-to-date and accurate information about closures and hours of operation for hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. We developed and implemented a Mental Health/Recovery Plan that included an around-the-clock mental health crisis line along with teams of licensed mental health professionals who were deployed in affected neighborhoods for group counseling and debriefing.

Things that seemed straightforward often were not. Transferring prescriptions from one pharmacy to another would seem easy. But what happens if the pharmacies are in different chains, or if the one that closed was an independent pharmacy where all records were destroyed? The nearest pharmacy may be just a few blocks away, but what if the patient has limited mobility and even a few blocks are prohibitive?

And, as we saw, what happens when the best-laid plans aren't known to residents? We arranged for individuals affected by pharmacy closures to call one central number — 311. Our health department team would then take care of the rest on a case-by-case basis, arranging for prescription transfers, transportation and medication delivery.

Amid all the news, our public health information wasn't getting through to all our community members. So we mobilized student volunteers from Johns Hopkins and other local universities to go door-to-door in all senior buildings in affected neighborhoods. We visited over 30 churches and knocked on hundreds of doors.

It is now a week after the initial wave of violence and unrest. Our city is quieter, but our work is nowhere near done. As we look to rebuilding and recovery, our efforts must be focused on addressing the needs of all those affected, including the ones whose stories we don't usually hear.

Topics: prescription, health, healthcare, nurses, doctors, patients, hospital, medicine, patient, treatment, triage, health department, medical staff, Baltimore, protests

IdentRx Promises to Prevent Nearly All Medication Errors

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Apr 29, 2015 @ 11:08 AM

www.medgadget.com 

describe the imageMedication errors continue to plague the clinical community and even rare cases of mistakes can make a big splash in the news. And for a good reason: we all expect to be treated than harmed when receiving medical care. A new device is currently in the third round of pilot testing, including at major retail pharmacies and Purdue University, that may help avoid prescription errors altogether. The IdentRx system from PerceptiMed, a Mountain View, California firm, optically analyzes every single pill that will be given to a patient to make sure it precisely matches each prescription.

It is the only device that visually inspects each pill, recognizing the manufacturer imprints on them all. The system confirms that the pills themselves, and not only the container bottles, match the issued prescriptions, hopefully preventing errors just before the pills are handed to the patients.

Topics: medical technology, prescription, medication errors, technology, health, healthcare, medication, medical, patients, medicine, patient

Special Screenings Of ‘The American Nurse’ To Be Held May 6

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Apr 27, 2015 @ 11:38 AM

http://news.nurse.com 

bilde resized 600The award-winning documentary “The American Nurse” (DigiNext Films) will be shown at special screening engagements May 6 in honor of National Nurses Week. The film highlights the work and lives of five American nurses from diverse specialties and explores topics such as aging, war, poverty and prisons. 

“At some point in our life each of us will encounter a nurse, whether it’s as a patient or as a loved one,” Carolyn Jones, director and executive producer of the film, said in a news release. “And that one encounter can mean the difference between suffering and peace; between chaos and order. Nurses matter.” 

The American Academy of Nursing recognized Jones, an award-winning filmmaker and photographer, as the winner of its annual Johnson & Johnson Excellence in Media Award for the documentary. The award recognizes exemplary healthcare journalism that incorporates accurate inclusion of nurses’ contributions and perspectives. “I intended to make a film that celebrated nursing,” Jones said in the release. “I ended up gaining deeper insights into some of the social issues we face as a country, through the eyes of American nurses. I’ve grown to believe that nurses are a truly untapped and under-appreciated national resource.” 

The documentary also was awarded a Christopher Award in the feature film category, alongside films “Selma” and “St. Vincent.”

The film, which was made possible by a grant from Fresenius Kabi, is being presented locally through sponsorship by the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AARP, together with the American Nurses Foundation and Carmike Cinemas. 

The campaign’s state action coalitions and other campaign partners are expected to host at least 50 screenings of the film. Ten percent of the proceeds will go to help local efforts to advance nursing. A portion of all proceeds from the film will benefit the American Nurse Scholarship Fund.

To find a screening near you or to learn how to host a screening, go to http://americannurseproject.com/national-nurses-day-screenings.

Topics: film, diversity, nursing, nurse, nurses, medical, patients, hospital, medicine, May, Nurses Week

Medical Schools Reboot For 21st Century

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Apr 13, 2015 @ 11:19 AM

JULIE ROVNER

www.npr.org

med school custom 57453485b46ead4aaba7e89dfbfaacf142867290 s800 c85 resized 600

Medicine has changed a lot in the past 100 years. But medical training hasn't — until now. Spurred by the need to train a different type of doctor, some top medical schools around the U.S. are tearing up the textbooks and starting from scratch.

Most medical schools still operate under a model pioneered in the early 1900s by an educator named Abraham Flexner.

"Flexner did a lot of great things," says Dr. Raj Mangrulkar, associate dean for medical student education at the University of Michigan Medical School. "But we've learned a lot and now we're absolutely ready for a new model."

Michigan is one of many med schools in the midst of a major overhaul of their curricula.

For example, in a windowless classroom, a small group of second-year students is hard at work. The students are not studying anatomy or biochemistry or any of the traditional sciences. They're polishing their communication skills.

In the first exercise, students paired off and negotiated the price of a used BMW. Now they're trying to settle on who should get credit for an imaginary medical journal article.

"I was thinking, kind of given our background and approach, that I would be senior author. How does that sound to you?" asks Jesse Burk-Rafel, a second-year student from Washington state.

His partner, also a second-year student, objects; he also wants to be senior author. Eventually they agree to share credit, rotating whose name comes first on subsequent papers related to the imaginary research project.

It may seem an odd way for medical students to be spending their class time. But Dr. Erin McKean, the surgeon teaching the class, says it's a serious topic for students who will have to communicate life and death matters during their careers.

"I was not taught this in medical school myself," says McKean. "We haven't taught people how to be specific about working in teams, how to communicate with peers and colleagues and how to communicate to the general public about what's going on in health care and medicine."

It's just one of many such changes, and it's dramatically different from the traditional way medicine has been taught. Flexner's model is known as "two plus two." Students spend their first two years in the classroom memorizing facts. In their last two years, med students shadow doctors in hospitals and clinics. Mangrulkar says Flexner's approach represented a huge change from the way doctors were taught in the 19th century.

"Literacy was optional, and you didn't always learn in the clinical setting," he says. Shortly after Flexner published his landmark review of the state of medical education, dozens of the nation's medical schools closed or merged.

But today, says Mangrulkar, the two-plus-two model doesn't work. For one thing, there's too much medical science for anyone to learn in two years. And the practice of medicine is constantly in flux.

What Michigan and many other schools are trying to do now is prepare future doctors for the inevitable changes they'll face throughout a long career.

"We shouldn't even try to predict what that system's going to be like," he says. "Which means we need to give students the tools to be adaptable, to be resilient, to problem-solve — push through some things, accept some things, but change other things."

One big shift at many schools is a focus on how the entire health system works — rather than just training doctors how to treat patients.

Dr. Susan Skochelak, a vice president with the American Medical Association, is in charge of an AMA project that is funding changes at 11 schools around the country. She says the new teaching focus on the health care system has had an added benefit: Faculty members are learning right along with the students about some of the absurdities.

For example, she says, only because they have to guide students through the system do they discover things like the fact that some hospitals schedule patients for MRI and other tests around the clock.

"And one of my patients had to come and get their MRI at 3 a.m.," Skochelak says. " 'How do they do that?' " she says a faculty member asked her. " 'Do they have kids?' "

Physicians aren't always the best teachers about how the system works.

Doctors tend to focus on patient care, since that's what they know. However, Skochelak says, "If you hook [students] up with a clinic manager when you want them to learn about the system and what the system does, then the clinic manager focuses on the system."

Another major change to medical education aims at helping future doctors work as team players, rather than as the unquestioned leaders.

In a classroom at the University of California, San Francisco, several groups of students practice teamwork by working together to solve a genetics problem.

Joe Derisi, who heads the biochemistry and biophysics department at UCSF, is guiding more than teaching when he gently suggests a student's tactic is veering off course. "I would argue that it may not be as useful as you think," he tells the student. "But I'm obliging."

Onur Yenigun, one of the students in the class, says that working with his peers is good preparation for being part of a team when he's a doctor.

"When I'm in a small group I realize that I can't know everything," Yenigun says. "I won't know everything. And to be able to rely on my classmates to fill in the blanks is really important."

The medical schools that are part of the AMA project are already sharing what they've learned with each other. Plans are in the works, as well, to begin sharing some of the more successful changes with other medical schools around the country.

Topics: nurses, doctors, medicine, communication, career, clinics, medical schools, medical student, medical science, medical training

'Fearless' Ebola Nurse Trains At Emory University

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Apr 13, 2015 @ 10:29 AM

By Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield

www.cnn.com

150409170535 fatu kekula jimmy carter medium plus 169 resized 600

Just eight months ago, a young woman named Fatu Kekula was single-handedly trying to save her Ebola-stricken family, donning trash bags to protect herself against the deadly virus. 

Today, because of a CNN story and the generosity of donors from around the world, Kekula wears scrubs bearing the emblem of the Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing in Atlanta, where she's learning skills she can take back home to care for her fellow Liberians. 

"It's a surprise -- a young child like me who came from a very poor background coming to the U.S.," she said. "I'm thankful to CNN and I appreciate the people who made donations, and I'm thankful to Emory for accepting me to study."

At Emory, Kekula has asked for special training on certain skills, such as caring for burns, a common type of injury because children in Liberia sometimes fall into the open fires used for cooking. 

One of her instructors, Kelly Fullwood, said Kekula's an excellent student who has taught her teachers a thing or two about how to do procedures without costly equipment, as she's been forced to do in Liberia. 

"She fascinates me every day," Fullwood said. "She gets nursing. She gets what it's about."

Kekula, 23, was just a year away from finishing up her nursing degree in Liberia when Ebola struck and her mother, father, sister and cousin came down with the disease. Hospitals were full and no doctors would visit her home, so with just advice from a physician on the phone, Kekula took care of all four of her relatives at the same time. 

All but her cousin survived -- a high success rate considering that at the time, about 70% of Ebola patients were dying in Liberia.

Kekula couldn't continue her nursing education in Liberia, because the schools had closed. 

A CNN story about Kekula in September prompted donations from around the world to IAM, an organization that raises money to help African natives pay for education. 

David Smith, an associate dean at Emory's nursing school, said they accepted Kekula because they were struck by how both she and Emory each treated four Ebola patients at around the same time last year -- and Emory had dozens of doctors and nurses and millions of dollars in technology while Kekula had nobody and nearly no supplies.

"It was obvious to us that this woman was intelligent and strong and fearless," he said. 

Kekula is scheduled to return to Liberia in August. 

"These things that I have learned here I am going to take back to my fellow nurses," she said. "I love to care for people. I love to save lives."

Topics: medical school, Ebola, West Africa, nurse, hospital, medicine, Liberia, Emory University, CNN, nursing degree

Boy Gets Food Allergies From Blood Transfusion

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Apr 08, 2015 @ 11:52 AM

By Laura Geggel

www.foxnews.com

Allergy skin test transfusion resized 600A boy in Canada mysteriously became allergic to fish and nuts after he received a blood transfusion, according to a new case report.

The 8-year-old boy had no history of being allergic to any foods, and was undergoing treatment for medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer. A few weeks after receiving a blood transfusion, he experienced a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis within 10 minutes of eating salmon, according to the report, published online April 7 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

His doctors suspected that the blood transfusion had triggered the reaction, they wrote in the report. After treating the patient with a drug containing antihistamines, the doctors advised him to avoid fish and to carry an epinephrine injector in case he had another reaction. [9 Weirdest Allergies]

But four days later, the boy was back in the emergency department after eating a chocolate peanut butter cup. Blood tests and a skin prick test suggested that he was allergic — at least temporarily — to peanuts and salmon, so his doctors advised him to avoid nuts and fish.

"It's very rare to have an allergic reaction to a previously tolerated food," said the report's senior author, Dr. Julia Upton, a specialist in clinical immunology and allergy at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. "The overall idea is that he wasn't allergic to these foods," but in the blood transfusion, he received the protein that triggers an allergic reaction to them, she said.

That protein, called immunoglobulin E, is an antibody associated with food allergies, Upton said. When it encounters a specific allergen, it causes immune cells to release chemicals such as histamine that lead to an allergic reaction. 

However, because the boy's body itself did not make such antibodies against fish and nuts, his doctors said they suspected his allergies would go away within a few months.

Acquiring allergies from a blood donor is rare, but not without precedent. The researchers found two other case reports, both in adults, in which patients acquired temporary allergies from blood plasma. In a 2007 case, an 80-year-old woman had an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts. An investigation showed that her 19-year-old plasma donor had a peanut allergy, according to the report in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

In the new case, the 8-year-old also received plasma, the liquid part of blood that contains antibodies. The researchers inquired about the donor to Canadian Blood Services, and found that the donor did have an allergy to nuts, fish and shellfish. The service did not have any more blood from the donor, and subsequently excluded the individual from making future donations, the researchers said. 

About five months later, blood tests showed that the boy's immunoglobulin E levels to salmon and peanut were undetectable. By six months, his parents had gradually and successfully reintroduced nuts and fish back into their son's diet.

However, Upton said, "In general, we would recommend that this be done under medical supervision," just in case there is a medical emergency.

It's unclear how doctors could prevent future cases, she said. Neither Canadian nor American blood service organizations bar people with allergies from donating blood. And testing donated blood for levels of immunoglobulin E doesn't always predict allergies. Some people with high levels of immunoglobulin E don't have allergies, and others with low levels of the protein do, she said.

"Clearly, the safety of the [blood] supply is of everyone's utmost concern," but more research is needed to determine how best to avoid the transfer of allergies, and how frequently this happens, Upton said.

"I think it's hard to make sweeping recommendations based on one case report," Upton said.

In the United States, "If a donor is feeling well and healthy on the day of donation, they are typically eligible to donate," said Dr. Courtney Hopkins, the acting chief medical officer for the east division of the American Red Cross. "We will defer donors on the day of donation if they are not feeling well and healthy, if they have a fever, or if we notice they have problems breathing through their mouth."

Donors can learn more about blood-donation eligibility here. Individuals with allergies shouldn't be dissuaded from donating, Hopkins added.

"We always need blood. We always need blood donors," Hopkins told Live Science.

Topics: emergency, food allergies, health, healthcare, doctors, medical, hospital, brain cancer, medicine, blood transfusion

Despised Hospital Gowns Get Fashion Makeovers

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Apr 01, 2015 @ 02:06 PM

Shefali Luthra

Source: www.cnn.com

150331132002 02 hospital gown super 169 resized 600

Whether a patient is in the hospital for an organ transplant, an appendectomy or to have a baby, one complaint is common: the gown.

You know the one. It might as well have been stitched together with paper towels and duct tape, and it usually leaves the wearer's behind hanging out.

"You're at the hospital because something's wrong with you -- you're vulnerable -- then you get to wear the most vulnerable garment ever invented to make the whole experience that much worse," said Ted Streuli, who lives in Edmond, Okla., and has had to wear hospital gowns on multiple occasions.

Put another way: "They are horrible. They are demeaning. They are belittling. They are disempowering," said Camilla McRory of Olney, Md.

Hospital gowns have gotten a face-lift after some help from fashion designers like these from Patient Style and the Henry Ford Innovation Institute.

The gowns are among the most vexing parts of being in the hospital. But if efforts by some health systems are an indicator, the design may be on its way out of style.

The Cleveland Clinic was an early trendsetter. In 2010, it introduced new gowns after being prompted by the CEO, who often heard patient complaints when he was a practicing heart surgeon. That feedback led to a search for something new, said Adrienne Boissy, chief experience officer at the hospital system.

The prominent academic medical center ultimately sought the help of fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg, settling on a reversible gown with a front and back V-neck, complete derriere coverage, and features such as pockets, softer fabric and a new bolder print pattern.

Patients "loved the gowns," Boissy said. "People felt much more comfortable in the new design, not just physically but emotionally." In recent years, she added, "hospitals are looking at everything they do and trying to evaluate whether or not it contributes to enhancing the patient experience." 

It's all part of a trend among hospitals to improve the patient reviews and their own bottom lines -- fueled in part by the health law's focus on quality of care and other federal initiatives. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services increasingly factors patients' satisfaction into its quality measures, which are linked to the size of Medicare payments hospitals get.

Sometimes the efforts involve large capital improvement projects. But they can also mean making waiting rooms more comfortable, improving the quality of food served to patients or, as in this case, updating hospital gowns.

Ultimately, this focus leads to "a better patient experience," said John Combes, senior vice president of the American Hospital Association.

The Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System is in the process of updating its gowns, an initiative that began when the system's innovation institute challenged students at the city's College for Creative Studies to identify and offer a solution to one hospital problem.

The students responded with the suggestion to redo the garment that has often been described by patients as flimsy, humiliating, indecent and itchy. The process took three years, but last fall, the institute unveiled a new and improved version. It's made of warmer fabric -- a cotton blend -- that wraps around a patient's body like a robe and comes in navy and light blue, the hospital's signature colors.

Patient expectations are part of the calculus. They "are demanding more privacy and more dignity," said Michael Forbes, a product designer at the Henry Ford Innovation Institute.

When the institute tested his gown design, Forbes said, patient-satisfaction scores noticeably increased in a few days.

The new gown "was emblematic...of an attitude that was conveyed to me at the hospital -- that they cared about me as a whole human being, not just the part they were operating on," said Dale Milford, who received a liver transplant during the time the redesign was being tested. "That was the subtext of that whole thing, was that they were caring about me as a person and what it meant for me to be comfortable."

But replacing the traditional design is no easy task. What patients wear needs to be comfortable yet allow health professionals proper access during exams, meaning it must open and close easily. The gowns also need to be easily mass-manufactured, as well as efficiently laundered and reused.

New designs, though, can be expensive. After Valley Hospital of Ridgewood, N.J., switched to pajamas and gowns that provide extra coverage, costs went up $70,000 per year, said Leonard Guglielmo, the facility's chief supply chain officer, because the new garments cost more to buy and maintain.

Beyond cost, more ingrained cultural expectations might also play a role in what hospitals think patients should wear, said Todd Lee, an assistant professor of medicine at McGill University, who co-authored a 2014 study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, examining whether gowns were important and whether patients might be fine wearing their own or hospital-provided pants, instead of or along with gowns.

Often, doctors reported that pants or undergarments beneath gowns would have been okay, but patients said they were never given those options. Traditional gowns make it easier to examine patients quickly, and several doctors Lee spoke to seemed shocked at the idea that patients might wear garments other than the open-backed gown during their stay.

But the most common challenge isn't necessarily doctor expectations or costs. It's navigating hospital bureaucracies, said Dusty Eber, president of the California-based company PatientStyle, which designs and sells alternative gowns. In his company's experience, hospital decisions are often made by committees, not individuals.

"There's a lot of bureaucratic runaround," Eber said.

Topics: surgery, nurses, doctors, medical, patients, hospital, medicine, patient, hospital gown

5 Reasons Radiation Treatment has Never Been Safer (Op-Ed)

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Mar 30, 2015 @ 01:40 PM

Dr. Edward Soffen

Source: www.livescience.com

elekta linear accelerator resized 600

Dr. Edward Soffen is a board-certified radiation oncologist and medical director of the Radiation Oncology Department at CentraState Medical Center's Statesir Cancer Center in Freehold, New Jersey. He contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

As a radiation oncologist, my goal is to use radiation as an extremely powerful and potent tool to eradicate cancer tumors in the body: These techniques save and extend patients' lives every day. 

Historically, radiation treatments have been challenged by the damage they cause healthy tissue surrounding a tumor, but new technologies are now slashing those risks.

How radiation therapies work

High-energy radiation kills cancer cells by damaging DNA so severely that the diseased cells die. Radiation treatments may come from a machine (x-ray or proton beam), radioactive material placed in the body near tumor cells, or from a fluid injected into the bloodstream. A patient may receive radiation therapy before or after surgery and/or chemotherapy, depending on the type, location and stage of the cancer. 

Today's treatment options target radiation more directly to a tumor — quickly, and less invasively — shortening overall radiation treatment times. And using new Internet-enabled tools, physicians across the country can collaborate by sharing millions of calculations and detailed algorithms for customizing the best treatment protocols for each patient. With just a few computer key strokes, complicated treatment plans can be anonymously shared with other physicians at remote sites who have expertise in a particular oncologic area. Through this collaboration, doctors offer their input and suggestions for optimizing treatment. In turn, the patient benefits from a wide community of physicians who share expertise based upon their research, clinical expertise and first-hand experience. 

The result is safer, more effective treatments. Here are five of the most exciting examples:

1. Turning breast cancer upside down

When the breast is treated while the patient is lying face down, with radiation away from the heart and lungs, a recent study found an 86 percent reduction in the amount of lung tissue irradiated in the right breast and a 91 percent reduction in the left breast. Additionally, administering prone-position radiation therapy in this fashion does not inhibit the effectiveness of the treatment in any way.

2. Spacer gel for prostate cancer

Prostate cancer treatment involves delivering a dose of radiation to the prostate that will destroy the tumor cells, but not adversely affect the patient. A new hydrogel, a semi-solid natural substance, will soon be used to decrease toxicity from radiation beams to the nearby rectum. The absorbable gel is injected by a syringe between the prostate and the rectum which pushes the rectum out of the way while treating the prostate. As a result, there is much less radiation inadvertently administered to the rectum through collateral damage. This can significantly improve a patient's daily quality of life — bowel function is much less likely to be affected by scar tissue or ulceration. [Facts About Prostate Cancer (Infographic )]

3. Continual imaging improves precision

Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) uses specialized computer software to take continual images of a tumor before and during radiation treatment, which improves the precision and accuracy of the therapy. A tumor can move day by day or shrink during treatment. Tracking a tumor's position in the body each day allows for more accurate targeting and a narrower margin of error when focusing the beam. It is particularly beneficial in the treatment of tumors that are likely to move during treatment, such as those in the lung, and for breast, gastrointestinal, head and neck and prostate cancer. 

In fact, the prostate can move a few millimeters each day depending on the amount of fluid in the bladder and stool or gas in the rectum. Head and neck cancers can shrink significantly during treatment, allowing for the possibility of adaptive planning (changing the beams during treatment), again to minimize long term toxicity and side effects.

4. Lung, liver and spine cancers can now require fewer treatments 

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) offers a newer approach to difficult-to-treat cancers located in the lung, liver and spine. It is a concentrated, high-dose form of radiation that can be delivered very quickly with fewer sessions. Conventional treatment requires 30 radiation treatments daily for about six weeks, compared to SBRT which requires about three to five treatments over the course of only one week. The cancer is treated from a 3D perspective in multiple angles and planes, rather than a few points of contact, so the tumor receives a large dose of radiation, but normal tissue receives much less. By attacking the tumor from many different angles, the dose delivered to the normal tissue (in the path of any one beam) is quite minimal, but when added together from a multitude of beams coming from many different planes, all intersecting inside the tumor, the cancer can be annihilated. 

5. Better access to hard-to-reach tumors

Proton-beam therapy is a type of radiation treatment that uses protons rather than x-rays to treat cancer. Protons, however, can target the tumor with lower radiation doses to surrounding normal tissues, depending on the location of the tumor. It has been especially effective for replacing surgery in difficult-to-reach areas, treating tumors that don't respond to chemotherapy, or situations where photon-beam therapy will cause too much collateral damage to surrounding tissue. Simply put, the proton (unlike an x-ray) can stop right in the tumor target and give off all its energy without continuing through the rest of the body. One of the more common uses is to treat prostate cancer. Proton therapy is also a good choice for small tumors in areas which are difficult to pinpoint — like the base of the brain — without affecting critical nerves like those for vision or hearing. Perhaps the most exciting application for this treatment approach is with children. Since children are growing and their tissues are rapidly dividing, proton beam radiation has great potential to limit toxicity for those patients. Children who receive protons will be able to maintain more normal neurocognitive function, preserve lung function, cardiac function and fertility. 

While cancer will strike more than 1.6 million Americans in 2015, treatments like these are boosting survival rates. In January 2014, there were nearly 14.5 million American cancer survivors. By January 2024, that number is expected to increase to nearly 19 million

But make no mistake — radiation therapy, one of the most powerful resources used to defeat cancer, is not done yet. As we speak, treatment developments in molecular biology, imaging technology and newer delivery techniques are in the works, and will continue to provide cancer patients with even less invasive treatment down the road.

Source: www.livescience.com

Topics: surgery, physician, innovation, oncology, technology, health, healthcare, nurse, medical, cancer, patients, hospital, medicine, treatments, radiation, chemotherapy, doctor, certified oncologist, oncologist, x-ray

Click me

ABOUT US

DiversityNursing.com is a national “niche” website for Nurses from student nurses up to CNO’s. We are a Career Job Board, Community and Information Resource for all Nurses regardless of age, race, gender, religion, education, national origin, sexual orientation, disability or physical characteristics. 

Subscribe to Email Updates

Posts by Topic

see all