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September 23, 2015
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RECENT COLUMNS & NEWS
As a child, Christie Watson could not decide what kind of career she wanted. Marine biology appealed to her, as she had “visions of wearing a swimsuit all day… and swimming with dolphins.” A teacher proposed law, telling her parents “[s]he can argue all day long.” After quitting school at 16, Watson took a job with an organization called Community Service Volunteers. A nurse there suggested she try nursing: “They give you a grant and somewhere to live.” To the surprise of Watson's family and Watson herself, nursing stuck, and I'm thankful it did.
People at every stage of life depend on care from professionals. Jean Thompson Bird, a teacher at the Carnegie Mellon University Children’s School, introduces children to the wider world. Theresa Brown, a hospice nurse at Allegheny Health Network, works to keep people comfortable at the end of their lives. Rabbi Seth Adelson at Beth Shalom in Squirrel Hill cares for the more than 600 families in his congregation, many of whom are struggling in the wake of the Tree of Life shooting last month. And Kim Hardin, a therapist in McCandless, helps clients process trauma.
In The Healing of America, journalist T.R. Reid considers what other countries’ health care systems can teach us.
Sexual assault is excused as normal and forgivable. It’s not. Ask the women who’ve experienced it.
At the start of my shift, at 7 a.m., my patient, newly admitted a few days before for a blood cancer, was talking and acting normally. By the end of my shift, 12 hours later, she had grown confused and her speech was garbled. A CT scan revealed bleeding in her brain. She was sent to intensive care and died the next day.
A few years ago at a meeting of the ad hoc ethics committee at my hospital, we were discussing the issues that arise when treating obese patients. Someone brought up the case of an ICU patient, a young woman who weighed 500 pounds. The ICU nurses complained, sometimes loudly, every time she needed to be moved. Their grousing appalled our chief medical ethicist, but I understood the nurses’ reactions. They likely feared incurring a serious injury from lifting such a heavy patient. This conundrum—how do nurses safely provide high-quality care for people who are obese—will become ever more relevant as the prevalence of obesity in the United States continues to rise.
I am a home hospice nurse, and when I get new patients after they have been discharged from the hospital, the list of drugs included in their paperwork is always wrong. Some mistakes are minor: The list includes a relatively harmless drug the patient no longer needs or it leaves off a minor dose adjustment. But other mistakes are more serious — the list may include an important prescription the patient never knew to fill or may have the patient on two medications that can be dangerous when taken together.