Do You Need an Advance Directive for Healthcare?

In a word – Yes.

Every adult* should give serious thought to having and maintaining this important document. Establishing advance directives regarding future health care decisions can ensure that your wishes are met and can also relieve your family members of the stress of having to make difficult decisions for you.

A living will tells others how you feel about care intended to sustain your life.  There are many issues to consider, including

  • The use of dialysis and breathing machines
  • If you want to be resuscitated if breathing or heartbeat stops
  • Tube feeding
  • Organ or tissue donation

A durable power of attorney for health care is a document that names someone you trust to make health decisions for you if at any time you are unable to make them.

Always carry a copy of your personal DPA/Advance Directive with you, and make sure that your “attorney in fact” also has a copy. This is especially important if you are not able to make your wishes known when you enter a hospital.

Pennsylvania residents can find more information about DPA’s and Living Wills, and a sample Advance Directive, on the Pennsylvania Department of Health website.

*Pennsylvania code, Act 169, stipulates that in order to execute a health-care power of attorney an individual must be at least 18 years of age, or be married, or a high school graduate, or an emancipated minor.

Doctors Day

March 30th is designated each year in the US as “Doctors Day,” a day set aside to acknowledge the benefit we all receive from the excellent work of the physicians who touch our lives.

I have the privilege in my current position of working with many physicians who repeatedly demonstrate their willingness to “go the extra mile” for patients.  So to all of them, as well as the many other highly-skilled physicians who care for us, thank you, and Happy Doctors Day!

Always Time Enough for Courtesy

Walking down a hospital hallway recently I stopped a young nurse and said, “I was just visiting the patient in room 123 and…

“I’m not down here, my patients are up there” – pointing to the other end of the hall as she hurried by.

I was finally able to find someone to help; the request was simple, but the patient’s need was rather urgent.

I understand that just because someone asks for assistance doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to provide it, but how much more pleasant the encounter would have been had she said, “I’m so sorry, that isn’t one of my patients but A) let me help you find someone who can help, or at least B) ask at the nursing station and I’m sure someone will be able to help you.

I’m still thinking about the encounter and how it made me feel to be brushed off mid-sentence. 

So, this is just a gentle reminder to us all to remember the words Ralph Waldo Emerson penned more than a century ago – “Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy.”

National Patient Safety Awareness Week

March 6-12, 2011 has been designated by the National Patient Safety Foundation as Patient Safety Awareness Week.

In honor of those who work in Patient Safety, a challenging and at times heart-wrenching career choice, here is a list, courtesy of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, of items that have caused potentially serious problems for patients undergoing  MRI Scans (Magnetic Resonance  Imaging) due to the powerful magnet in the machine.  It’s worth taking a few minutes to review:

  • Pacemaker/implanted cardiac device/heart valve
  • Aneurysm clip
  • Bullet/BB pellet/gunshot wound
  • Hearing aid/ear implant
  • Orbit (eye) metal
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm stent
  • Acupuncture needle
  • Inferior vena cava filter
  • “House arrest” ankle bracelet
  • Knife
  • Metal artifact
  • Metal buckle
  • Metal plate/screw
  • Pain pump (implanted)
  • Sweater with metal fabric
  • Tatoo
  • Tissue expander
  • Face mask with metal nose piece

Recent Advisories from the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority