DiversityNursing Blog

We Need More Nurses

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Fri, May 29, 2015 @ 09:54 AM

By 

www.nytimes.com 

28Robbins blog427 resized 600SEVERAL emergency-room nurses were crying in frustration after their shift ended at a large metropolitan hospital when Molly, who was new to the hospital, walked in. The nurses were scared because their department was so understaffed that they believed their patients — and their nursing licenses — were in danger, and because they knew that when tensions ran high and nurses were spread thin, patients could snap and turn violent.

The nurses were regularly assigned seven to nine patients at a time, when the safe maximum is generally considered four (and just two for patients bound for the intensive-care unit). Molly — whom I followed for a year for a book about nursing, on the condition that I use a pseudonym for her — was assigned 20 patients with non-life-threatening conditions.

“The nurse-patient ratio is insane, the hallways are full of patients, most patients aren’t seen by the attending until they’re ready to leave, and the policies are really unsafe,” Molly told the group.

That’s just how the hospital does things, one nurse said, resigned.

Unfortunately, that’s how many hospitals operate. Inadequate staffing is a nationwide problem, and with the exception of California, not a single state sets a minimum standard for hospital-wide nurse-to-patient ratios.

Dozens of studies have found that the more patients assigned to a nurse, the higher the patients’ risk of death, infections, complications, falls, failure-to-rescue rates and readmission to the hospital — and the longer their hospital stay. According to one study, for every 100 surgical patients who die in hospitals where nurses are assigned four patients, 131 would die if they were assigned eight.

In pediatrics, adding even one extra surgical patient to a nurse’s ratio increases a child’s likelihood of readmission to the hospital by nearly 50 percent. The Center for Health Outcomes and Policy Research found that if every hospital improved its nurses’ working conditions to the levels of the top quarter of hospitals, more than 40,000 lives would be saved nationwide every year.

Nurses are well aware of the problem. In a survey of nurses in Massachusetts released this month, 25 percent said that understaffing was directly responsible for patient deaths, 50 percent blamed understaffing for harm or injury to patients and 85 percent said that patient care is suffering because of the high numbers of patients assigned to each nurse. (The Massachusetts Nurses Association, a labor union, sponsored the study; it was conducted by an independent research firm and the majority of respondents were not members of the association.)

And yet too often, nurses are punished for speaking out. According to the New York State Nurses Association, this month Jack D. Weiler Hospital of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York threatened nurses with arrest, and even escorted seven nurses out of the building, because, during a breakfast to celebrate National Nurses Week, the nurses discussed staffing shortages. (A spokesman for the hospital disputed this characterization of the events.)

It’s not unusual for hospitals to intimidate nurses who speak up about understaffing, said Deborah Burger, co-president of National Nurses United, a union. “It happens all the time, and nurses are harassed into taking what they know are not safe assignments,” she said. “The pressure has gotten even greater to keep your mouth shut. Nurses have gotten blackballed for speaking up.”

The landscape hasn’t always been so alarming. But as the push for hospital profits has increased, important matters like personnel count, most notably nurses, have suffered. “The biggest change in the last five to 10 years is the unrelenting emphasis on boosting their profit margins at the expense of patient safety,” said David Schildmeier, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “Absolutely every decision is made on the basis of cost savings.”

Experts said that many hospital administrators assume the studies don’t apply to them and fault individuals, not the system, for negative outcomes. “They mistakenly believe their staffing is adequate,” said Judy Smetzer, the vice president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a consumer group. “It’s a vicious cycle. When they’re understaffed, nurses are required to cut corners to get the work done the best they can. Then when there’s a bad outcome, hospitals fire the nurse for cutting corners.”

Nursing advocates continue to push for change. In April, National Nurses United filed a grievance against the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, which it said is 100 registered nurses short of the minimum staffing levels mandated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (the hospital said it intends to hire more nurses, but disputes the union’s reading of the mandate).

Nurses are the key to improving American health care; research has proved repeatedly that nurse staffing is directly tied to patient outcomes. Nurses are unsung and underestimated heroes who are needlessly overstretched and overdue for the kind of recognition befitting champions. For their sake and ours, we must insist that hospitals treat them right.

Topics: nursing, health, healthcare, nurse, nurses, patients, hospital, patient, emergency rooms, nursing licenses

Delayed Umbilical Cord Clamping May Benefit Children Years Later

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, May 27, 2015 @ 12:22 PM

TARA HAELLE

www.npr.org 

umbilical cord custom 8e29c0c12048fcb83219cc2bbc32cb323bd32d98 s800 c85 resized 600

A couple of extra minutes attached to the umbilical cord at birth may translate into a small boost in neurodevelopment several years later, a study suggests.

Children whose cords were cut more than three minutes after birth had slightly higher social skills and fine motor skills than those whose cords were cut within 10 seconds. The results showed no differences in IQ.

"There is growing evidence from a number of studies that all infants, those born at term and those born early, benefit from receiving extra blood from the placenta at birth," said Dr. Heike Rabe, a neonatologist at Brighton & Sussex Medical School in the United Kingdom. Rabe's editorial accompanied the study published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Delaying the clamping of the cord allows more blood to transfer from the placenta to the infant, sometimes increasing the infant's blood volume by up to a third. The iron in the blood increases infants' iron storage, and iron is essential for healthy brain development.

"The extra blood at birth helps the baby to cope better with the transition from life in the womb, where everything is provided for them by the placenta and the mother, to the outside world," Rabe said. "Their lungs get more blood so that the exchange of oxygen into the blood can take place smoothly."

Past studies have shown higher levels of iron and other positive effects later in infancy among babies whose cords were clamped after several minutes, but few studies have looked at results past infancy.

In this study, researchers randomly assigned half of 263 healthy Swedish full-term newborns to have their cords clamped more than three minutes after birth. The other half were clamped less than 10 seconds after birth.

Four years later, the children underwent a series of assessments for IQ, motor skills, social skills, problem-solving, communication skills and behavior. Those with delayed cord clamping showed modestly higher scores in social skills and fine motor skills. When separated by sex, only the boys showed statistically significant improvement.

"We don't know exactly why, but speculate that girls receive extra protection through higher estrogen levels whilst being in the womb," Rabe said. "The results in term infants are consistent with those of follow-up in preterm infants."

Delayed cord clamping has garnered more attention in the past few years for its potential benefits to the newborn. Until recently, clinicians believed early clamping reduced the risk of hemorrhaging in the mother, but research hasn't borne that out.

Much of the research has focused on preterm infants, who appear to benefit most from delayed cord clamping, Rabe said. Preemies who have delayed cord clamping tend to have better blood pressure in the days immediately after birth, need fewer drugs to support blood pressure, need fewer blood transfusions, have less bleeding into the brain and have a lower risk of necrotizing enterocolitis, a life-threatening bowel injury, she said.

This study is among the few looking at healthy, full-term infants in a country high in resources, as opposed to developing countries where iron deficiency may be more likely.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has not yet endorsed the practice, citing insufficient evidence for full-term infants. The World Health Organization recommends delayed cord clamping of not less than one minute.

It is unclear whether the practice could harm infants' health. Some studies have found a higher risk of jaundice, a buildup of bilirubin in the blood from the breakdown of red blood cells. Jaundice is treated with blue light therapy and rarely has serious complications.

Another potential risk is a condition called polycythemia, a very high red blood cell count, said Dr. Scott Lorch, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and director of the Center for Perinatal and Pediatric Health Disparities Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"Polycythemia can have medical consequences for the infant, including blood clots, respiratory distress and even strokes in the worst-case scenario," Lorch said. Some studies have found higher levels of red blood cells in babies with delayed cord clamping, but there were no complications.

Lorch also pointed out that this study involved a mostly homogenous population in a country outside the U.S.

"We should see whether similar effects are seen in higher-risk populations, such as the low socioeconomic population, racial and ethnic minorities and those at higher risk for neurodevelopmental delay," Lorch said.

So far, studies on delayed cord clamping have excluded infants born in distress, such as those with breathing difficulties or other problems. But Rabe said these infants may actually benefit most from the practice.

These babies often need more blood volume to help with blood pressure, breathing and circulation problems, Rabe said. "Also, the placental blood is rich with stem cells, which could help to repair any brain damage the baby might have suffered during a difficult birth," she added. "Milking of the cord would be the easiest way to get the extra blood into the baby quickly in an emergency situation."

Topics: WHO, birth, newborn, childhood, health, nurses, doctors, hospital, patient, umbilical cord, children's health, childbirth, cognitive development

Your Roommate In The Nursing Home Might Be A Bedbug

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, May 26, 2015 @ 03:09 PM

ANGUS CHEN

www.npr.org 

hospital bed custom 6b164486756a615b302de54c474c2361d4c33e1f s800 c85 resized 600If you're in the hospital or a nursing home, the last thing you want to be dealing with is bedbugs. But exterminators saying they're getting more and more calls for bedbug infestations in nursing homes, hospitals and doctor's offices.

Nearly 60 percent of pest control professionals have found bedbugs in nursing homes in the past year, according to an industry survey, up from 46 percent in 2013. Bedbug reports in other medical facilities have gone up slightly. Thirty-six percent of exterminators reported seeing them in hospitals, up from 33 percent. Infestations seen in doctors' offices rose from 26 percent to 33 percent in the past two years.

"Nursing homes would be difficult to treat for the simple reason you don't use any pesticides there," says Billy Swan, an exterminator who runs a pest-control company in New York City. That and the fact that there's a lot more stuff. "Somebody's gotta wash and dry all the linens, you know, and all their personal artifacts and picture frames."

Those personal belongings might help account for the big disparity in infestations between nursing homes and hospitals, according to Dr. Silvia Munoz-Price, an epidemiologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin who studies infection control in health care facilities. "The more things you bring with you, the more likely you're bringing bedbugs, if you have a bedbug problem... and you live in a nursing home, so all your things are there."

By contrast, "When bedbugs are located in a hospital, they're usually confined to a couple of hospital rooms," Munoz-Price says.

And it may be easier for hospital staff to spot bedbugs.

"Hospital cleaning staff, nurses, doctors are extremely vigilant," says Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association, which conducted the survey along with the University of Kentucky. "[Bedbugs] don't go unnoticed for long."

And hospitals are typically brightly lit, routinely cleaned places. It's just much easier to find pests in this setting than in a dark movie theater, where only 16 percent of pest professionals report seeing bedbugs, according to the survey.

Fredericks says the recent multiplication of bedbug reports in medical facilities is just a part of a larger trend. Exterminators have been finding more of the bugs everywhere the parasites are most commonly found like hotels, offices, and homes, where virtually 100 percent of pest control professionals have treated bedbugs in the past year. And they've been popping up in a few unexpected places, too, like a prosthetic leg and in an occupied casket.

"There are a lot of theories as to why they've made a comeback," Fredericks says. It could be differences in pest management practices, insecticide resistance, or just increased travel. "Bottom line is nobody knows what caused it, but bedbugs are back." He falters for a moment. "And they're most likely here to stay."

The good news is bedbugs aren't known to transmit any diseases, and a quick inspection under mattresses or in the odd nook or cranny while traveling can lower the risk of picking the hitchhiking bugs up. Swan says a simple wash or freezing will kill any bedbug. "If you came home, took off all your clothes, put 'em in a bag – you'd never bring a bedbug home," he says. "But who does that?"

At least one reporter might start.

Topics: health, healthcare, nurse, nurses, patients, patient, treatment, hospitals, nursing homes, bed bugs

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

Kayla Montgomery: Young Runner's Brave Battle With MS

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, May 20, 2015 @ 02:18 PM

 Gary Morley and Lisa Cohen

www.cnn.com 

150514175906 h2h kayla4 exlarge 169 resized 600Kayla Montgomery is a runner unlike any other.

Every time she competes in a race, she knows she'll collapse in a sobbing heap at the finish line.

Unable to feel her legs, she'll crumple into the arms of her athletics coaches. Ice-cold water will be applied to calm the misfiring nerve fibers blazing beneath her numb skin.

The teenager has gone through this post-race trauma for the past five years since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

"Every day that I run, it might be my last day -- I could easily wake up tomorrow and not be able to move," the 19-year-old American tells CNN's Human to Hero series. 

"My initial MS attack caused lesions and scarring on my brain and my spine that affects the areas that are in control of how I feel my legs. So when I am overheated the symptoms reappear because my neurones start misfiring more.

"You can never really get used to the lack of feeling and the change of sensation, no matter how long you go through it. Every time it is still a bit of a shock and it's scary -- it freaks me out a little bit."

After five to 10 minutes she's able to get back on her feet again and start walking around, albeit a little stiffly as feeling slowly returns to her lower body.

It sounds like a nightmare ordeal that would put anyone off an athletics career, but Montgomery is determined to pursue her running dream.

She's actually faster now than before her diagnosis -- which, she says, was a painfully long and uncertain process following an accident playing soccer, falling hard on her neck and tailbone.

"It was really scary. I was so young. Most people with MS aren't diagnosed until their mid to late 20s, 30s. There wasn't anybody my age to relate to and understand what I was going through," she recalls. 

"It took so long to get back results and we were ruling things out and leaving MS as the last option. For a while they thought maybe it was cancer."

When the diagnosis finally came, it sent Montgomery into a spiral of anger, depression and denial.

She avoided confronting the issue with her parents -- Keith, a salesman, and mom Alysia, recently qualified as a nurse -- and younger sister Courtney.

"I tried to pretend I wasn't sick or anything -- I wanted to go on with life as normal as possible," Kayla says.

"Nobody at school knew, and we were not allowed to talk about it at home. I just avoided it at all costs, and that actually made it a lot harder. 

"The first couple of years after my diagnosis were impossibly hard -- I was so alone and still really scared. It was definitely a darker time in my life."

Running has proved to be her salvation. After a short break, in which she received treatment that made the numbness temporary, Montgomery decided she was going to make use of her legs while she still could -- despite knowing that exertion would bring back the symptoms.

"I wasn't amazing by any means but I was eighth on the team, so if somebody got hurt then I was there! And I wanted to be there if they needed me, so I trained so hard all the time and that definitely helped to deal with the things I wouldn't talk about," she says.

Montgomery's determination to succeed won her the North Carolina high school state title in the 3,200 meters last year, as she ran the 21st fastest time in the U.S.

She was team captain at Mount Tabor High School, setting several age-group records, and also excelled off the track in cross-country.

Now a freshman on an athletics scholarship at Nashville's Lipscomb University, she is studying molecular biology and has dreams of becoming a forensic scientist.

But before a career in CSI beckons, Montgomery is making the most of her chance to run for the college team.

"Racing is one of the greatest feelings in the world. I love it," she says. 

"Long-distance running is my favorite ... you have to have so much stamina, strength and determination. I like to push myself to my limits for as long as I can."

One of the big challenges is staying on her feet during a race. If she gets knocked over or falls, which sometimes happens, then it's difficult to get up again -- especially in the later stages.

"If it is a track meet you can't grab on to something, whereas cross country there might be a tree close by that you can pull yourself up on," Montgomery explains.

"It all depends on when I fall as to how it will affect the outcome of my race."

Montgomery trains three hours a day, six days a week, covering 60-75 miles.

Without being able to judge pace through her legs, she has learned a new way to run, by focusing on the movement of her arms.

The hard work is paying off. Lipscomb is a Division One university in NCAA competitions, giving her an elite platform on which to impress.

It's a long way from those early high-school days when she asked her coach, mentor and "second father" Patrick Cromwell about her chances of running at college level.

"He said, 'I don't know, you might be lucky if you can be a walk-on.' I was like, 'Well I'll show you, I'm going to run in college and not only that I'm going to run for a D1 school.' And I am! 

"Lipscomb is one of the best, it's really awesome to achieve that once really far-fetched dream."

Montgomery was actively recruited by Lipscomb, the first school to contact her -- others also rang "but a lot of them never called back" after she explained her condition.

"They made me feel so welcome," she says of her first visit to Lipscomb's campus. "They all knew my situation and it didn't bother them, and they didn't acknowledge it or ignore it either. It was exactly what I was looking for."

Her debut collegiate cross-country season was a steep learning curve, but Montgomery helped Lipscomb win a fourth successive conference championship in November, placing 13th overall and seventh in her team in the 5 km race.

On the track, she was sixth in the 10,000 meters last weekend as Lipscomb's women's team finished third at the Atlantic Sun championships in Florida, its best result at the event -- and a continuation of its rapid improvement since Bill Taylor, who recruited Montgomery, took over the athletics program in 2007.

She says the coach has given her the confidence to keep pushing herself, having taken a chance on her even though he realizes she may not be able to fulfill the four years of her scholarship if her condition gets worse.

"I keep running because it makes me happy," Montgomery says. "It makes me feel whole and safe, just because I know as long as I am running and still moving, I am still OK."

Topics: diagnosis, health, healthcare, nurse, nurses, doctors, medical, hospital, patient, treatment, college, MS, runner, multiple sclerosis

Cardiologists, Veterinarian Work Together To Fix Cat's Heart

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, May 18, 2015 @ 11:53 AM

www.foxnews.com 

Cat resized 600A California cat named Vanilla Bean with a congenital heart defect got a rare chance at another life.

A team of doctors who usually treat humans came together with a veterinarian to operate on the 1-year-old Burmese cat. Blood was pooling in Vanilla Bean's heart, causing a chamber to grow larger. The defect is also found in children.

Untreated, it would lead to congestive heart failure.

A technique to correct the problem in a cat had reportedly been done only once before, by University of California, Davis veterinarian Josh Stern -- the same vet who operated on Vanilla Bean, the Sacramento Bee reports ( http://bit.ly/1PKsLYp ).

"I needed a human cardiology team to help guide me on this case," said Stern in a news release from the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. "It's so uncommon in cats. It's uncommon in children also, but they've certainly seen more cases of this than I have."

Stern teamed up with cardiologists from the UC Davis Medical Center and other vets to open the cat's chest and place catheters and balloons within Vanilla Bean's heart.

The operation was successful. Vanilla Bean lost a lot of blood, but transfusions were ready from the school's large veterinary blood bank.

The blood loss caused kidney injury, but the cat was able to go home eight days after surgery. After a four-month recuperation, an exam showed that the cat is no longer in congestive heart failure.

Stern said he expects Vanilla Bean to make a complete recovery.

Topics: animal, hospital, patient, treatment, congenital heart defect, cardiology, veterinarian, cat

Elisabeth Bing Dies at 100; ‘Mother of Lamaze’ Changed How Babies Enter World

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, May 18, 2015 @ 11:18 AM

By KAREN BARROW

www.nytimes.com 

17BING1 obit blog427 resized 600Elisabeth Bing, who helped lead a natural childbirth movement that revolutionized how babies were born in the United States, died on Friday at her home in Manhattan. She was 100.

Her death was confirmed by her son, Peter.

Ms. Bing taught women and their spouses to make informed childbirth choices for more than 50 years. (“We don’t call it natural childbirth, but educated childbirth,” she once said.)

She began her crusade at a time when hospital rooms were often cold and impersonal, women in labor were heavily sedated and men were expected to remain in the waiting room, pacing.

Ms. Bing pushed for change. She worked directly with obstetricians, introducing them to the so-called natural childbirth methods developed by Dr. Fernand Lamaze, which incorporated relaxation techniques in lieu of anesthesia and enabled a mother to see her child coming into the world.

Along with Marjorie Karmel, Ms. Bing helped found Lamaze International, a nonprofit educational organization.

She became known as “the mother of Lamaze,” championing the technique in her book “Six Practical Lessons for an Easier Childbirth” (1967) and on the lecture and television talk-show circuits.

Today, Lamaze and other natural childbirth methods are commonplace in delivery rooms, and Lamaze classes, with their emphasis on breathing techniques, are attended by an estimated quarter of all mothers-to-be in the United States and their spouses each year.

For years Ms. Bing led classes in hospitals and in a studio in her apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where she kept a collection of pre-Columbian and later Native American fertility figurines.

Ms. Bing preferred the term “prepared childbirth” to “natural childbirth” because, she said, her goal was not to eschew drugs altogether but to empower women to make informed decisions. Her mantra was “Awake and alert,” and she saw such a birth as a transformative event in a woman’s life.

“It’s an experience that never leaves you,” she told The New York Times in 2000. “It needs absolute concentration; it takes up your whole being. And you learn to use your body correctly in a situation of stress.”

There was one secret she seldom shared, however: Her own experience giving birth to her son, Peter, was decidedly unnatural. As Randi Hutter Epstein reported in her book “Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth From the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank” (2010), she continually asked her doctor, “Is my baby all right? Is my baby all right,” until the doctor said he could not concentrate with her chatter and gave her laughing gas and an epidural.

“I got everything I raged against,” Ms. Bing told Ms. Epstein. “I had the works.”

Elisabeth Dorothea Koenigsberger was born in a suburb of Berlin on July 8, 1914. Her parents, of Jewish descent, had converted to Protestantism years before her birth, but the family nevertheless felt the virulent anti-Semitism sweeping Germany before World War II. She was kicked out of a university two days into her freshman year, and two of her brothers — a historian and an architect — could not find work because of their Jewish background, she told The Journal of Perinatal Education in 2000.

After Ms. Bing’s father died in 1932, the family left the country; most members settled in England, while one sister moved to Illinois. In London, Ms. Bing studied to become a physical therapist and began work at a hospital. Mostly she helped patients with paralysis, multiple sclerosis and broken bones, but every morning she also visited the maternity ward, to give massages to new mothers and help them exercise. At the time, women were not allowed out of bed for as many as 10 days after giving birth.

She became interested in natural childbirth in 1942 when a patient handed her Dr. Grantly Dick-Read’s influential book “Revelation of Childbirth,” published that year (and later titled “Childbirth Without Fear”). Dick-Read proposed that pain during childbirth was caused by fear, and that a woman could avoid anesthesia by following a series of relaxation techniques aimed at reducing that fear.

Ms. Bing became intrigued and hoped to train with Dick-Read in the north of England, but with the war on and travel all but impossible, she began her own independent study. She read as much as she could and observed obstetricians and their patients — heavily anesthetized women who, she saw, had little control over the birth of their children.

“What I saw I disliked intensely,” she said in her interview with the perinatal journal. “I thought there must be better ways.”

Ms. Bing, who drove an ambulance during the war, began pursuing her interest in natural childbirth after 1949, when she moved to Jacksonville, Ill., to be with her sister, who had recently married. There, while working with handicapped children, Ms. Bing met an obstetrician who, she discovered, knew very little about natural childbirth. Resolving to champion the techniques, she began approaching obstetricians and having them send patients to her for one-on-one classes.

Ms. Bing had planned to return to England in about a year and was on her way back when she stopped in New York to visit friends. There she met Fred Max Bing, an exporter’s agent, and decided to stay. The two were married in 1951.

Besides her son, Ms. Bing is survived by a granddaughter. Her husband died in 1984.

In New York, Ms. Bing again started giving private childbirth education classes. They caught the attention of Dr. Alan Guttmacher, the chief of obstetrics at Mount Sinai Hospital, which had opened its first maternity ward in 1951. He asked her to teach a formal class there.

In her search for other childbirth alternatives, Ms. Bing began to learn about the psychoprophylactic method developed in the mid-1950s by Lamaze, a French obstetrician. Lamaze refined Dick-Read’s approach by incorporating breathing exercises he had observed in the Soviet Union, where anesthesia was a luxury poor women in labor could scarcely afford.

In 1960, Ms. Bing, by then a clinical assistant professor at New York Medical College, and Ms. Karmel founded the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis in Obstetrics, known today as Lamaze International.

Ms. Karmel, an American, had become a natural-childbirth crusader after seeking out Lamaze in Paris to help her deliver her first child, and her best-selling book, “Thank You, Dr. Lamaze” (1959), largely introduced the method to Americans and drew Ms. Bing’s attention.

(In the late 1950s, Ms. Bing had persuaded Ms. Karmel to smuggle into the United States an explicit French educational film, “Naissance,” depicting a woman giving natural birth. When New York City hospitals and the 92nd Street Y refused to show it in prenatal classes — they considered it obscene — the two women held a private screening at Ms. Karmel’s home on the Upper East Side. Ms. Karmel died of breast cancer in 1964.

At the heart of the methods the women promoted was the idea of family teamwork, with the father helping the mother by coaching her in responding to her contractions with breathing exercises and massaging her back, and being present during the delivery.

But in her book, Ms. Bing cautioned, “You certainly must not feel any guilt or sense of failure if you require some medication, or if you experience discomfort or pain.”

Some obstetricians were skeptical of the methods and thought Ms. Bing, not being a physician, was ill qualified to be instructing patients. But the natural-childbirth movement found a receptive public. Women coming of age in the 1960s embraced the idea of taking a more active role in childbirth and wanted fathers to participate more as well.

“It was a tremendous cultural revolution that changed obstetrics entirely,” Ms. Bing said in an interview in 1988.

Ms. Bing was modest about her role in the movement. “It wasn’t really a movement by Lamaze or Read or me,” she told the Disney-owned website Family.com. “It was a consumer movement. The time was ripe. The public doubted everything their parents had done.”

But she rejoiced in the outcome. “We are not being tied down anymore,” she said in 2000. “We’re not lying flat on our backs with our legs in the air, shaved like a baby. You can give birth in any position you like. The father, or anybody else, can be there. We fought for years on end for that. And now it’s commonplace. We’ve got it all.”

Lamaze, himself, did not acknowledge Ms. Bing, never responding to her requests for an interview even though she had made his name part of the American vernacular. During their only meeting, at a lunch in New York, he directed all his comments to a male obstetrician at the table.

“I’ve never thought of myself as someone with a legacy of any kind,” Ms. Bing said in an interview at an Upper West Side cafe. “I hope I have made women aware that they have choices, they can get to know their body and trust their body.”

“If my ideas supported feminist ideas,” she continued, “well, that’s all right. But I’ve never been politically active.”

Topics: birth, newborn, health, baby, pregnant, pregnancy, nurse, medical, hospital, patient, treatment, doctor, babies, Elisabeth Bing, lamaze

8-Year-Old Meets With Bone Marrow Donor Who Saved His Life

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Tue, May 05, 2015 @ 12:26 PM

By SYDNEY LUPKIN

http://abcnews.go.com 

kabc bone marrow donor 02 jc 150504 4x3 992 resized 600If not for a stranger halfway around the world, 8-year-old Grant Berg wouldn't be alive today, his mother said.

Grant needed a bone marrow transplant, but after an international search, it was an 18-year-old German college student who came to his rescue in 2011, Grant's mother, Kristi Berg told ABC News. And on Sunday night, Grant and his hero met for the first time at the Los Angeles International Airport.

"I've imagined it so often in my mind and now it is reality," Grant's bone marrow donor, Marvin Zumkley, 22, told KABC-TV, ABC's Los Angeles station. "It was crazy. It was overwhelming, and it was just a good feeling."

A year and a half before the transplant, Grant was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare but serious condition in which the bone marrow stops producing new blood cells, Berg said. This includes red blood cells, which carry oxygen; white blood cells, which fight off infection; and platelets, which mend blood vessels and stop bleeding, according to Dr. Hillard Lazarus, who directs UH Case Medical Center's novel cell therapy program in Cleveland but has not met or treated Grant.

"You need to treat this thing," Lazarus said, adding that it's often unclear what causes aplastic anemia. But only about 600 to 900 people are diagnosed with it every year.

Berg said Grant was getting different kinds of transfusions every week for a year and a half before the transplant.

"For a year and a half, he lived off other people's blood," Berg said. "I can't even count the amount of transfusions he had."

And then Zumkley's bone marrow changed Grant's life, she said. “It means everything to me," she added.

Grant was also born with only part of his cerebellum, so he'll be tested later this year for genetic conditions, she said.

After staying up well past his bedtime to meet Zumkley, Grant fell asleep in the car on the ride home to Temecula, California, Berg said. The plan is for Zumkley to relax for a few days, visit Disneyland and find other ways to enjoy southern California and get to know Grant, she said.

Topics: health, healthcare, medical, hospital, patient, treatment, bone marrow donor, bone marrow

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

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