Archive for the ‘patient perspective’ Category

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Resisting the Rising Tide of Parkinson’s

October 13, 2014
By Barbara Hranilovich. All rights reserved.

By Barbara Hranilovich. All rights reserved.

The Reflections essay in the October issue of AJN is called “After-Dinner Talks.” These are talks with a purpose, a form of physical therapy with high stakes. Writes the author, Minter Krotzer, of her husband’s long struggle with Parkinson’s disease: “Hal always says Parkinson’s is not his identity, and it isn’t, as long as he doesn’t let it claim him, or as long as it doesn’t claim us.”

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning:

‘I’d like you two to have a conversation every night after dinner,’ Hal’s speech therapist said to us.

. . . . Over the years, Hal’s Parkinson’s disease has made him difficult to understand. His vocal cords have restricted movement and it is hard for him to make it to the end of a sentence. He often swallows his last words or they just barely come out. Sometimes he sounds like he is underwater—the words indistinguishable from one another, blurry and pitchless.

But read the short essay, which is free. In just one page it manages to say a lot about chronic illness and the constant, conscious effort it can require of both patients and family members; about a clinician’s good advice; about marriage and communication; and about the power of language to keep us human.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor.

Illustration by Barbara Hranilovich; all rights reserved.

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How Do You Want to Be Cared For?

October 8, 2014
The patient in the next bed by mynameisharsha  / Harsha K R, via Flickr

The patient in the next bed by mynameisharsha / Harsha K R, via Flickr

By Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC, AJN clinical editor

How do you want to be cared for?

Have you written your own personal nursing care plan? I’m not asking about your health care proxy or living will; most nurses have seen enough disastrous end-of-life scenarios to understand the need for formal advance directives. But if you become comatose or unable to communicate, what small pleasures would ease your suffering? What sights and sounds would promote healing for you, or ease your dying?

I’m often dismayed by the thoughtlessness of some staff regarding what their patients see and hear. Nurses will tune an unconscious patient’s television to the staff’s favorite soap opera, or blast the music of their own choice from the patient’s radio. I’ve witnessed staff talking on cell phones, and even arguing loudly with other staff, as though the person in the bed weren’t even there. When did we lose our attentiveness to patients as unique individuals? Read the rest of this entry ?

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AJN in October: Getting Inpatients Walking, Calciphylaxis, Nurses and Hurricane Sandy, More

September 30, 2014

AJN1014.Cover.OnlineAJN’s October issue is now available on our Web site. Here’s a selection of what not to miss.

Calciphylaxis is most often seen in patients with end-stage renal disease. “Calciphylaxis: An Unusual Case with an Unusual Outcome” describes the rare case of a patient diagnosed with calciphylaxis with normal renal function, and how the nursing staff helped develop and implement an intensive treatment plan that led to the patient’s full recovery. This CE feature offers 2.5 CE credits to those who take the test that follows the article. To further explore the topic, listen to a podcast interview with the author (this and other podcasts are accessible via the Behind the Article page on our Web site or, if you’re in our iPad app, by tapping the icon on the first page of the article).

The adverse effects of bed rest. Prolonged periods of immobility can have adverse effects for patients, such as functional decline and increased risk of falls. “A Mobility Program for an Inpatient Acute Care Medical Unit” describes how an evidence-based quality improvement project devised for and put to use on a general medical unit helped mitigate the adverse effects of bed rest. This CE feature offers 2 CE credits to those who take the test that follows the article. Read the rest of this entry ?

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A Patient’s Inner Soundtrack from Better Times

September 8, 2014
Illustration by Gingermoth. All rights reserved.

Illustration by Gingermoth. All rights reserved.

She was at high risk for developing bedsores and it was important that she be turned every two hours, but when approached by staff, she would scratch, punch, and spit. Her speech consisted of expletives, which she screamed in a shrill, piercing voice.

Music can soothe, comfort, engage, bring a recognizable world into an alien one. And, crucially, it can allow a nurse or other caregiver a chance to provide badly needed care to someone with dementia or mental illness who is agitated, confused, hostile, or terrified.

In this case, the place is Detroit and the music is Motown. The short passage above is from the Reflections essay in the September issue of AJN. “Playing Her Song: The Power of Music” is not the first submission we’ve had about the ways music can reach patients when words and other measures fail.

Putting on some music would seem a simple kind of strategy, but it may be worth a try in some situations that seem otherwise hopeless. Please give the short essay a read. Reflections are free.—Jacob Molyneux, senior editor/blog editor

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How Much Was Your Last Blood Test?

August 18, 2014

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

500px-Vraagteken.svgWe all know that prices for medical procedures often vary without rhyme or reason. But an article on Vox.com brought home just how ridiculous this price variation really is. The article describes the findings of a new study published in BMJOpen, the open access arm of the British Medical Journal.

The study evaluated costs charged for 10 common blood tests at more than 100 general acute-care California hospitals. Most were not-for-profit, urban, non-teaching hospitals with under 300 beds and an average of 25% Medicaid patients and 41% Medicare patients. The results were astounding:

“We found significant variation in charges for 10 common outpatient blood tests performed at California hospitals. For example, hospitals charged a median of US$214 for a basic metabolic panel, but the charges ranged from US$35 to US$7303. A lipid panel generated a median charge of US$220 at California hospitals, but the maximum charge of US$10, 169 was over a thousand times the minimum charge of US$10.”

It seems incredible: $10 vs. $10,000 for a lipid panel. As the authors conclude: Read the rest of this entry ?

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AJN’s August Issue: Preventing Pressure Ulcers, Strengths-Based Nursing, Medical Marijuana, More

August 1, 2014

AJN0814.Cover.OnlineAJN’s August issue is now available on our Web site. Here’s a selection of what not to miss.

Toward a new model of nursing. Despite the focus on patient-centered care, medicine continues to rely on a model that emphasizes a patient’s deficits rather than strengths. “Strengths-Based Nursing” describes a holistic approach to care in which eight core nursing values guide action, promoting empowerment, self-efficacy, and hope. This CE feature offers 2.5 CE credits to those who take the test that follows the article.

Decreasing pressure ulcer incidence. Hospital-acquired pressure ulcers take a high toll on patients, clinicians, and health care facilities. “Sustaining Pressure Ulcer Best Practices in a High-Volume Cardiac Care Environment” describes how one of the world’s largest and busiest cardiac hospitals implemented several quality improvement strategies that eventually reduced the percentage of patients with pressure ulcers from 6% to zero. This CE feature offers 2.8 CE credits to those who take the test that follows the article. And don’t miss a podcast interview with the authors (this and other podcasts are accessible via the Behind the Article page on our Web site or, if you’re in our iPad app, by tapping the icon on the first page of the article).

Read our Cultivating Quality column this month for another article on using evidence-based nursing practice to reduce the incidence of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers and promote wound healing. Read the rest of this entry ?

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If She Yells ‘Help Me’ – Poster Therapy to Convey the Needs, Identity of an Ailing Parent

July 23, 2014

Joan Melton, MSN, lives in Indiana.

Photo by Ann Gordon, via Flickr

Photo by Ann Gordon, via Flickr

I am a geriatric nurse practitioner and have also been the daughter to an ill, aging parent. I felt well trained for my professional role but struggled with the latter.

I joked that, despite my logical understanding of what was going on with my mother, it could be hard to accept her physical and functional changes, which sometimes seemed to fly in the face of logic. There were days Mom’s hospice nurses spent more time with me than with my mother. They’d sit and allow me to vent my frustration at watching my mother slowly leave me, at feeling overwhelmed and “losing my cool” with her, at not being able to practice the advice I’d so readily handed out to so many other families over the years, not being able to “fix it” and successfully comfort all of Mom’s fears and ailments 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Yes, I know how unrealistic that last statement sounds. Thank goodness for hospice nurses, who reminded me that I was “the daughter” and did not need to be “the nurse practitioner.” They reminded me that as the daughter I had amazing insight no one else had.

So, when Mom spent a week in the nursing home to give my family some long-overdue respite time, her hospice nurses suggested I share all of my rich, personal, daughterly insight.

Their idea was brilliant. It made me feel useful and allowed me to feel less guilty about taking Mom to the nursing home. Most of all, it reminded me of who my Mom really was behind the mask of her dementia.

Mom’s health issues had begun with chronic, recurrent atrial fibrillation. Placed on Coumadin for stroke prevention, she fell, hit her head, and had a cerebral bleed. She was taken off Coumadin, and during her recovery had another episode of atrial fibrillation, this time suffering a thrombotic stroke that left her with memory problems and expressive aphasia. In addition, Mom was blind from the effects of glaucoma and macular degeneration.

In summary, Mom was unable to walk by herself, couldn’t find words to say what she wanted to say, and could only see shadows. Naturally, she became fearful and frustrated as her world closed in on her. Confusion and anxiety were side effects of her condition(s). At times, she was so anxious that she became short of breath. Her oxygen levels would drop, and her confusion would get worse. In addition, her appetite changed. She lost weight, and like many elderly patients, she had recurrent urinary tract infections from not drinking enough fluids.

Two posters. Before it was time to take Mom to the nursing home, the hospice nurses suggested I make two posters to display in her room. They suggested that on the first I list who my Mom was behind the mask of her dementia. What did Mom love to do before she became ill? They also suggested I put photographs of Mom on the poster to show what she’d been like before she became so frail.

On the second poster they suggested I write things to help the staff at the nursing home take better care of Mom, tips that only I knew from my past experiences as her caregiver and her daughter. Seeing these things written on a poster and displayed in her room would serve as a reminder for the staff, and would provide an easy way to share important information about her to all the different staff members who would be involved with Mom’s care.

I took the nurses’ excellent advice and began making the two posters. The entire family helped. Mom’s posters were the talk of the nursing home. People would come into her room just to read them. Here are a few examples of what we wrote:

Poster #1
Mom loves flowers, especially zinnias.
Mom’s was married to Dad (name) for 51 years. Dad went to heaven eight years ago.
Mom had five children (we listed their names). Mom calls out for her oldest son.
He and his wife took care of Mom at home.
Mom loves to waltz and old-time country music.
Mom loves to talk to her sister (name) on the phone every day. Mom is extremely close to her sister. Their mother died when they were only four and six years old.
Mom loves cooking for her family. She makes the best fried chicken.
She loves listening to the Catholic mass on TV or praying the rosary.
Mom loves going to the country, raising cows and bottle feeding the baby calves. She would give the cows names like pets.
Mom loves having her hair fixed and putting on make-up and looking nice every day. Read the rest of this entry ?

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