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March 2013 Archives

It's easy to miss the signs of trouble after a brain injury

A person might seem perfectly normal after experiencing a brain injury, but it can take a long time for cognitive issues to surface. The individual may return to work and discover that it is difficult to concentrate and stay on task. If a professional with the skill to diagnose brain injury doesn't correctly treat it, returning to a normal life might not be possible. In general, there are two kinds of brain injuries. The first is known as congenital. These types of injuries usually occur before or during birth. The second type is acquired. This can occur for a number of reasons including lack of oxygen, head trauma, stroke, disease or tumors. The severity of the disabilities varies depending on what the part of the brain that is damaged. Physical changes are more noticeable than cognitive changes, so the latter type of change may be harder to diagnose. The person with the injury may not even be aware of the change.

Less tolerance for bad-tempered doctors

Hospitals are showing less tolerance for doctors who get angry with hospital staff and patients. In the past, administrators have shrugged off bad behavior as simply a by-product of too much stress and too little sleep. However, there are a growing number of patient deaths and surgical errors that cost hospitals money. Known as the Joint Commission, the group that accredits hospitals has recommended zero tolerance for bad behavior from physicians. One surgeon flew into a rage in the operating room when an instrument was loaded incorrectly. The surgeon slammed the instrument down and broke a surgical technician's finger. After the incident, the surgeon was referred to a course in anger management. In another case, the patient was put at risk. An ICU nurse felt the patient was aspirating, which means food or vomit is being inhaled into the lungs, and called the doctor. Not only did the doctor refuse to act; he also verbally abused the nurse. The patient had in fact aspirated, aspiration pneumonia developed and the patient died.

Efforts made to stop "never events"

An article titled "To Err Is Human" published in 1999 detailed errors by doctors during surgery and triggered many reforms in the health care field. However, despite reforms of oversights, approximately 4,000 "never events" continue to occur in U.S. hospitals throughout the nation each year, including Colorado."Never events" are major surgical errors. They include leaving surgical items in patients such as sponges, operating on the incorrect site or performing surgery on the incorrect patient. While these events are rare, they can cause permanent damage to patients, and the cost of settlements is a huge financial burden. Some experts suggest that if protocols and checklists are followed in the operating room, the rate of "never events" could be reduced to nearly zero.

Patients can be proactive in helping stop medication errors

There are procedures in place in hospitals to ensure that patients get the correct medication. However, patients in Colorado can also take control of their own health care by being aware of the medications they are taking and being honest about their use of over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements, vitamins and recreational drugs. These efforts and disclosures may help in preventing medication errors.Another way patients can be proactive in helping themselves and their doctors is to keep a list of all medications being taken on a small card and carry it at all times. Having this information on hand is invaluable to caregivers and emergency room staff as it is an easy way for them to know what medications the patient is taking. This simple step can help avoid contraindicated or duplicate drugs from being administered.

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