Posts by Tracy Cardin

It’s Time for a Buzz Cut

I sometimes joke that hospitalists are the medicine version of the mullet haircut – you know, all business in "the front" (i.e. the patient care area) and all party in "the back" (i.e. the work room). In "the back", the usual scenario is to complain and moan about our frequent flyers, our drug seekers, our many unsaveable patients, the incredible situations ("He put a nail where??), with good-natured but somewhat bitter truculence about sharing duties with housestaff and general whining about hospital leadership. Generally, as long as these semi-inappropriate conversations and remarks were kept "backstage", and our demeanor was professional "onstage", I felt it was harmless. You know, gallows humor. A coping mechanism. And often entertaining. But there was always a part of me that wondered if these "backstage" conversations were having a more corrosive impact on communication with our patients. Does it normalize a negative judgement about patients if…

We Are Not Done Changing

Recently, the on-line version of JAMA published an original investigation entitled "Patient Mortality During Unannounced Accreditation Surveys at US Hospitals". The purpose of this investigation was to determine the effect of heightened vigilance during unannounced accreditation surveys on safety and quality of inpatient care. The authors found that there was a significant reduction in mortality in patients admitted during the week of surveys by The Joint Commission. The change was more significant in major teaching hospitals, where mortality fell from 6.41% to 5.93% during survey weeks, a 5.9% relative decrease. The positive effects of being monitored have been well documented in all kinds of arenas, such as hand washing and antibiotic stewardship. But mortality? This is an interesting outcome, especially considering a recent ordeal I went through with my dear sister-in-law. She was on vacation in a somewhat remote location and suffers from a chronic illness, which requires her to…

The Upside of Anger

Recently, I heard from a number of NP/PA providers in response to Dr. John Nelson’s editorial published in the January edition of The Hospitalist. In the editorial, Dr. Nelson refers to an article in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes. The single-site study compared routine versus expanded PA care in a community hospital, and the intervention group delivered a three percent reduction in costs with similar measures in quality. In discussing the results, Dr. Nelson concluded that this article showed that, with proper planning and infrastructure, care delivered primarily by PAs can go "OK". Many of you took offense at the lack of enthusiasm or support for the model studied and felt that it demonstrated poor understanding for the migration of roles for NP/PA providers in hospital medicine. So who is right? Was it merely one tiny study that showed “OK” results? Or was it an impactful article that demonstrates the…

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

OK; that might be a bit of an exaggeration. But if you left your clinical shift asking why you feel so depleted and frustrated and why you had that negative interaction with that patient, you should do yourself a favor and read the recent review in the Journal of Hospital Medicine entitled "When Personality Is the Problem: Managing Patients with Difficult Personalities on the Acute Care Unit". In this article, it notes that about 4-15% of the population is affected by at least one personality disorder and that this prevalence is thought to be much higher in those seeking healthcare services – perhaps as high as 25% of the population. This is thought to be due to in part to lifestyle factors, such as drinking and drug use, as well as the fact that individuals who possess these dysfunctional personality structures may have difficulty accessing and utilizing care adequately. These…

Count Me – and My Intuition – In

In modern medicine, we’re surrounded by EMR systems, lab tests and increasingly complex medical equipment. But I sometimes stop and wonder: Where does my intuition fit into the equation? Case in point: The other day, I had one of those days that happens in hospital medicine where nothing goes right. A patient admitted right at change of shift, with a diabetic foot ulcer as a chief complaint, was found to have an 8.0-gram hemoglobin drop from her baseline. Further questioning by the night admitting MD revealed that the patient had been having melena for several days. GI was consulted, but the lab was considered to be spurious. A stat repeat CBC and type and crossmatch was ordered. The EMR system was down, though this was not apparent at first. Because of this, it was not immediately evident that the lab could not see the order entered into the EMR system.…
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