About Betsy Todd, MPH, RN, CIC

Clinical editor, American Journal of Nursing (AJN), and epidemiologist

Connecting Emotional Intelligence, Team Communication, and Patient Safety

An Early-Career Nursing Memory

Photo by Barry Diomede/Albany Stock Photo.

Many years ago, fresh out of nursing school, I was in charge one night, with no other RNs on the unit. We had an “active GI bleeder” who needed hourly boluses of either ice water or iced milk through an NG tube. (Yes, the standard treatment at that time was gruesomely uncomfortable for the patient, and in later years determined to be counterproductive.) I had more than a dozen other patients to care for, but everyone got their meds and, miraculously, the bleeding man made it through the night.

When my supervisor made rounds at the end of the shift, I reported that all was well and that my critical patient had survived. Her only response: “Mrs. Todd! There is blood on your shoes!”

This senior nurse, standing there in her starched whites and impeccable shoes, didn’t recognize that I had feared I would be inadequate to the task, or even acknowledge my pride as a brand-new nurse in actually saving someone’s life. In retrospect, I can’t help wondering if her choice to focus on a superficial fact, irrelevant to the crisis, could be interpreted as an indication that she lacked a certain acuteness of emotional […]

2017-07-17T16:49:20+00:00 July 17th, 2017|Nursing, patient safety|1 Comment

Viewpoint: A Limitation of Preprocedure Checklists

I once worked at a hospital where some of the surgeons regarded safety checklists as an inconvenience. They saw them as bothersome intrusions by the nursing staff into the surgical suite. One OR nurse was even “counselled” by her supervisor (in the presence of the complaining surgeon) to avoid upsetting the doctors by using the preprocedure time-out.

How important are these tools? Are we using them well, or do we speed through them as rote exercises? Might we even expect too much of them? In AJN’s July Viewpoint, nurse Elizabeth Anne Crooks relates a frightening episode (she was the patient) that led her to think about time-outs in a different way.

Crooks was about to undergo a colonoscopy. The clinical team seemed relatively unconcerned about her bradycardia, which was a significant change from her normal heart rate. After completing the usual time-out protocol, sedation was initiated and the physician began the procedure. Suddenly, Crooks’ heart rate and blood pressure dropped precipitously.

I remember waking in distress and hearing the monitor alarming. The team was working rapidly to stabilize me with fluids and medications.

A routine procedure had suddenly become an emergency.

In reflecting upon her experience, Crooks wonders whether the preprocedure time-out may have given her clinical team a false sense of security—one that led them to downplay a clinically significant change. And yet, as we know, these time-outs focus on ensuring that the correct patient is receiving the correct procedure, and not on other safety […]

Exploring Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Illustration by Sara Jarret.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is one of those conditions that is maddening for patients and clinicians alike. Its pathophysiology is unclear, the symptom picture varies widely from patient to patient, there is no test to confirm the diagnosis, and treatment is directed at managing symptoms because there is no cure.

To make things even more difficult for the person with IBS, there is a recognized psychological component of the disease. Therefore some friends, family members, and clinicians might tell people with IBS that their suffering is “all in their head.” And yet there is demonstrable proof (via neuroimaging studies) of differences in central processing mechanisms related to the “brain–gut axis” between people who have IBS and those who do not.

Kristen Ronn Weaver and colleagues explore these and other aspects of IBS in a clinical feature article in AJN’s June issue. The authors review the latest findings related to IBS etiology and pathophysiology, the relationship between IBS symptoms and stress, and the updated Rome IV criteria that help guide diagnosis. Of particular interest is the authors’ presentation of research confirming the value of several nonpharmacologic interventions, including dietary modifications, probiotics, moderately increased physical activity, yoga, and traditional Chinese medicine.

See “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” in the June issue to learn more, and to find out how nurse-led initiatives can lead to long-term health benefits for people with IBS.

 

2017-06-26T09:07:44+00:00 June 26th, 2017|Nursing, patient experience|0 Comments

Why Do Pregnant Women Smoke?

 “My mother smoked [when she was pregnant] with me and I am fine.”

“I’d rather smoke a cigarette than take a drink of alcohol to relieve stress.”

“So you’re bored, what are you going to do? Sit down and smoke a cigarette.”

“It relaxes me.”

Tobacco use during pregnancy has been associated with many adverse effects, including abruptio placentae, fetal malpresentation, low Apgar scores, stillbirth, and birth defects such as gastroschisis and cleft lip or palate. Most nurses probably see these as no-brainer reasons for women to stop smoking once they become pregnant. Yet a new research study illustrates that the reasons pregnant women might continue to smoke are very individual, and that clinicians are not always skillful in supporting smoking cessation.

In this month’s AJN, researcher Geraldine Rose Britton and colleagues share the results of their qualitative study on the experiences of pregnant smokers and their health care providers. The researchers used a focus group methodology to learn about the smokers’ experiences and to better understand what motivated them to quit or prevented them from doing so.  There were also separate clinician focus groups to explore the approach of the 45 providers (71% RNs, 11% physicians, plus one NP, one nurse manager, four LPNs, and one PA) to pregnant women who smoke.

Not surprisingly, the researchers discovered that the issue is frustrating to both pregnant women and their maternity care providers. Some physicians and nurses felt unprepared to […]

‘Guided by Why’: Notes from the 2017 AACN Conference

Clareen Wiencek, left, and Christine Schulman

AJN‘s clinical editor Betsy Todd recently had a chance to speak with outgoing AACN president Clareen Wiencek and president-elect Christine Schulman about their plans and accomplishments. This post includes her podcast conversation with the two critical care nurse leaders, as well as a summary of highlights from the annual conference. For other updates from recent nursing and heath care conferences, visit our On the Road page.

As always, this year’s National Training Institute and Critical Care Exposition (“NTI”), the annual meeting of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), offered hundreds of educational sessions along with thought-provoking “supersession” addresses. Five “visionary leaders” were honored on the opening day: […]

2017-06-07T12:21:23+00:00 June 7th, 2017|Nursing|0 Comments