Blood Management Awareness Week 2010

November 1-5 has been designated Blood Management Awareness Week by the Society for the Advancement of Blood Management.  Blood conservation techniques are becoming the norm rather than the exception in many hospitals around the world, and a growing body of evidence indicates that patients are benefiting from the trend toward limiting the use of transfusions.  Shorter recovery times and fewer complications are being reported.

Another consideration, not to be taken lightly in today’s difficult economic climate, is the potential cost savings for both the patient and the institution.  

The Cleveland Clinic is hosting a Blood Management Summit at their main campus on November 13, 2010.  “An emerging body of literature suggests that allogeneic transfusion is associated with long-and short-term adverse consequences that affect the risk-benefit profile of conventional transfusion practices  This CME activity invites practitioners from different specialties for an interdisciplinary dialogue to explore avenues for reducing allogeneic transfusion and optimizing the care of patients with anemia.” 

52 Weeks of Paid Vacation Anyone?

Those of you who attended the 2005 NAMSS Conference in Phoenix may remember that Vince Poscente was our opening keynote speaker.  His lively presentation got the conference off to a great start. 

Vince added his name to the (long) list of people around the world who have applied online for the job of Paradise Hunter Host, (advertised as 52 weeks of paid vacation).   He’s looking for votes, so if you’d like to add yours, view Vince’s video on the Paradise Hunter site.  Voting is open until November 5th.

The Comfort of Hospice Care

The view through the double glass doors is of a lovely garden; the autumn colors striking against the blue October sky.  Our friend rests peacefully in the room’s only bed, and we each spend a few moments with her.  At times it seems she knows we are there, although we come mostly now to comfort her family.  It is a sad time; we grieve for the loss we are all about to share, and seek ways to comfort those she held most dear.

We are all thankful that she is here, in this quiet, restful place.  A nurse stops by to tell family how she did during the night, and to share what they’ve done to make her more comfortable.  Someone comes by a moment later with a sandwich, encouraging our friend’s husband to take care of himself, reminding him that there is coffee in the nearby kitchen. 

The visit brings back memories, my father spent his final hours here a few years ago, and we too were comforted by the care he received.  We feel fortunate to have this Hospice facility close by.

Hospital and nursing home staff members are trained to work toward improvement and rehabilitation for their patients; as a consequence, they are often not as skilled in providing comfort care to those for whom improvement is no longer a possibility.  Should the need arise, I encourage you to look for Hospice care in your area.  

The Hospice Foundation web site share this information under What Is Hospice?

Hospice is a special concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families when a life-limiting illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments.

  • Hospice care neither prolongs life nor hastens death. Hospice staff and volunteers offer a specialized knowledge of medical care, including pain management.
  • The goal of hospice care is to improve the quality of a patient’s last days by offering comfort and dignity.
  • Hospice care is provided by a team-oriented group of specially trained professionals, volunteers and family members.
  • Hospice addresses all symptoms of a disease, with a special emphasis on controlling a patient’s pain and discomfort.
  • Hospice deals with the emotional, social and spiritual impact of the disease on the patient and the patient’s family and friends.
  • Hospice offers a variety of bereavement and counseling services to families before and after a patient’s death.

Surgical Errors – A New Study

Health.com reports that  Surgery Mix-Ups Are Surprisingly Common.

A recent study in Colorado covering a period of  six and a half years, indicated that doctors operated on the wrong patient at least 25 times and on the wrong part of the body 107 times.  Considering the number of patients who would have had surgery in the State during that time period, these serious medical errors are rare, but not rare enough.

Health.com also provides advice on What to Do if the Hospital Makes a Mistake

  • Ask what happened
  • Get a copy of your medical records
  • Start keeping your own notes
  • Speak to a higher-up
  • File a complaint
  • Consult a lawyer

Patients and Caregivers Harmed by Medical Mistakes

Readers Digest provides a first-hand account of the stress and anxiety medical professionals can feel after a medical error in Doctors Confess Their Fatal Mistakes. 

Former Cleveland, Ohio pharmacist Eric Cropp talks about, not just his regret over his error and the subsequent death of a child, but also the enormous impact the event had on his life.  Patient safety advocate Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, speaks of the culture of medicine that continues to inhibit physicians from admitting a mistake.

On a related note, in an op ed piece for USA Today, medical blogger Kevin Pho, M.D., writes about the costs of career burnout to both physicians and patients

These articles remind us of the need to continually work to improve healthcare systems and processes to diminish the likelihood that both patients and their caregivers will be harmed by a medical mistake.

The Heart of Healthcare

Our days. or in some cases our nights, are spent with co-workers.  The desire to collaborate with compassionate, intelligent people led me to a career in healthcare, and over the past 25+ years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some phenomenal individuals.

Some have been physicians; both those who have cared for family and for me, as well as those with whom I’ve toiled on projects, committees and boards.  I’ve been impressed time and again with the dedication and courage these men and women display in the face of daunting obstacles.  My expectations are high when it comes to leaders of the healthcare team, and rarely am I disappointed. 

Some have been nurses, physician assistants, and therapists; front line warriors in the battle against illness and disability.  Those who excel refuse to allow their souls to be crushed by the unceasing demands of their high-tech, high-touch roles.

There are pharmacists, risk and quality managers, social workers, and paramedics who remain fixed in my memory although years have passed since we traveled the same hallways. 

Many have held one of the multitude of ancillary jobs necessary to keep healthcare organizations functioning.  There’s no one I want to see more than a skilled maintenace employee when the power goes out or water suddenly begins pouring from the ceiling,  and bless the information technology staffer who responds promptly and knowledgeably when the the computer program I desperately need locks up my system.  At one hospital I stopped by the coffee shop nearly every morning, more for the smile and friendly greeting I knew I’d get from the dietary staff than for the coffee.  

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm,” said Publilius Syrus more than 2,000 years ago; but today’s sea of healthcare is anything but calm. Administrators, Directors, Chief Executive Officers, Healthcare Attorneys, and others who set our course and work to keep the ship from running aground in stormy seas, bear a heavy responsibility.  Those I have most admired are the leaders who remain slightly awed by the magnificent work that flows around them every day. 

Thanks to all of you, the heart of healthcare, I’ve never wished I had chosen another field.