Category Archives: Research & Analysis
Gretchen Hammer, MPH, is executive director of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved. She works with local and state health care leaders and policy-makers to improve Colorado’s health care system.
Healing is both an art and a science. On one hand, clinicians are intensely driven by the quantifiable, the measurable, and the evidence-based algorithms that lead to accurate diagnosis and treatment as well as allow us to develop new innovations in medicine. However, healing is also an art. Patients are not just a collection of systems that can be separated out and managed in isolation of the whole patient. Each patient and their family has a unique set of values, life experiences, and resources that influence their health and ability to heal. Recognizing the wholeness and uniqueness of each patient is where the art of healing begins.
Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” It takes presence of mind and time to be empathetic. For clinicians, finding the balance between the necessary detachment to allow for good clinical decision making and empathy can challenging. This balance can be particularly difficult for students and new clinicians.
Heather J. Kelley, MA, is deputy director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Future of Nursing Scholars program. Prior to this role, she was the program associate for RWJF’s Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative and a former vice president in a political advertising firm.
Three years ago, the Initiative on the Future of Nursing at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) set a revolution in motion with the release of The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report. Among the bold recommendations offered in the report was the call to double the number of nurses with doctoral degrees by 2020.
RWJF recognizes the valuable contributions that PhD-prepared nurse scientists and researchers make in the lives of patients and families. Their discoveries have the potential to change our health care system. However, as the IOM report suggested, we do not have nearly enough doctorally prepared nurses seeking new solutions to ongoing problems. Currently, less than 1 percent of the nursing workforce has a doctoral degree in nursing or a related field.
SreyRam Kuy, MD, MHS, is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars program, and a vascular surgery fellow at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Gallbladder disease, and specifically gallstones, can present as pain in the upper abdomen, usually after eating fatty foods. More severely, gallstones can progress to an inflammation and infection called cholecystitis or cholangitis, both of which require prompt surgical treatment. Gallbladder disease is an important medical problem as it accounts for $650 billion in health care costs annually in the United States[i], making it the second most costly digestive disease in the country.[ii] With more than 700,000 cholecystectomies (surgeries to remove the gallbladder) performed annually in the United States, gallbladder disease is the number one reason for abdominal surgery in the nation.[i] Cholecystectomies can be done with traditional surgery (open cholecystectomy) or performed minimally invasively (laparoscopic cholecystectomy).
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimates 6.3 million men and 14.2 million women in the United States have gallbladder disease.[iii] It occurs two times more frequently in women than in men.[i][iv] However, during the reproductive years, women have a four-fold higher prevalence of gallstones than men.[iii] As a result of its disproportionate burden on women, gallbladder disease is a critically important topic in women’s health.
There is currently a lack of consensus on whether a patient’s gender affects how soon they get surgery for cholecystitis, what type of surgery they get (open versus laparoscopic cholecystectomy), and how they do after surgery. My prior work and that of my colleagues has clearly shown that older age negatively impacts how patients do following cholecystectomy.[v] Therefore, to determine whether gender, independent of other factors, affects outcome, we examined a national group of patients hospitalized with cholecystitis over an eight-year period, age-matched to account for the effect of age, and identified gender-based differences in patients hospitalized with cholecystitis. We measured outcomes of women compared with men who underwent cholecystectomy during that admission for cholecystitis, and identified factors associated with outcome.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has released its 2013 State Physician Workforce Data Book, a biennial report that examines current physician supply, medical school enrollment, and graduate medical education in the United States.
Between 2008 and 2012, there were small increases in the state median number of active physicians and active patient-care physicians, the state median percentage of female physicians, and the percentage of physicians age 60 or older. While the median number of students enrolled in undergraduate medial education has increased relative to the population, the number of students enrolled in graduate medical education per population has remained flat.
Among key findings, in 2012 there were 260.5 active physicians per 100,000 population in the United States, ranging from a high of 421.5 in Massachusetts to a low of 180.8 in Mississippi. The states with the highest number of physicians per 100,000 population are concentrated in the Northeast.
This is part of the November 2013 issue of Sharing Nursing's Knowledge.
Creating Healthy Workspaces for Older Nurses
The nursing workforce is aging, in part because the nation's economic difficulties have prompted some nurses to delay retirement. A new literature review by Jaynelle Stichler, DNSc, NEA-BC, FACHE, of the San Diego State University School of Nursing, examines ways hospital work environments might be fine-tuned to help older nurses navigate the health challenges associated with their physically demanding work. The article was published online on October 17 by the Journal of Nursing Management.
Noting that Centers for Disease Control & Prevention data indicate that older workers' on-the-job injuries tend to be more severe than those suffered by younger workers, Stichler offers recommendations culled from 25 separate studies conducted since 2002. They include:
- Ergonomic seating and countertops with the correct height for charting tables, and adequate space for keyboards, in order to prevent strains caused by working in improper body positions;
- Adequate lighting and non-slip floor surfaces to reduce the risk of falling;
- Decentralized linen, equipment, and supply storage in or near patient rooms, and decentralized nursing stations, in order to diminish walking distances;
- Electrical and medical gas outlets placed on either side of the patients' beds and at an easily accessible height, rather than behind or above the head of the bed, so that nurses won't have to strain to plug in equipment;
- Enhanced task lighting options over beds or on swing arms to ease eye strain and help nurses with visual acuity problems; and
- Barrier-free patient bathroom and shower designs, with floor drains and shower curtains, so nurses needn't use towels to mop up water.
Michael Hochman, MD, MPH, is medical director for Innovation at AltaMed Health Services, a 43-site federally qualified health center in Southern California. He completed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars program at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2012. While a Clinical Scholar, Hochman co-led a primary care demonstration that was published last month in JAMA Internal Medicine. He recently published, 50 Studies Every Doctor Should Know.
Primary care in the United States is at a crossroads. As health care becomes increasingly disjointed and costs continue to rise, primary care providers face increasing pressure to take charge of the health system. Indeed, we know that health care systems with more developed primary care infrastructures are more efficient and of higher quality than those with a weaker primary care foundation.
But at the same time, more and more health care professionals are shying away from careers in primary care. Not only is the work challenging (late-night phone calls, numerous tests and studies to follow up on, ever-increasing regulatory requirements), but the pay is lower than in other fields of medicine.
Human Capital Blog: You argue in your book that the focus on the “obesity epidemic” obscures a deeper, more important question: How has fatness come to be understood as a public health crisis at all? How do you answer that question?
Abigail Saguy: It’s multilayered. On the deepest level, the fact that we perceive obesity as a public health crisis is related to the fact that fatness, or corpulence, has become an undesirable social characteristic. It has not always been that way, and it is not that way everywhere even today. In many places and times in history, being heavier has been considered a positive social characteristic, particularly in times and places where food is scarce. This is why, in certain contexts, women or girls are fattened up for marriage; there, the woman’s fatness symbolizes the wealth or status of their families.
Human Capital News Roundup: The cost of disposable diapers, toxins in fish, fast food calories, and more.
Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:
WNYC in New York City broadcast an interview with RWJF Community Health Leader Joanne Goldblum about families reusing disposable diapers due to economic hardship. Goldblum, who is founder and executive director of the National Diaper Bank Network, conducted a study that shows how the practice leads to a range of problems for families living in poverty.
When it comes to digital health and new ways to deliver care, the focus should be on the consumer and improving outcomes, not on the technology, according to experts at a recent Connected Health Symposium in Boston, Massachusetts. Mobile Health News reports that Propeller Health (formerly Asthmapolis) CEO David Van Sickle, PhD, MA, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumnus, pressed for greater emphasis on outcomes. Read more about Van Sickle’s work here and here.
An American Thoracic Society panel of experts, including RWJF Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI) grantee Richard Mularski, MD, is calling for better care for those who suffer severe shortness of breath due to advanced lung and heart disease. The Annals of the American Thoracic Society reports that the panel recommends patients and providers develop individualized actions plans to keep episodes from becoming emergencies, Medical Xpress reports.
Seth M. Holmes, PhD, MD, is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program and an assistant professor of public health and medical anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. The following is an excerpt from his recently published book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States.
“The first Triqui picker whom I met when I visited the Skagit Valley was Abelino, a thirty-five-year-old father of four. He, his wife, Abelina, and their children lived together in a small shack near me in the labor camp farthest from the main road. During one conversation over homemade tacos in his shack, Abelino explained in Spanish why Triqui people have to leave their hometowns in Mexico.
In Oaxaca, there’s no work for us. There’s no work. There’s nothing. When there’s no money, you don’t know what to do. And shoes, you can’t get any. A shoe like this [pointing to his tennis shoes] costs about 300 Mexican pesos. You have to work two weeks to buy a pair of shoes. A pair of pants costs 300 Mexican pesos. It’s difficult. We come here and it is a little better, but you still suffer in the work. Moving to another place is also difficult. Coming here with the family and moving around to different places, we suffer. The children miss their classes and don’t learn well. Because of this, we want to stay here only for a season with [legal immigration] permission and let the children study in Mexico. Do we have to migrate to survive? Yes, we do.
Hilary Levey Friedman, PhD, is an alumna of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Scholars in Health Policy Research program. She is a Harvard sociologist and author of the book Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture.
Youth sports have been taking a beating these days—for example we have serious concerns about concussions in football and other youth sports, along with worries about an educational system that often seems to emphasize athletics over academics. Not to mention overzealous parents and kids who attack referees, as I have previously written about. In this context it’s easy to forget that sports can help promote physical fitness, health, and even nutrition among our children.
There are additional benefits to participating in competitive youth sports, along with other competitive afterschool activities, as I detail in my recent book Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture (a manuscript I completed during my time as an RWJF Scholar in Health Policy Research). Children can also acquire important life lessons from activities like chess, dance, and soccer—what I call “Competitive Kid Capital,” based on my research with 95 families who have elementary school-age children involved in these competitive endeavors. These five skills and lessons are: (1) internalizing the importance of winning, (2) bouncing back from a loss to win in the future, (3) learning how to perform within time limits, (4) learning how to succeed in stressful situations, and (5) being able to perform under the gaze of others.