Are We Hearing the Questions that Patients and Their Families Don’t Ask?

“The spoken and unspoken messages we give patients and families are powerful.”

Viewpoint author Juanita Reigle

As a ‘frequent flyer’ of late, accompanying a family member on the long trek through cancer treatment, I’m acutely aware of the ways in which doctors and nurses communicate with us. Some have never mastered the art of interacting with people in stressful conditions. Others have remarkable radar and a special ability to “read between the lines,” identifying concerns that he and I haven’t yet voiced.

In ‘She’s Fine,’ the Viewpoint essay in AJN’s October issue, Juanita Reigle reflects upon how we respond to the questions patients and family members don’t raise. Some are left unasked because people are too overwhelmed to formulate a question. Some people aren’t ready to hear the answers. And sometimes, sadly, families sense that this doctor or nurse really doesn’t want to engage with them.


Palliative Care: Often Overlooked in the ‘Acute’ Setting

Does this description of a patient sound familiar to you?

“… a 91-year-old man diagnosed with moderate Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension, and benign prostatic hypertrophy whose change in mental status has prompted hospitalization from a long-term care facility…. This is his third admission in five months with similar symptoms; each time he was given IV fluids and sent back to the long term care facility within a few days.”

Figure. Photo © Photofusion Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo.

With minor adjustments in age, gender, and the exact illnesses involved, this paragraph describes patients that I cared for on a regular basis in a large medical center. I always found such patients frustrating, and sad. I was frustrated because it seemed all we could do was “patch them up,” send them back to the nursing home, and wait for their inevitable return; and sad because there seemed so little quality of life to reach for.

In AJN’s September issue (“Palliative Care in the Acute Care Setting”), authors Jennifer L. Goldsborough and Marianne Matzo describe […]

2017-10-02T08:33:17+00:00 October 2nd, 2017|Nursing|1 Comment

Hospital Closings Hit Rural Communities Hard, But Aren’t Inevitable

Photo by Taylor Sisk/North Carolina Health News

Community hospitals across the country have been closing in recent years. Reasons given include system consolidations, rising costs of care, Medicare reimbursement issues, and changing models of health care delivery. Few hospital closures are welcomed by patients or employees, but those that take place in rural areas, where there may not be another hospital for many miles, often affect the local community with particular severity.

A double hit for local economies.

Not only do hospital closings in rural areas make access to health care a challenge, sometimes forcing local residents to drive many miles for care. But—as this month’s AJN Reports points out (“Will Rural Community Hospitals Survive?“)—rural hospital closings also have a ripple effect on a local economy, meaning lost jobs as well as lost revenue for ancillary businesses in the area.

Hospital that innovate may survive.

Despite current pressures, some rural hospitals are finding new ways to thrive. As the article describes in greater detail, hospital “survival strategies” include partnerships and “becoming increasingly creative with providing services,” including expanding the use of telehealth. […]

2017-09-26T09:45:27+00:00 September 26th, 2017|Nursing|0 Comments

A Closer Look at Preventing C. Diff Transmission

Clostridium difficile/ CDC

It’s estimated that Clostridium difficile (C. diff) causes about 450,000 infections and 15,000 deaths each year. Recently, on Facebook, AJN’s question of the week asked about isolation precautions for patients with C. diff. Most readers could not provide the correct answer to the multiple choice question.

In this month’s issue, “Six Things You Can Do Today to Prevent Hospital-Onset C. difficile Tomorrow” offers a quick update of the best ways to prevent C. diff infection and transmission in hospitalized patients.

Author and infection prevention nurse Nancy O’Connor explores the finer points of key basics, including the importance of maintaining a high index of suspicion for cases, performing excellent hand hygiene, and cleaning all surfaces in a case patient’s room with a bleach solution. (And did you know that if the patient remains in the same room posttreatment, after symptoms have resolved, the room should be terminally cleaned to avoid reinfection?)

Isolation precautions and C. diff.

So, what about isolation precautions, which need to be started as soon as C. diff is suspected? Most respondents to our Facebook question thought that standard precautions were sufficient until a C. diff diagnosis was confirmed. But if this “rule-out” patient with diarrhea is positive, does s/he begin to shed C. diff only after the infection has been diagnosed? Of course not. A […]

2017-09-22T11:21:11+00:00 September 22nd, 2017|infectious diseases, Nursing|0 Comments

Designing Nurses: Make Your Ideas Reality

“At one hospital I worked, nurses used masking tape to outline a box on the floor around the resuscitation stretcher…”

Earlier this month, the New York Times published an article, “Design Thinking for Doctors and Nurses.” In it, the author describes a simple solution designed by a nurse to identify who was in charge of a resuscitation team: whoever was wearing the orange vest was the leader.

As a former ED nurse who participated in many codes and trauma emergencies, I could easily picture the chaotic scene that led to this innovative solution. In a large urban teaching hospital, cardiac arrests and trauma calls draw many physicians and medical students, respiratory therapists, and of course, at least two to three nurses. It wasn’t unusual to have conflicting orders shouted out by physicians, residents chiming in with questions and suggestions, and the medication nurse making the decision as to which order she/he would process. At one hospital I worked, nurses used masking tape to outline a box on the floor around the resuscitation stretcher—only the physician in charge and resuscitation team were allowed inside the box. All other onlookers (mostly medical students and residents) had to stay outside the box and be silent. It did wonders for instilling a quiet, organized atmosphere into a highly charged event.

Left out of a wide range of decisions critical to care delivery

Those at the point of […]