Tag Archives: medicine

101 Things We Should Teach Every New EMT

Originally posted at TheEMTSpot

I do not usually steal content or original writings, but this post is too important not to share (and keep for reference).  This was originally posted, with all credit due to the author of origin, at: http://theemtspot.com/2014/03/22/101-things-we-should-teach-every-new-emt/

Though this list is focused towards emergency medical technicians, it has inferred and inherent application in many clinical and non-clinical professions.

1) You aren’t required to know everything.

2) You are required to know the foundational knowledge and skills of your job. No excuses.

3) Always be nice. It’s a force multiplier.

4) There is no greater act of trust than being handed a sick child.

5) Earn that trust.

6) Don’t ever lie to your patient. If something is awkward to say, learn to say it without lying.

7) Read Thom Dick’s, People Care. Then read it again.

8) You can fake competence with the public, but not with your coworkers.

9) Own your mistakes. We all make them, but only the best of us own them.

10) Only when you’ve learned to own your mistakes will you be able to learn from them.

11) Experience is relative.

12) Proper use of a BVM is hard and takes practice.

13) OPAs and NPAs make using a BVM less hard.

14) Master the physical assessment. Nobody in the field of medicine should be able to hold a candlestick to your physical assessment skills.

15) Keep your head about you. If you fail at that, you’ll likely fail at everything else.

16) There is a huge difference between not knowing and not caring. Care about the things you don’t yet know.

17) Train like someone’s life depends on it.

18) Drive like nobody’s life depends on it.

19) Pet the dog (even when you’re wearing gloves).

20) Have someone to talk to when the world crashes down.

21) Let human tragedy enhance your appreciation for all that you have.

22) Check the oil.

23) Protect your back. It will quite possibly be the sole determining factor in the length of your career.

24) Say please and thank you even when it’s a matter of life or death.

25) Wipe your feet at the door.

26) When you see someone who is really good at a particular skill say, “Teach me how you do that.”

27) Nobody can give you your happiness or job satisfaction; it is yours and yours alone, and you have to choose it.

28) We can’t be prepared for everything.

29) We can be prepared for almost everything.

30) Check out your rig. It’s more meaningful that just confirming that everything is still there.

31) Tell your patients that it was a pleasure to meet them and an honor to be of service.

32) Mean it.

33) Keep a journal.

34) Make it HIPAA compliant.

35) Thank the police officer that hangs out on your scene for no good reason.

36) Recognize that he or she probably wasn’t hanging out for no good reason.

37) Interview for a job at least once every year, even if you don’t want the job.

38) Iron your uniform.

39) Maintain the illusion of control. Nobody needs to know that you weren’t prepared for what just happened.

40) Apologize when you make a mistake. Do it immediately.

41) Your patient is not named honey, babe, sweetie, darling, bud, pal, man or hey. Use your patient’s name when speaking to them. Sir and Ma’am are acceptable alternatives.

42) Forgive yourself for your mistakes.

43) Forgive your coworkers for their quirks.

44) Exercise. Even when it isn’t convenient.

45) Sometimes it’s OK to eat the junk at the QuickyMart.

46) It’s not OK to always eat the junk at the QuickyMart.

47) Don’t take anything that a patient says in anger personally.

48) Don’t take anything that a patient says when they are drunk personally.

49) Don’t ever convince yourself that you can always tell the difference between a fake seizure and a real seizure.

50) Think about what you would do if this was your last shift working in EMS. Do that stuff.

51) Carry your weight.

52) Carry your patient.

53) If firefighters ever do #51 or # 52 for you, say thank you (and mean it).

54) Being punched, kicked, choked or spit on while on duty is no different than being punched, kicked, choked or spit on while you’re sitting in church or in a restaurant. Insist that law enforcement and your employer follow up with appropriate action.

55) Wave at little kids. Treat them like gold. They will remember you for a long time.

56) Hold the radio mike away from your mouth.

57) There is never any reason to yell on the radio….ever.

58) When a patient says, “I feel like I’m going to die,” believe them.

59) Very sick people rarely care which hospital you’re driving toward.

60) Very sick people rarely pack a bag before you arrive.

61) Sometimes, very sick people pack a bag and demand a specific hospital. Don’t be caught off guard.

62) Bring yourself to work. There is something that you were meant to contribute to this profession. You’ll never be able to do that if you behave like a cog.

63) Clean the pram.

64) Clean your stethoscope.

65) Your patient’s are going to lie to you. Assume they are telling you the truth until you have strong evidence of the contrary.

66) Disregard #65 if it has anything to do with your personal safety. Trust nobody in this regard.

67) If it feels like a stupid thing to do, it probably is.

68) You are always on camera.

69) If you need save-the-baby type “hero moments” to sustain you emotionally as a caregiver you will likely become frustrated and eventually leave.

70) Emergency services was never about you.

71) The sooner you figure out #69 and #70, the sooner the rest of us can get on with our jobs.

72) People always remember how you made them feel.

73) People rarely sue individuals who made them feel safe, well cared for and respected.

74) You represent our profession and the internet has a long, long memory.

75) Don’t worry too much about whether or not people respect you.

76) Worry about being really good at what you do.

77) When you first meet a patient, come to their level, look them in the eyes and smile. Make it your habit.

78) Never lie about the vital signs. If the patients vital signs change dramatically from the back of the rig to the E.R. bed, you want everyone to believe you.

79) Calm down. It’s not your emergency.

80) Stand still. There is an enormous difference between dramatic but senseless action and correct action. Stop, think and then move with a purpose.

81) Knowing when to leave a scene is a vital skill that you must constantly hone.

82) The fastest way to leave a scene should always be in your field of awareness.

83) Scene safety is not a five second consideration as you enter the scene. It takes constant vigilance.

84) Punitive medicine is never acceptable. Choose the right needle size based on the patients clinical needs.

85) Know what’s happening in your partner’s life. Ask them about it after you return from your days off.

86) If your partner has a wife and kids, know their names.

87) No matter how hard you think you worked for them, your knowledge and skills are not yours. They were gifted to you. The best way to say thank you is to give them away.

88) Learn from the bad calls. Then let them go.

89) When you’re lifting a patient and they try to reach out and grab something, say, “We’ve got you.”

90) Request the right of way.

91) Let your days off be your days off. Fight for balance.

92) Have a hobby that has nothing to do with emergency services.

93) Have a mentor who knows nothing about emergency services.

94) Wait until the call is over. Once the patient is safe at the hospital and you’re back on the road, there will be plenty of time to laugh until you can’t breathe.

95) Tell the good stories.

96) You never know when you might be running your last call. Cherish the small things.

97) You can never truly know the full extent of your influence.

98) If you’re going to tell your friends and acquaintances what you do for a living, you’ll need to embrace the idea that you’re always on duty.

99) Be willing to bend the rules to take good care of people. Don’t be afraid to defend the decisions you make on the patients behalf.

100) Service is at the heart of everything we do. The farther away from that concept you drift, the more you are likely to become lost.

101) There is no shame in wanting to make the world a better place.

See more at: http://theemtspot.com/2014/03/22/101-things-we-should-teach-every-new-emt/

Measuring EMS: Patient Satisfaction

As a paramedic, I become discouraged when so-called academic literature, like that of McLean, Maio, Spaite, and Garrison (2002), Spaite (1993), and Stiell et al. (2008), turns up describing what little impact the emergency medical services, especially advanced life support procedures, have on patients. Instead of dismissing these writings, I tend to focus within the view of my own practice and experience on how I feel that I impact the patients that I see. This exercise allows me to confront the literature in a specific and meaningful manner that might be used in the future to publish a dissenting view. This discussion gives me a lens through which to dissect the import I feel that the emergency medical services has as a public safety entity.

Public safety is typically viewed as the amalgamation of police, fire, and emergency medical services. In all three, the public seems to have the idea that we stop threats before they take hold; however, we typically respond to the aftermath, the police to investigate crimes that have already occurred, the fire department to conflagrations that have already caused damage, and emergency medical services to traumatic incidents or medical conditions that have already caused distress. There are exceptions. The police have learned to integrate crime prevention techniques, the fire department has learned to adopt a fire prevention model of service, and the emergency medical services in many areas support preventative health clinics, such as community immunization, blood pressure checks, and CPR and first aid classes. The public, I feel, has a skewed perception of each one of these departments (e.g. the police should stop crime in progress, the fire department should save their house, and emergency medical systems should save their loved one whenever called upon to do so). Any deviation from the public perception is, in their minds, a failure of the system.

I ask myself, “What is that we, as the emergency medical services, do that really matters?” For the public, it seems that the answer can be given two-fold: “save me” and “make me feel better.” El Sayed (2012) describes the manner in which both aspects, outcomes and patient satisfaction, can be measured, as both are essential. Unfortunately, El Sayed does not go into much detail regarding patient satisfaction scores, except as a means of measure. In contrast, I feel that the most benefit that we offer patients is that we alleviate suffering. From a confident, yet compassionate, bed-side manner to effective and efficient treatment modalities, emergency medical personnel can prove to be the mediator between illness or injury and definitive hospital-based care. Emergency medical providers should be knowledgeable enough about the hospital to calm and educate patients as to what to expect. Further, medical knowledge allows the provider to restore a choking person’s breathing, to stop an epileptic seizure, and to minimize a crash victim’s pain. In my opinion, these measures are just as important, if not more, to quality management as mortality and morbidity. Again, El Sayed mentions the generality of patient satisfaction; however, with the abundance of competing literature questioning the effectiveness of the emergency medical services, patient satisfaction should be expounded upon as a legitimate and important aspect of quality patient care.


El Sayed, M. J. (2012). Measuring quality in emergency medical services: a review of clinical performance indicators. Emergency Medicine International, 2012, 1-7, doi:10.1155/2012/161630

McLean, S. A., Maio, R. F., Spaite, D. W., & Garrison, H. G. (2002). Emergency medical services outcomes research: evaluating the effectiveness of prehospital care. Prehospital Emergency Care, 6(2), S52–S56. doi:10.3109/10903120209102683

Spaite, D. W. (1993). Outcome analysis in EMS systems. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 22(8), 1310–1311. doi:10.1016/S0196-0644(05)80113-1

Stiell, I. G., Nesbitt, L. P., Pickett, W., Munkley, D., Spaite, D. W., Banek, J., Field, B., … Wells, G. A., for the OPALS Study Group. (2008). The OPALS Major Trauma Study: impact of advanced life-support on survival and morbidity. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 178(9), 1141-1152. doi:10.1503/cmaj.071154

The Patient Perspective: Patient Safety

The Speak Up materials provided by The Joint Commission (2011a, 2011b) do a great service in succinctly illustrating the need to be educated about health care issues. Patients and their families have a unique perspective to understanding their (or, their family member’s) health (Vincent & Coulter, 2002). Although physicians, nurses, and allied health providers are responsible for providing quality care, it remains the domain of the patient to express uncertainty or provide additional information to guide the provider. Ultimately, the patient or surrogate decision-maker must provide consent for treatment and must do so with full understanding. There are times, however, that the scope of treatment is so drastic, emergent, or specialized that the patient may not have the facilities to gain a full understanding of care needing to be rendered (Vincent & Coulter, 2002). This is the exception.

In the case of Josie King (Josie King Foundation, 2002; Niedowski, 2003; Zimmerman, 2004), which I elaborated on last week, Sorrel King, Josie’s mother, was educated about her daughter’s condition and spoke up as The Joint Commission recommends. Unfortunately, this case turned into tragedy not because Sorrel King did wrong but because the nurse disregarded her apprehension. This was tantamount to malpractice and no patient or family member could have prevented this, save for using force to physically prevent the administration of medicine. According to MacDonald (2009), there are nurses that believe “[patients] have no say and that medications are the domain of doctors, leaving the nurse and the patient to trust that the doctors would do the right thing” (p. 29).

Perhaps things were slightly different, however. As MacDonald (2009) explains, patient’s who are knowledgeable of their illness and take an active role in their health care decisions add another layer of safety, especially when considering medication action, reaction, and interaction. Medication prescription errors are numerous within health care, and as in the case of Josie King, improved communication between the physicians, nurses, and Sorrel King might have prevented Josie from being administered the narcotic and instead receiving the fluid she so desparately needed (Vincent & Coulter, 2002).

Health care should be patient-centric as it remains the responsibility of the patient to be educated about the care they receive and to provide consent for that care and treatment to be rendered. An uneducated patient does add risk, but sometimes this is unavoidable. It is in these instances that special care should be taken until a full medical history can be attained.


The Joint Commission. (2011a, March 7). Speak up: Prevent errors in your care [Video podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.jointcommission.org/multimedia/speak-up-prevent-errors-in-your-care-/

The Joint Commission. (2011b, April 5). Speak up: Prevent the spread of infection [Video podcast]. Retrieved from http://www.jointcommission.org/multimedia/speak-up–prevent-the-spread-of-infection/

Josie King Foundation. (2002). About: What happened. Retrieved from http://www.josieking.org/page.cfm?pageID=10

Macdonald, M. (2009). Pilot study: The role of the hospitalized patient in medication administration safety. Patient Safety & Quality Healthcare, 6(3), 28-31. Retrieved from http://www.psqh.com/

Niedowski, E. (2003, December 15). From tragedy, a quest for safer care; Cause: After medical mistakes led to her little girl’s death, Sorrel King joined with Johns Hopkins in a campaign to spare other families such anguish. The Sun, pp. 1A. Retrieved from http://teacherweb.com/NY/StBarnabas/Quality/JohnsHopkinsErrors.pdf

Vincent, C. A. & Coulter, A. (2002). Patient safety: what about the patient? Quality & Safety in Health Care, 11(1), 76–80. doi:10.1136/qhc.11.1.76

Zimmerman, R. (2004, May 18). Doctors’ new tool to fight lawsuits: Saying ‘I’m sorry’. Wall Street Journal, pp. A1. Retrieved from http://www.theoma.org/files/wsj%20-%20medical%20error%20-%2005-18-2004.pdf

Public Health Risks in the 21st Century

Within the next 30 years, I foresee a significant public health risk of viral pandemic, a concern outlined in the recently published CISIS commission report (Fallon & Gayle, 2010). According to many, the next significant pandemic to be a global threat will occur anytime between now and 70 years (Gostin, 2004; Monto, Comanor, Shay, & Thompson, 2006; Ravilious, 2005; Smil, 2008; Tapper, 2006; Taubenberger, Morens, & Fauci, 2007). Although many scientists have their focus on influenza as the most probable for pandemic exposure, other novel virii, such as SARS, HIV, et al., have the facets to make them just as potentially significant (Gostin, 2004; Smil, 2008; Tapper, 2006). Regardless of the particular pathogen, history has shown pandemics to create and environment of negative net effects to humanity. According to Billings (1997) and Ravilious (2005), the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918, caused by a mutated avian flu strain, claimed between 20-million and 40-million lives in a single year (Monto et al., 2006; Taubenberger et al., 2007). Spreading quickly along major international trade routes, the Spanish flu infected many servicemen returning from duty at the end of World War I. As these infected servicemen returned and celebrated the armistice in crowds of people, a severe strain on the public health system in the United States was unknowingly developing. Considering the hypervirilence and increased mortality (2.5%, compared to the typical 0.1%) caused by the 1918 Spaish flu, the world’s economy was in turmoil (Billings, 1997). As most of the American workforce was recently embroiled in overseas combat duty, upon their return they must now face the possibility of infection, an inability to work, and possible death.

Monto et al. (2006) outline a useful model of surveillance techniques that would not only be useful in detecting and improving response to influenza outbreaks, but it would certainly help to detect any new significant diseases that could be a public health risk and threaten a population or society. Additionally, Taubenberger et al. (2007) focuses on learning the biology of the influenza virus to predict the possibility of outbreak and, thus, pandemic potential. Coupling these two approaches makes sense to both identify potential pathogens and use surveillance techniques to track and direct responses to mitigate actual outbreaks as they occur. These efforts, however, should be directed by an organization that values independant operation, impartiality, neutrality, and universality, just a few of the principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movements (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 2010). Adoption of these principles will allow valuable health information to flow freely to other entities positioned to respond appropriately without regard to local politics, ensuring a just and equitable solution to help to mitigate the potential for great harm.


Billings, M. (1997/2005). The influenza pandemic of 1918. Retrieved from http://virus.stanford.edu/uda/

Fallon, W. J. & Gayle, H. D. (2010). Report of the CISIS commission on smart global health policy: A healthier, safer and more prosperous world. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Gostin, L. O. (2004). Pandemic influenza: Public health preparedness for the next global health emergency. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 32(4), 565-573. doi:10.1111/j.1748-720X.2004.tb01962.x

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. (2010, July). Haiti: From sustaining lives to sustainable solutions – the challenge of sanitation. Geneva, Switzerland: Author.

Monto, A. S., Comanor, L., Shay, D. K., & Thompson, W. W. (2006). Epidemiology of pandemic influenza: use of surveillance and modeling for pandemic preparedness. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 194(Suppl. 2), S92-S97. doi:10.1086/507559

Ravilious, K. (2005, April 14). What a way to go. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2005/apr/14/research.science2

Smil, V. (2008). Global catastrophes and trends: the next fifty years. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Tapper, M. L. (2006). Emerging viral diseases and infectious disease risks. Haemophilia, 12(Suppl. 1), 3–7. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2516.2006.01194.x

Taubenberger, J. K., Morens, D. M., & Fauci, A. S. (2007). The next influenza pandemic: Can it be predicted? Journal of the American Medical Association, 297(18), 2025–2027. doi:10.1001/jama.297.18.2025.

A Novel Approach to Combat Heart Disease

According to Hansson (2005), cardiovascular disease is fast becoming the number one killer in the world among in developing countries and the Western world, due mainly to the correlation of increased rates of obesity and diabetes (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Miller, 2011; Willer et al., 2008). The goal of eradicating heart disease by the end of the twentieth century has been missed as cardiovascular disease is still responsible for 38% of deaths in North America. There has been much research over the last three decades regarding correlations between cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes. Miller et al. (2011) identifies, based on the current literature, a number of metabolic syndromes in which elevated triglyceride levels are responsible for significantly increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk of death from a cardiac event.

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including smoking, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes, which have positive predictive value for CVD, include a positive family history, hypertension, male gender, and age (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Hansson, 2005; Koliaki, 2011).

Demographically, according to NHANES 1999-2008 (as cited in Miller, 2011), Mexican American men (50 to 59 years old, 58.8%) are at the greatest risk with the highest prevalence of elevated triglyceride levels ( 150 mg/dL) followed by (in order of decreasing prevalence) Mexican American women ( 70 years old, 50.5%), non-Hispanic White men (60 to 69 years old, 43.6%), non-Hispanic White women (60 to 69 years old, 42.2%), non-Hispanic Black men (40 to 49 years old, 30.4%), and non-Hispanic Black women (60 to 69 years old, 25.3%).

Haffner et al. (1998) describe the importance of lowering cholesterol levels in those with diabetes mellitus type II as they both contribute to increases in mortality and morbidity from cardiovascular disease; therefore, efforts should be focused on identifying risks to heart health starting at age 30 with concomitant risk factors of diabetes or dyslipidemia, or any combination of two or more identified risk factors. More specific screening should begin at age 40 with Mexican American males and all other demographics suffering from any one of the secondary risk-factors, and at age 50 with all other ethnic demographics, regardless of the presence of risk-factors.

Specific screening for the at-risk population should include diagnostic percutaneous transthoracic coronary angiography (PTCA) and angioplasty, if needed. PTCA is a method of introducing a catheter through an artery to the coronary arteries of the heart, guided by radiology, to diagnose specific narrowing of these vessels, at which time a repair (angioplasty) can proceed immediately. PTCA, according to Koliaki et al. (2011), is the gold standard of diagnosing the presence and degree of atherosclerotic CVD. Currently, the standard for initiating PTCA requires a more acute presentation, typically complaints of chest pain or some other cardiac related illness. However, the proven safety and efficacy of PTCA may allow it to be used more as a screening tool as well as a primary coronary intervention in acute cases.

Utilizing the diffusions of innovations model of behavior change, public health entities can provide specific information to encourage interventional cardiologists to employ this technique as a focused CVD screening tool for at-risk populations (“Culture and health,” 2012). Adoption, however, is conditional on remuneration; therefore, a public health task force at the national level should investigate the potential for spending versus savings, and if significant, should disseminate the information to third-party payors (heath insurance providers, etc.) to ensure coverage when required. Additionally, grassroots efforts should be two-pronged, focusing on both the affected communities and the physicians most likely to contact the at-risk community. For the at-risk community, using mass-media, the message should simply be to discuss your risk with your physician, stop smoking, eat healthy, and exercise. The message, itself, needs to be conveyed in an effective manner, however. For the physicians, using mass-mailing and professional development campaigns, the message needs to more complex outlining risk versus reward, cost-effectiveness, and the potential for impacting a growing trend of heart-related death and disability. The American Heart Association has a proven track record of effective mass-media campaigns as well as professional development programs. So long as PTCA can be considered as an effective and cost-saving screening tool, the American Heart Association should certainly be involved in sending the message out.

Like with the proliferation of television advertisement of pharmaceuticals, using diffusions of innovations, we can get the heart-healthy message to the communities that would most benefit and the providers who can facilitate appropriate and novel screening and treatment techniques. We have already failed to eradicate CVD by the turn of the century, but if we think outside the box and develop novel approaches to consider, we may still have a chance at effectively lowering the incidence and prevalence of CVD in the years to come.


Culture and health. (2012). Public health and global essentials (Custom ed.; pp. 213-226). Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.

Haffner, S. M., Lehto, S., Rönnemaa, T., Pyörälä, K., & Laakso, M. (1998). Mortality from coronary heart disease in subjects with type 2 diabetes and in nondiabetic subjects with and without prior myocardial infarction. New England Journal of Medicine, 339(4), 229-234. doi:10.1056/NEJM199807233390404

Hansson, G. K. (2005). Inflammation, atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 352(16), 1685-1695. doi:10.1056/NEJMra043430

Koliaki, C., Sanidas, E., Dalianis, N., Panagiotakos, D., Papadopoulos, D., Votteas, V., & Katsilambros, N. (2011). Relationship between established cardiovascular risk factors and specific coronary angiographic findings in a large cohort of Greek catheterized patients. Angiology, 62(1), 74-80. doi:10.1177/0003319710370960

Miller, M., Stone, N. J., Ballantyne, C., Bittner, V., Criqui, M. H., Henry N. Ginsberg, H. N., … Council on the Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease (2011). Triglycerides and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(20), 2292-2333. doi:10.1161/CIR.0b013e3182160726

Willer, C. J., Sanna, S., Jackson, A. U., Scuteri, A., Bonnycastle, L. L., Clarke, R., … Abecasis, G. R. (2008). Newly identified loci that influence lipid concentrations and risk of coronary artery disease. Nature, 40(2), 161-169. doi:10.1038/ng.76


P.E.R.I. Problem Identification

The health problem I have identified is cardiovascular disease (CVD). According to Hansson (2005), CVD was expected to be significantly reduced or eliminated by the turn of the century; however, cardiovascular disease remains one of the leading cause of death globally with a rise in obesity and diabetes incidence (Willer et al., 2008). The two primary factors contributing to CVD are thought to be hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol levels in the blood, and hypertension, or high blood pressure, and although Koliaki et al. (2011) shows no predictive value between obesity and CVD, there remains a strong correlation between obesity and diabetes (Haffner, Lehto, Rönnemaa, Pyörälä, & Laakso, 1998; Hansson, 2005). A better look at the emerging literature might provide insight as to why attempts to control cholesterol and blood pressure have largely failed to eradicate CVD.

Koliaki et al. (2011) contend that smoking, hypercholesterolemia, and diabetes have positive predictive value for CVD while a positive family history, hypertension, male gender, and age, though predictive, are significantly less specific. Considering the causative risk factors and admitting the difficulty in changing age, family history, and gender, altering smoking status, cholesterol levels, and severity of diabetes and blood pressure have all been shown to decrease the risk of CVD. However, like genetic factors such as family history and gender, researchers are finding difficulty in controlling cholesterol levels effectively in many patients, especially those with concommitant diabetes mellitus (Haffner et al., 1998; Willer, 2008). However, statin-type cholesterol-lowering medications appear to have other protective effects than merely lowering cholesterol (Hansson, 2005).

In order to combat the growing concern of cardiovascular disease and, ultimately, the increasing mortality from the same, the American Heart Association (AHA) has published a scientific statement paper regarding the latest literature and research (Miller et al., 2011). AHA has taken the lead in cardiovascular health and strives to promote best practices based on the available evidence. By promoting AHA’s position using mass-mailing campaigns to physicians practicing in primary care, emergency, cardiology, and endocrinology, we can be assured that the right message is being disseminated rapidly to those most inclined to intervene. As more physicans in the identified roles adopt the latest evidence-based practice, more at-risk patients can be screened for CVD and the contributing factors. As screening paradigms become more focused, more of the at-risk population will be identified sooner which will allow for earlier intervention decreasing overall mortality and morbidity from CVD.

P cardiovascular disease
E Causes: DM, type II; dyslipidemia (hypercholesterolemia); smoking; diet; exercise; gender; age
Burden: increasing mortality and morbidity globally
R Diabetes mellitus screening and control, HTN screening and control, statin-type medication prescription, PTCA screening recommendations, smoking cessation
I AHA position, public health mailing campaign, cadre of physician groups

Determinants of Health – Mental Illness

When attempting to solve many of the issues relevant to public health, it is essential to understand the factors that contribute to disparities across various ethnic, racial, cultural and socioeconomic boundaries (Satcher & Higginbotham, 2008). In northeastern Connecticut, however, health disparities are primarily related to the socioeconomic strata, as much of the population is Caucasian and there are identifiable health disparities within this group (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002, 2008; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009). The disparity that I will focus on in this paper is mental illness.

According to Adler and Rehkopf (2008), unjust social disparity leads to greater health disparity, but what is unjust about social disparity? Adler and Rehkopf continue to describe efforts of researchers to evaluate how socioeconomic status, both, in conjunction with and independent of race or ethnicity, contribute to health disparities. There exists a significant difference in the manner in which different cultures approach mental health needs (Hatzenbuehler, Keyes, Narrow, Grant, & Hasin, 2008). Whites, who are more prone to suffering mental health issues, according to McGuire and Miranda (2008), preferring to seek professional care while Blacks are more likely to opt for self-directed care. Though Wang, Burglund, and Kessler (2001) tell of mental health treatment disparities between Whites and Blacks, in their study, 14 times more Whites responded than Blacks which may suggest that Whites are more apt to discuss mental health issues and Blacks might not unless they are motivated by extrinsic factors, such as poor care or the impression thereof. As long as Blacks are not prevented or discouraged from seeking care, there is no injustice in choosing self-care; however, it may not be the most effective option. Cultural awareness on the part of health care providers who may have an opportunity to provide health education to Blacks may alone increase the utilization of mental health services among the Black demographic.

More importantly, mental illness often exists in the presence of poverty and the lack of education. Much of the literature, such as Schwartz and Meyer (2010), seems to make the implication that low socioeconomic status is a causative risk-factor for mental illness, yet the literature also makes the distinction that one of the lowest groups on the socioeconomic ladder, Blacks, have a lower incidence, overall, of mental illness. This may be true in some instances; however, it is more likely that mental illness may be the proximal cause for an afflicted person’s socioeconomic status, especially if the illness manifested early enough to interfere with the person’s education.

More research needs to be undertaken to identify effective programs that aim to mitigate bias of mental health conditions within the community. As mental health disorders lose their stigma, more people who suffer from mental health issues will be able to seek care comfortably and unafraid, leading to increased treatment rates and increased synthesis within the community. This synthesis alone would alleviate much of the socioeconomic burden. Additionally, we need to shift our focus and strive to fix health issues locally, not nationally or globally. The world is comprised of a network of communities of individuals. Impacting the individual is the first step to affecting positive social change. Focusing on individual health will ultimately impact community, national, and global health.

The U.S. Health care system is overtaxed in caring for people with mental illness. According to Insel (2008), we need to refocus our efforts on providing care for mental illness to reduce the enormous indirect costs estimated at $193.2-billion per year. A viable solution in addressing mental illness as a health disparity, I feel, lies in understanding the manner that mental illness causes lower socioeconomic status which, in turn, causes risk of disparate care. Programs designed to aim for situational mitigation instead of mental health recovery will be less costly, more effective and, overall, more ideal. There will still be an obvious and great need for treatment and recovery programs, but with mitigation, I posit that they will be more effective, also.


Adler, N. E. & Rehkopf, D. H. (2008). U.S. disparities in health: descriptions, causes, and mechanisms. Annual Review of Public Health, 29(1), 235-252. doi:10.1146/annurev.publhealth.29.020907.090852

Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Keyes, K. M., Narrow, W. E., Grant, B. F., & Hasin, D. S. (2008). Racial/ethnic disparities in service utilization for individuals with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders in the general population. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(7), 1112-1121. doi:10.4088/JCP.v69n0711

Insel, T. R. (2008). Assessing the economic costs of serious mental illness. American Journal of Psychiatry, 165, 663-665. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2008.08030366

McGuire, T. G. & Miranda, J. (2008). New evidence regarding racial and ethnic disparities in mental health: policy implications. Health Affairs, 27(2), 393-403. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.27.2.393

Newport, F. & Mendes, E. (2009, July 22). About one in six U.S. adults are without health insurance: Highest uninsured rates among Hispanics, the young, and those with low incomes. Gallup-Heathways Well-Being Index. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/121820/one-six-adults-without-health-insurance.aspx

Satcher, D. & Higginbotham, E. J. (2008). The public health approach to eliminating health disparities. American Journal of Public Health, 98(3), 400–403. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2007.123919

Schwartz, S. & Meyer, I. H. (2010). Mental health disparities research: The impact of within and between group analyses on tests of social stress hypotheses. Social Science and Medicine, 70, 1111-1118. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.11.032

U.S. Census Bureau. (2002). Census 2000. Retrieved from http://www.ct.gov/ecd/cwp/view.asp?a=1106&q=250616

U.S. Census Bureau. (2008). Population estimates: Annual estimates of the resident population by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin for counties in Connecticut: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008 [Data]. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/popest/counties/asrh/files/cc-est2008-alldata-09.csv

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). Community health status indicators report. Retrieved from http://communityhealth.hhs.gov/

Community Health: How Healthy is My Community?

I currently reside in Windham County, Connecticut. Windham County is primarily rural with one community, Willimantic, comprising most of the urban demographic. Windham County is functionally divided in half (north to south) in regards to health and hospital services. Primarily, Windham Community Memorial Hospital serves the west and Day Kimball Hospital serves the east. Accordingly, the eastern and western portions of the county may not be representative of each other, yet both are represented as a singular group when considering county-based statistics. This is a shortcoming of county-based statistics. In this instance, Willimantic, in the western portion of Windham County, may negatively affect the statistics of towns like Killingly, Pomfret, and Putnam, in the eastern portion of the county, due primarily to an increase in impoverished populations residing in Willimantic (U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). Additionally, data is lacking for a number of measures, according to the Community Health Status Indicators Project Working Group (2009), but continuing efforts will be made to increase reporting over time.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2008) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2009), the population of Windham County is 117,345 and is predominantly white (94.3%) with the remaining (5.7%) divided among, in order of predominance, Hispanics, Blacks, Asians and Pacific Islanders, and American Indians. The particularly vulnerable populations identified are adults age 25 and older who do not hold a high school diploma, are unemployed, are severely disabled and unable to work, suffer major depression, or have recently used illicit drugs. The uninsured rate in Windham County is well below the 16% national average at 9.5% (Newport & Mendes, 2009; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009).

Windham County fares equal or better in most measures, at least within the margin of error; therefore, I feel that Windham County, though not exceptionally healthy, is better than most and striving to meet the national standards (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009). For example, though the incidence of cancer and subsequent death resulting remains higher than peer counties, Windham County falls well within the expected range of death measures and exceeds peer counties in homicide, stroke, suicide, and unintentional injuries. Windham County also falls below the national standardized target for both stroke and coronary heart disease deaths. Infant mortality and birth measures seem representative of peer counties. Windham County also meets or exceeds environmental standards in all cases except for two reports of E. coli infections. There were also reports of five cases of Haemophilus influenzae B, two cases of Hepatitis A, and three cases of Hepatitis B — the only unexpected cases of infectious diseases reported. Pertussis incidence was limited to 25% of expected cases.

Windham County is not exceptional, but living here gives me the sense that the focus is on preventative care rather than acute care, which might explain how the health goals are being achieved overall. The report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2009) is in agreement.


Community Health Status Indicators Project Working Group. (2009). Data sources, definitions, and notes for CHSI2009. Retrieved from http://communityhealth.hhs.gov/

Newport, F. & Mendes, E. (2009, July 22). About one in six U.S. adults are without health insurance: Highest uninsured rates among Hispanics, the young, and those with low incomes. Gallup-Heathways Well-Being Index. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/121820/one-six-adults-without-health-insurance.aspx

U.S. Census Bureau. (2002). Census 2000. Retrieved from http://www.ct.gov/ecd/cwp/view.asp?a=1106&q=250616

U.S. Census Bureau. (2008). Population estimates: Annual estimates of the resident population by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin for counties in Connecticut: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008 [Data]. Retrieved from http://www.census.gov/popest/counties/asrh/files/cc-est2008-alldata-09.csv

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). Community health status indicators report. Retrieved from http://communityhealth.hhs.gov/

Scrutinizing the Literature of EMR

 As I scrutinize Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) for possible inclusion in a literature review for my research, I find it both promising and troubling. The article appears to be pertinent to my research question of how various laws and practices might adversely affect shared access of electronic health records; however, it is important to understand if this article is a documentation of primary research or a review of existing research, and as I describe below, this is unclear. This lack of clarity obscures other facets of the article that important to a researcher. These are also described below.

Initially, the work of Dimitropoulos and Rizk appears to be pertinent to my research based on the title and the publication in which it appears. Health Affairs is a respected journal within the realm of public health research, practice, and instruction, and it is ranked seventh of all health policy and service journals by Journal Ranking (http://www.journal-ranking.com). Publication within Health Affairs does not degrade the reputation of the authors and serves only to promote their work to their peers. As my research is within the realm of public health, Health Affairs is an obvious avenue to pursue for relevant work, and as this article by Dimitropoulos and Rizk appears to reflect a specific focus on the relationship between privacy laws and the ability, or lack thereof, to share health information, it appears to have relevance.

According to the abstract, Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) examine how variations is state (and, territorial) privacy laws might inhibit sharing health information via an central exchange, or repository. Though it would seem plausible for Dimitropoulos and Rizk to conduct their own research, the abstract seems to imply that they are merely reporting on the findings of a committee charged with examining such irregularities in privacy laws amongst the states and territories, presumably, of Canada. After reading the report, though, I find a disconnect between the abstract and the article. In the abstract, it appears more as if the authors are detached reporters, but within the body of the article, it seems as though they appear to take ownership of the primary research. This is confusing as it was plainly stated that the research was conducted by a large consortium of state officials: “the project initially engaged organizations in thirty-four … and later … forty-two jurisdictions. This collaborative work is commonly referred to as the Health Information Security and Privacy Collaboration (HISPC)” (p. 429).

This report is confusing to read as the perspective shifts frequently between first- and third-person. Additionally, the authors describe opinions formed and emotions felt during the primary research (opinions and emotions that only the primary researchers could know), yet it is unclear if these were transmitted through other writing or if the authors formed and felt these themselves. It is unclear whether the authors, Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009), were participating researchers or merely reporters.

Both authors are noted to work for RTI International’s Survey Research Division, yet this corporation is not credited with any of the original research (Dimitropoulos & Rizk, 2009). I would have to conduct further research into the authors, their employer, and the project, itself, in order to make a final determination of the credibility of this article. This research would, hopefully, give the authors’ words better context, also. Complicating this is the absence of clearly delineated references, although a few appear within the Notes section that appear to be worth investigating.

Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) describe an effort to create a cohesive environment that will enhance the ability to share health information throughout a number of jurisdictions. As such, there is no scientific inquiry and it follows that adherence to the scientific method would be inappropriate. Again, however, it is unclear if this research is original or not.

In closing, it appears that Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) are credible in their writing; however, as each article must be able to stand on its own, and the article is lacking in form and perspective, I question the origination, application, and utility of this article, at least as it pertains to my original research question. Privacy in computing has been a major concern in the past two decades (Johnson, 2004). I feel that I could find more pertinent literature by expanding my search beyond this article.


Dimitropoulos, L. & Rizk, S. (2009).A state-based approach to privacy and security for interoperable health information exchange.Health Affairs, 28(2), 428-434. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.28.2.428

Johnson, D. G. (2004). Computer ethics. In L. Floridi (Ed.), The Blackwell guide to the philosophy of computing and information (pp. 65-75). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Physician-assisted Suicide

I have always maintained that the best thing that I have ever done for a patient was to hold their hand as they died; however, there are few scenarios that I can posit where I would ever cause the death of another, and I would never do it in my capacity as a medical professional. In the State of Connecticut, assisting a patient in their suicide is illegal (Kasprak, 2003; Saunders & Smith, 2010). Saunders and Smith (2010) describe the use of “semantic ploys” (para. 3) in arguing for physician-assisted suicide and how the court deemed the “issue rests with the legislature, not with the court” (para 4).

Two states have laws permitting physician-assisted suicide, Oregon and Washington (Death with Dignity Act, 1997; Death with Dignity Act, 2008). The other 48 states either have laws forbidding assisted suicide, such as Connecticut, rely on common law, or have no laws permitting or forbidding the practice (Kasprak, 2003). Personally, my thoughts on the matter are clearly reflected in my opening statement. More compelling, however, is a recent discussion on the discontinuation of implanted cardiac devices in patients with a desire to “refuse continued life-sustaining therapy” (Kapa, Mueller, Hayes, & Asirvatham, 2010, p. 989). Many of the respondants to this study viewed the discontinuation of pacemakers akin to physician-assisted suicide, whereas less felt the termination of cardioverter-defibrillator therapy was an ethical issue. Oddly, lawyers indicated less problems discontinuing therapy than did physicians.

There are conditions that are so intractably painful and wrought with suffering that I would not even consider thinking less of a person suffering such a malady who took their own life. Death, for many people, is a fear beyond fear, and for a person (of considerable sound mind) to choose death as a viable alternative to such suffering, I commend their bravery and choose not to judge them negatively. No physician or other health care provider should cause the death of a person directly, but acknowledging the patient’s will to die is another matter. In lieu of providing a chemical means of ending life, a physician could, in my mind, counsel a patient on the means and methods that might be viewed as more effective and humane than other means which might result in unwanted suffering. I do believe that a person has the right to choose an alternative to a surely painful and agonizing death, regardless of the presence of depression. If a person is suffering from depression because of a terminal illness that is causing physical suffering, it is hard to imagine this person will resolve the depression before succumbing to the causal disease process. In these cases, the person has the right to choose a more dignified death. For those cases where the person is incapacitated and cannot make health care decisions, I feel that any friend or family member, or a consensus of available friends and family members, should be able to make the decision to continue or discontinue life-sustaining measures. Even if the decision is wrong for the patient, most of the time the decision is for the benefit of the family and friends and lacks medical relevance aside from resource management, though there are spiritual, emotional, and moral considerations that the next of kin may face which are no less relevant.

Personally, I grant any person permission to end my life if they see me engulfed in flame or if taken on the battlefield by an enemy known for public torture. Beyond these two circumstances, I will always choose to live so long as I have my thoughts. I have heard some people intimate that they would wish to die if they were conscious but perpetually paralyzed (i.e. locked-in syndrome); however, I am not so sure that I would want to die just for lacking the ability to communicate with others. I would want to view the world, though, perhaps by television or radio. I am too curious as to what comes next for the world. As we interfere with the dying process, it does make sense that we address the morality in which we do this. It does not seem right to have brain dead patients connected to ventilators and feeding tubes forever. It’s Orwellian.


Death with Dignity Act of 1997, O.R.S. 127.800 et seq. (1997).

Death with Dignity Act of 2009, R.C.W. 70.245 (2008).

Kapa, S., Mueller, P. S., Hayes, D. L., & Asirvatham, S. J. (2010). Perspectives on withdrawing pacemaker and implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapies at end of life: Results of a survey of medical and legal professionals and patients. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 85(11), 981-990. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0431

Kasprak, J. (2003, July 9). Assisted suicide (OLR Research Report No. 2003-R-0515). Retrieved from http://www.cga.ct.gov/2003/olrdata/ph/rpt/2003-R-0515.htm

Saunders, W. L. & Smith, M. R. (2010, June 21). Assisted-suicide advocates fail in Connecticut. National Review Online. Retrieved from http://www.nationalreview.com

Community Health Centers

Community health centers increase availability of (i.e. access to) health care and is shown by some to improve health outcomes (Taylor, 2009). Improving access to health care is achieved by placing these community health centers geographically proximate to underserved and at-risk populations. Taylor (2009) boasts improvements in health outcomes due to the number and placement of community health centers, but she provides no compelling evidence to say that any improved outcome is not directly caused by the improved access. Forrest and Whelan (2000) discuss a need to improve access to physician offices more than community health centers to improve follow-up care which continues to lack in the community health center model, though the point may be moot if the community health centers can improve the delivery of service to allow for proper follow-up. Forrest and Whelan do, however, acknowledge the value of community health centers in providing increased access to health care to underserved and vulnerable populations.

Dieleman et al. (2004) offers collaboration of health care providers in the primary care setting as a means of improving efficiency and thereby improving health outcomes. The testing instrument used during this study indicates an overall improvement of the attitudes towards role recognition, provider satisfaction, patient satisfaction, and patient health status, as well as the quality of patient care provided. In my experience with many community-based health clinics, they tend to be less than spectacular as far as quality of care, cleanliness, and patient-provider attitudes. By adding other providers into the patient-provider relationship, it would allow others to comment within the team where improvements can be made in relation to each patient-provider relationship and in a more general sense.

A collaborative holistic approach to patient care, whether in primary care, emergency care, or in critical care, will foster a sense of partnership within the team, including the patient and family, that will allow the team to truly care for the patient, will allow the patient to be invested in his or her care, and will promote a complete view of the whole patient both when sick and when well. Collaboration will, hopefully, allow improved efficiency in the provision of care while maintaining a trustworthy and committed relationship with the patient. Forging these relationships will, hopefully, help to overcome any challenges faced within our continually changing health care landscape.


Dieleman, S. L., Farris, K. B., Feeny, D., Johnson, J. A., Tsuyuki, R. T., & Brilliant, S. (2004). Primary health care teams: team members’
perceptions of the collaborative process. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 18(1), 75-78. doi:10.1080/13561820410001639370

Forrest, C. B. & Whelan, E. (2000). Primary care safety-net delivery sites in the United States: A comparison of community health centers, hospital outpatient departments, and physicians’ offices. Journal of the American Medical Association, 284(16), 2077-2083. doi:10.1001/jama.284.16.2077

Taylor, T. (2009, October). The role of community-based public health programs in ensuring access to care under universal coverage [Issue brief]. American Public Health Association. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/courses/53027/CRS-WUPSYC6205-4570539/CommunityBasedReformupdtd.pdf