Friday, September 7, 2007

Vacation stress

Ok, what is it about going on vacation that stresses me so much? I know I’m not alone, and it does take away from the fun of planning my time away.

I am, as usual, stressing out as the time draws near. My kids aren’t kids any more so they’re ok. The house is ok because there is always someone in it. My work has been arranged so it’s ok for me not to be writing for a week (although I am bringing my laptop to work on a couple of small projects that have to be done). We have the funds for the vacation. We have the plans all done. So what the heck am I so flipping stressed about???

I know I’m worried that the youngest one won’t get to school on time. But I do have to say to myself, and so what? What’s the worst that can happen? And you know what? That is the only worry I have – but I let it bother me like it’s a huge important deal.

It’s not healthy. I know it’s not. But I do that all the time. Even if we go away for a weekend, I start to obsess days before about stupid things. Luckily, I’m able to let it go for the duration of our time away and I’m looking forward to a fabulous time. I know I will have one. Now if I could just learn how to relax beforehand, I’d be very happy.

News for Today:
Most westerners die in hospital, despite wishes, study finds
Screening family members could prevent 4 in 10 premature heart attacks
Pain patients at risk for sleep apnea
Suicide rates among U.S. teenage girls at 15-year high
FDA: New Merck HIV-Fighting Drug Is Safe

Thursday, September 6, 2007


Good communication can make the worst of events just a little easier to bear. If anyone doubts that, look at disasters that have occurred and see which ones have been managed the best – the ones where people knew what was going on. They may not have been happy about things, but if they felt as if they were being given information, if they knew what was going on, things were going to work out. Good communication doesn’t mean telling everyone everything, it means making sure that people hear what they need to hear when they need to hear it.

In the healthcare profession, this can be overlooked very easily. When you’re struggling with saving a life, there can be a tendency for some people to ignore the more human aspect of communication. While it’s understandable sometimes, it’s not most of the time. It doesn’t take that much out of your time to stop and say a few words to someone who is hoping to hear some news – be it good or bad. Medical schools, as well as schools for other healthcare professionals, are trying to address the communication issue because of its importance. One of today’s news items is about a study that reviewed how looking at a doctor’s ability to communicate early in his or her career will tell you ahead of time how their patients will react. But, is the difficulty with communications part and parcel of the role of the healthcare professional or is it from the person him or herself who took that personality type into the profession they chose?

What I mean is, do certain areas of healthcare attract people with poor communication skills? There’s the stereotype of the surgeon who speaks only when necessary, for example. Is this true? I’ve met some surgeons who speak as if they have to pay big money for every word that comes out of their mouth and I’ve met surgeons who talk non-stop. But, to tell you the truth, in my own experience, anecdotally and all that, most surgeons who I have worked with were not as talkative as some doctors in other specialties.

I’m not just talking about doctors when we talk about healthcare, though. How many of us have had an x-ray taken by a technician who barely acknowledged us other than to move our body parts for optimal images? I’ve had wonderful technicians and technologists who explained everything, who chatted, or just smiled and acknowledged my presence – that in itself goes a very long way. And I’ve had some who made me feel as if I was bothering them. If you’re in a stressful situation, which usually you are if you are undergoing tests, feeling like you’re bothering the staff is not a pleasant feeling.

I can’t forget to include nurses either. As a nurse, I tried hard to make sure I spoke *with* the patients as well as to them. Sometimes you need help with patient care, either with another nurse or an aide. I tried hard not to fall into the trap of having a conversation with the other person at the expense of the patient. Unfortunately, that does happen all to often though. In the midst of turning and positioning a patients, you hear them talking about a movie or what they are going to do later on. I can’t say I’ve never done that, but I did try not to.

I remember a cleaning lady who worked on a medical ward when I was a new nurse. The patients loved her because she would always stop her cleaning for a moment to talk to them. She’d ask how they were doing, follow up on a previous conversation, or just take a moment to admire their flowers, photos, or whatever they had. The patients loved her because she took the time to talk to them and with them. It never took more than a couple of minutes, but that few moments she spent with them left a big impression.

What I have learned over the years is that good communication skills can only improve health care all around. If people take the time to really listen and then speak in such a way that others understand, so much time can be saved and – the added benefit – patients feel validated, understood, and important. This affects the whole relationship and how the patients see themselves and their illnesses.

News for Today:
Doctors' communication skills provide forecast of patients' complaints
Study: Many ADHD Kids Aren't Diagnosed, Poorer Children Receive Less Treatment, Study Shows
Women confused about ovarian cancer, poll shows
13 percent of women stop taking breast cancer drug because of side effects, U-M study finds
Mold linked to asthma
Dangerous technology -- Mobiles should be kept away from hospital beds

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

North America growing.... in girth

No news stories on obesity today that I noticed. I’m sure if we wait a day or two, there will be more though. Is obesity the disorder of the month/year? We’ve been reading about more studies, more findings, more problems, more everything as we monitor North America’s increasing girth.

There are articles on how a virus may cause obesity, if it’s not caused by menopause, and what we are exposed to as children. Yes, obesity is a health problem and yes, many people who are obese do have a medical issue that makes it too easy for them to gain weight and too hard for them to lose it – but I fear that a lot of this is also taking away personal responsibility from those who don’t have a medical issue that causes obesity.

It’s been said before and I’ll say it again: Why in heaven’s name do we need a “small” soft drink to be big enough to fulfill a day’s fluid requirements? Ok, slight exaggeration, but not that way off. Why is it when I go to a restaurant in the US, my plate is so full that food is falling off the edges? How come, the few times I do stop by a fast food place, I am urged and encouraged to significantly increase my portions of food?

Those huge drinks and portions have nothing to do with health-related obesity; they have everything to do with “I want this and I want as much of it as I can.”

I’m not immune to it. I love good food. Lord knows I love good food and if there’s a lot of it, I just may be tempted to eat as much of it as I can because I love the taste and the act of eating it. I also love my wine. Good, quality wine. So, I drink it – ingesting the accompanying calories at the same time. Self-control isn’t always easy – I know that. I bought the ingredients to make brownies the other day and my youngest son made a batch. I’m not a huge sweets lover but my favourite baked treat is a good brownie. Or, as I learned this past weekend, a pan of brownies. Oops. Yup, a weakness. So, the solution? I rarely bring that stuff into my house. If that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes.

This post isn’t a put down for those people who seriously battle obesity because of medical issues. It is a piece on how many of us battle our weight and don’t take responsibility for it. I am about 10 to 15 pounds heavier than I should be. I don’t look too heavy; I’ve never looked my weight, but at just shy of 5’6” and almost 160 pounds, I feel it. My goal over the next few months is to get that down to a healthier weight. I’ll never look svelte and elegant – I’m what many try to delicately put as “big boned,” but I can start to feel a bit healthier again.

After that pan of brownies last week, I’ve not eaten anything like that. I am limiting my wine to treat-status rather than a more regular thing. Since my dog died, my husband and I have been going on rigorous 35 minute walks every evening and I’m trying very hard to be better about taking care of myself. Hopefully, this will all work out for the best.

Otherwise, I just may bake myself a pan of brownies and open a bottle of Chateau Neuf de Pape….

News for today:
Bipolar disorder diagnoses increasing: U.S. study
Spending Longer in Bed May Beat Taking a Painkiller, Study Says
New system may classify more lung-cancer patients as treatable
Therapies: Family Sessions Found to Help Treat Bulimia

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

It's Tuesday and the news pickings are good

Tuesday is generally a big news days on the health news wires; it’s the day that many journals are published and the more eye-catching news stories are picked up. That gives me an interesting problem because on Tuesdays, I usually have a great variety of topics to write about.

I’ll often read one release and think “aha! That’s what I’ll write about today,” only to find a more attention-grabbing piece a few moments later. Take today’s news, for instance. Sleep is a very interesting topic. It’s a cause for much debate in families when it comes to children, especially teens. As someone who has always had difficulty sleeping, I know how important sleep is and horrid it is to feel as if you’ve never had enough.

But, then I read about the story about children and iron-deficiency. That’s a story of note too. So much of what our children are exposed to – or not exposed to – early in life will affect them well into adulthood. That topic included the stories about parents’ attitude towards asthma medications and flu shots. So, I figured, that’s what I would tackle.

Of course, just as I was about finished my newswire search, I came across the story about depression in women with migraine and I thought, oh boy, that’s a big one too – and one that hits very close to home because I fit into that category. I ended up emailing that story to a few people who I knew would find it worth reading.

What I find particularly captivating about the story with the migraine study is that it, once again, draws attention to how experiences as a child can truly and deeply affect the body years later. Of course, this brings into question the treatments that we use and their effectiveness. If the physical problems we have are caused by childhood traumas, can they be reversed without the physical interventions we end up having to use or is there a more effective way to ease the pain and discomfort if we can understand how it originates?

I know that many people who don’t understand the legacy of abuse do say that those of us who have suffered have to get over it, that we can’t blame our lot in life with what happened to us as a child. I understand and even agree with some of that thinking. I do believe that we are what we make ourselves despite of what happened in the past. I generally don’t blame the bad things that happen to me now on what happened to me as a child. I know it’s for me to make my life what it is, despite what happened in the past. However, if such abuse does have the lasting physical effect on our bodies that scientists are starting to find, then it may not be so easy to just leave it behind, to put it past us.

On the other hand, this type of information may give us another tool to heal because one part of surviving is not allowing the perpetrators to win – ever. And, if the effects of childhood abuse follows us into adulthood, they *are* winning. So, maybe the next time I have a migraine or start into a cycle of depression, I can use this information to fight it. He’s not going to win. He never has won and he’s not going to win now. I am stronger. *I* will win this fight.

News for Today:
Heart surgeries more dangerous for women, study indicates
Sleep vital for students, experts say
Overweight toddlers and those not in day care at risk for iron deficiency
Practice-based intervention has sustained benefits for children and families
Annual flu shot cuts need for doctors' visits, hospitalization among children
Parents' perceptions can hamper kids' asthma care, study finds
Involving parents in therapy doubles success rates for bulimia treatment
Depression in women with migraine linked to childhood abuse

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labour Day Weekend

It’s Labour Day weekend here in North America (Labor day south of the border!). Beautiful weather here in Montreal but I’ve spent most of Saturday and Sunday working. I feel a bit panicked because of my upcoming vacation and am trying to get some extra work in.

I need advice from anyone who knows about promoting self-published books. The sales of Oscar’s Diaries took off well in the first couple of weeks and now – nothing. I’m putting together press kits and I have a few plans of groups to contact, but because it’s a book that doesn’t fall into any particular genre, I’m stumped at how to get it out in the public eye.

So, any suggestions are more than welcome.

And that’s it for my Labour day posting. I’ll be back tomorrow with something just a wee bit more interesting!

News for Today
Novartis's Tekturna shows promise in heart failure
New Schizophrenia Drug Shows Promise in Trials
COPD part of a larger syndrome: study
Study identifies warning signs of pregnancy danger
Work time is the largest influence to the duration of a person's sleep