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Heading down the virtual road

An article on Advance for Nurses this week explores the dynamic between the well-informed patient and the well-educated nurse, weighing the pros and cons of patients who thoroughly research their symptoms and diagnoses prior to an appointment. On the one hand, patients who take charge of their health can be more collaborative and active in their treatment, but on the other hand these well-educated patients may challenge nurses about prescriptions and treatment options. According to the article, nurses with well-informed patients should listen carefully and establish a dialogue with patients and their families to avoid any potential aggression that might stem from disagreements about care options.

The article also points to telemedicine and the advances in technology that allow patients to communicate with nurses and other healthcare professionals easily and get quick answers to any questions they may have forgotten to ask during an appointment. It also allows nurses to monitor patients with chronic diseases more effectively.

While the internet might improve the ways in which patients can communicate with their nurses, it could also lead to increased expectations for round-the-clock care and instantaneous feedback, which might not always be possible with a hospitals’ budget and resources. Adding a virtual element to the work nurses perform daily makes for greater responsibility and accountability, especially if individual nurses are expected to maintain email communications with patients. What happens if a nurse forgets to check her email, or sees an email from a patient but does not respond quickly? Technology has the potential to improve healthcare, but it seems certain precautions should be taken when implementing telemedicine programs or when interacting with patients who have conducted extensive online research about their diagnoses.

Does your organization encourage online interaction with patients? Have you seen an increase in patient engagement in light of online communication and research? Leave us a comment below!

Do as I say, and as I do: Setting a healthy example for patients

More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many speculate that percentage will continue growing in the coming years. With so many health issues linked to being overweight or obese, it is in the best interest of patients to listen to their healthcare professionals’ advice and move toward a healthier lifestyle and a lower weight. But what happens when physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals are the ones with the extra pounds?

Two students from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine asked this question, and responded by establishing The Patient Promise, an initiative aimed at addressing clinician health and encouraging physicians and other healthcare professionals to adopt the healthier habits they prescribe to their patients. The initiative’s website cited data that found 63% of physicians and 55% of nurses were overweight or obese, and pointed to additional research that showed physicians who live healthier lifestyles and are at healthier weights are more likely to address weight issues with their patients. Within a few weeks of launching The Patient Promise, 300 healthcare professionals and medical students across the country had signed the pledge to show their support.

Earlier this year, we posted on the blog about a study from the University of Maryland that examined the impacts of job stress and irregular work hours on nurses’ weight. The obesity issue, and more broadly the issue of leading a healthy lifestyle, is one that needs to be addressed, and projects like The Patient Promise are steps in the right direction. As the Patient Promise website says, “Hippocrates, not hypocrisy.” Nurses and physicians have the opportunity to lead by example and make a positive change in both their own lives and the lives of their patients; it is an opportunity that should not be wasted.

Leave a comment and let us know about any initiatives your organization has in place or is considering for promoting a healthier lifestyle among your nurses and physicians.

Top 10 most read blogs posts from 2011

Here’s a rundown of the most-read posts from 2011:

1. Analyzing nurse staffing: Understanding FTEs

Staffing: what a problem! Developing and monitoring the staffing budget is one of the most, if not the most, difficult responsibilities of the nurse leader. Labor consumes the majority of the financial resources of the organization. Therefore, everyone must act responsibly in order to ensure the financial health of the organization. But how do you know how many staff you need on your position control in order to meet the needs of the department (not too many, and not too few)? That is a $100,000 question!

2. Helping new graduate nurses over transition shock: Part 1: The “doing” stage

It’s the time of year when hospitals are welcoming new graduate nurses to their units and nurse managers are preparing to help these new nurses make the difficult transition from nursing school to nursing practice.

Kendra Varner, MSN, RN, nurse residency program coordinator for the Kettering Health Network in Dayton, OH, wrote in the book Nurse Residency Program Builder, that new nurses go through many experiences as they transition to become competent nurses. In the first part of a three part series, Varner describes the first stage.

3. Best practices for filling out incident reports

You and your staff may think that incident reports are more trouble than they are worth-but think again.

We work in high-stress, fast-paced environments. It is your responsibility as a member of the nursing management team to understand not only the importance of the incident report, but also how to ensure that your staff completes them and how to investigate incidents to avoid any further occurrences. Your investigation will also provide possible defense if during your investigation you identify a system failure and take the necessary corrective action(s). [more]

Nurses are still America’s most trusted professionals

Americans trust nurses more than any other professionals. Nurses have topped Gallup’s list every year since they were first included in 1999—except for 2001 when they were briefly replaced by fire fighters.

Members of Congress were the least trusted professionals. Sixty-four percent of Americans rated politicians as having low or very low honesty and ethical standards, tying the record for lowest any profession has ever measured.

The honesty and ethical standards of nurses, pharmacists, and medical doctors were listed as the top three on Gallup’s poll.

“The public’s continued trust in nurses is well-placed, and reflects an appreciation for the many ways nurses provide expert care and advocacy,” said ANA President Karen A. Daley, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN in a statement. “Major national policy initiatives also show trust in nurses. The Affordable Care Act and the Future of Nursing recommendations call on nurses to take more leadership roles and collaborate fully with other professionals in providing essential healthcare to a growing number of people who will have greater access to services.”

Learning patient satisfaction from the Ritz

Yet another company outside the field of healthcare has offered its services to teach hospitals something about customer service and excellence. Of course, the customers in healthcare are patients, and taking care of them is different than taking care of customers.

Still, we’ve seen Disney offering lessons to healthcare institutions, and now the Ritz-Carlton. Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga, TN, signed a $388,000 contract with the Ritz to help the hospital change its culture to service excellence.

What do you think? Is this a passing fad? Or is this the beginning to really focusing on patient satisfaction and service excellence in healthcare?

Source: Tami Swartz, Patient Safety Monitor Blog

Eight Ways to Drive the Complaining Patient and Family Member Nuts

One of my favorite activities is facilitating patient and family focus groups. What I love about focus groups is that I always learn something!

I’ve consistently found that patients and families are very sensitive to how they are treated when they complain and very articulate about the experience. If there’s one thing I’ve learned well it is “What drives the complaining patient and family member nuts?”

Listed here are the highlights. Consider sharing this list with staff throughout your organization so that people avoid some of the pitfalls of dealing with complaints.

1. It drives patients and families nuts when we get defensive. If we take complaints personally and say things like “I only work here” or “It’s not my fault”, we make matters worse. We need to keep calm, stay objective, and avoid judging, acting superior or making excuses.

2. It drives customers nuts when we coldly cite “policy” as our reason why we can’t do what the customer wants. Statements like “I’m sorry, but that’s the way we do things here” or “It’s our policy” infuriate patients and families, because it seems we care more about protecting ourselves than serving their needs. We need to somehow give them at least one option in line with policy or find ways to bend rules when we know we’re acting in the patient’s and organization’s best interest. And when the rule can’t be bent, we can at least listen intently and, with sincere regret and caring, explain how the rule exists for the sake of the patient. Why is there no smoking? Not because “it’s our policy.” Instead, “For the health and safety of all of our patients and staff, there’s no smoking.” [more]

Virtual nurse aids with patient discharge

As medical records turn from paper to electronic only, and simulation training aids in nursing education, it is not hard to believe a virtual nurse is helping patients at the bedside with discharge information. Timothy Bickmore, a computer scientist at Northeastern University in Boston, MA designed the virtual nurse “Elizabeth” to help nurses and patients during the discharge process.

Elizabeth is a computer-animated character created from combining the facial expressions and gestures of doctors and nurses Bickmore taped. With the help of an animator, Bickmore was able to create all the animation segments the nurse delivers which Elizabeth will mimic when interacting with a patient. [more]

Nurses use artistic talents to improve patient experience and hospital atmosphere

This past summer, nurses Mary Cohn and Annette Bargmann of Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) in Parole, MD, visited patient rooms armed not with medication, but with acrylic paint.

AAMC is undergoing a series of renovations that have necessitated many windows in the acute care pavilion being covered with a film to darken the windows toshield patients from the occasional glare of the construction equipment and provide more privacy. This film has replaced the natural light flooding into patient rooms and has created a gloomy atmosphere. [more]