When Metrics and Testing Replace Listening and Physical Assessment

By Gail M. Pfeifer, MA, RN, AJN news director

Emergency x 2 by Ian Muttoo, via Flickr. by Ian Muttoo/via Flickr

I was appalled as I read the Narrative Matters column by physician Charlotte Yeh in the June issue of Health Affairs, for two reasons. Aside from the compassion I felt for her suffering at being hit by a car on a rainy Washington, D.C., evening in 2011, I was dismayed that most of her story took place in an ED, one of the settings in which I used to work. While there, she met with a series of omissions that included not just medical care omissions but also—though she never explicitly connects the dots—basic and serious nursing care omissions.

It saddens me to think that one of the things I fought so hard to implement on our unit more than 20 years ago—transforming the staff’s automatic labeling of arriving patients (an MI, an MVA, a gunshot wound) into a unique picture of who that patient really was under those traumatic circumstances—has still not come to pass. Yet that change of vision is so important to completing the picture and arriving at an accurate diagnosis. Noting that her care demanded a better balance of necessary test-based care and “an understanding of me as a person and what mattered to me,” Yeh points […]

June 13th, 2014|career, nursing perspective|3 Comments

‘Patient Activation’: Real Paradigm Shift or Updated Jargon?

By Jacob Molyneux, AJN senior editor

I attended a Health Affairs briefing yesterday in Washington, DC. Based on the February issue of the journal, it was called “A New Era of Patient Engagement.” A lot of research money appears to have been flowing to this area in recent years.

Our January article on "Navigating the PSA Screening Dilemma" includes a discussion of 'shared decision making' Our January article on “Navigating the PSA Screening Dilemma” includes a discussion of ‘shared decision making’

The basic idea isn’t entirely new to anyone who’s been hearing the term “patient-centered care” for a long time: as Susan Dentzer writes in “Rx for the ‘Blockbuster Drug’ of Patient Engagement,” a useful article summarizing the main ideas raised in the Health Affairs issue: “Wherever engagement takes place, the emerging evidence is that patients who are actively involved in their health and health care achieve better health outcomes, and have lower health costs, than those who aren’t.”

One might add to these projected benefits: better experiences as patients.

Something’s got to change, so why not this? If many nurses feel they’ve heard all this before, the sense of a […]

What’s So Hard to Understand: Patient Safety, Quality Care Linked to Nurse Staffing

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

shawnkennedyThe data linking nurse staffing as well as shift length with patient outcomes and satisfaction with care continue to roll in. The latest report on nurse staffing, published in the January 13 issue of Medical Care by McHugh and MA, links higher nurse–patient ratios and good work environments to reduced 30-day readmission rates. Read the abstract here.

Most nurses seem to support better nurse–patient ratios, but there’s continuing ambivalence about reducing shift length, as seen in the comments we received on a recent blog post asking whether it’s time to retire the 12-hour nursing shift.

In August, researchers reported a link between nurse staffing and hospital-acquired infections.  Publishing in the American Journal of Infection Control, the authors noted a “significant association” between nurse–patient staffing ratios and both urinary tract infections and surgical site infections. Further, they noted that reducing nurse burnout was associated with fewer infections. (Read our news report on the study here.)

Health Affairs published a report in November called “The Longer the Shifts for Hospital Nurses, The Higher the Levels of Burnout and Patient Dissatisfaction.” The findings were there, loud and clear—researchers Stimpfel, Sloane, and Aiken found […]

January 29th, 2013|nursing perspective, nursing research|20 Comments

More Evidence: Should We Get Rid of 12-Hour Nursing Shifts, Despite Their Popularity?

By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

A new study in Health Affairs provides yet more support that reliance on 12-hour nursing shifts (or longer—we all know that shifts often extend a bit longer than scheduled) should be reconsidered. The study supports previous findings of increased burnout among nurses who work shifts longer than eight hours, but finds as well that longer shifts (13 hours or more) are associated with increased levels of patient dissatisfaction.

Despite these negatives for both nurses and patients, 80% of nurses surveyed across four states said they were happy with their hospitals’ scheduling practices.

I imagine that, with all the recent emphasis on patient satisfaction scores, this study will make nurse executives and hospital administrators take notice—especially as consumers become more aware of the research through coverage like this story at the U.S News & World Report site.

We’ve had evidence for a while that the 12-hour shift is not a best practice. For example, in 2004, Anne Rogers and colleagues also published research in Health Affairs. In their national survey of over 1,000 nurses, they found that most nurses generally worked longer than their actual shifts; nearly 40% of shifts were longer than 12 hours, and 14% of respondents had worked “16 or more consecutive hours at least once during the four-week period.” More importantly, they found that “the likelihood of making an error increased with longer work hours and was three times higher when nurses worked […]

November 27th, 2012|nursing perspective|19 Comments

Diabetes Plus Marijuana Plus Medical Errors Minus Nursing Blogs

What’s new in health care news this week?

Diabetes everywhere. There’s an entire Health Affairs issue devoted to the topic of “Confronting the Growing Diabetes Crisis.” It looks at many interrelated issues, such as the personal financial burden of having diabetes over the course of a lifetime, whether it’s best to put scarce health care resources into focusing on prevention or treatment, models for community-based lifestyle programs for those with type 2 diabetes, the positive effects of the Affordable Care Act on giving those with diabetes access to affordable health insurance and crucial care, genetic factors related to type 2 diabetes, and a great deal more. Inevitably, many of the articles focus on type 2 diabetes, which is so closely linked to America’s obesity epidemic.

Joint studies. The New York Times reported this week on a large government study showing that, whatever one believes about marijuana’s psychological effects or the efficacy of its various medical uses, long-term marijuana smoking—at least one joint per day, every day of the year—does not impair lung function or contribute to the development of COPD. Will this change anyone’s mind about whether this drug is evil, a panacea for all ills, or somewhere in between? Probably not.

Unreported harm. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a report last week stating that only 14% of medical errors and other events that harm Medicare patients were reported by hospital employees. The report calls for improving […]

January 12th, 2012|Nursing|5 Comments