Saturday, May 19, 2007

Is anyone out there?

Hi folks. I’m wondering if anyone is reading my blog. I’m having fun with it and I like looking through the health news to see if there’s something interesting – but I’m just wondering if there’s anyone who is actually reading this stuff.

Usually when I write an article or essay, I have a specific audience in mind and it’s geared towards that audience. An editor goes over my work and decides if I met the guidelines and am talking to the target audience. With a blog, I have no idea who is reading it, if I’m writing something interesting or if I’m missing the boat completely.

Don’t feel shy about leaving comments. If there’s a specific topic that people would like to see addressed, or a direction they’d like to see me take, I will definitely keep that in mind when coming up with ideas for the latest and greatest blog additions.

Right now, I have some work to catch up on. I put my nurse’s hat on yesterday and staffed a Wellness/Health Clinic in town at one of our major corporation’s headquarters. It was fun. I got to speak with healthy people who wanted to know if they were as healthy as they felt. We checked blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, waist measurement and body fat. All in all, most of them were great and didn’t have to worry about risk factors. A couple of them were borderline. Of course, those who have non-modifiable risk factors, such as a parent or sibling who has/had cardiac disease or a stroke, or those who are over a age, they automatically have a higher risk than someone who isn’t in these categories. But we encouraged them to keep up exercising, continue eating well and to be sure that their doctor knows about their family history. All in all, it was a fun day away from my desk and out in the community. But this weekend, I have to make up that lost time. Fair trade off I think.

For the Canadians reading this, I hope you have a nice long weekend.

News for today:

Fifty new mumps cases reported in Nova Scotia
Teen pregnancy rate at all-time low, study finds
Cancer fears may hinder prevention
Hospital visits decreased when drug info simplified
Tomatoes fail as prostate cancer preventive
FDA Advisory Committee Recommends Expanded Use of FluMist(R)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What is CME/CHE?

Someone sent me an email after looking at my website; she wanted to know what CME was and why it was important. That’s a good question.

CME, or continuing medical education is usually called CHE, continuing health education in Canada. This type of education helps healthcare professionals stay up-to-date with their practice. To be able to continue practicing, healthcare governing bodies dictate that you must have a certain amount of continuing education credits over a set period of time. This is to ensure that professionals learn about new techniques, discoveries, and generally what is going on in their specialty.

CME or CHE programs are supposed to be written in an unbiased, evidence-based fashion. They’re not advertising for a specific product. In Canada, this is strictly enforced by different organizations that oversee the whole process, ensuring that the material that ends up in front of the healthcare professionals is truly educational.

When someone is writing CME/CHE programs, they can be writing for print, video, audio, live presentations, lectures, or really just about any format that will transfer information from one person to another. The advantage to this is that the company that wants this program out can choose to do it in an educational form that’s best for their target audience. Or, they can choose to have the same program written in more than one form so that the audience can choose which learning type they would like to have.

The writer doesn’t have to be a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional to write CME/CHE programs. However, the writer does have to understand how to present the material in such a way that the healthcare professional will understand. The best programs are written by people who understand how their target audience thinks and learns. If you can get into the mind of your learner, you have a much better chance of writing the information in such a way that it will be absorbed easily.

I’ve been asked how someone gets into CME/CHE writing. I just happened in to it and I think that is how a lot of CME/CHE writers get in to it. Unless you are somehow exposed to these programs, chances are you wouldn’t even know that they exist. So, if something like this interests you, my suggestion would be to ask around and see what companies do CME/CHE programs. See if you can get your foot in the door by doing other types of writing for them. Or, perhaps if you have editing experience, you could get into an agency or company that way.

You might want to look at local universities to see if there are courses offered in medical writing; this could expose you to other avenues that you may not have thought of.

Although I like CME/CHE work. My favourite work is patient education. I love writing patient education. I love the idea of helping people understand things, especially medical things because they can be so frightening. Once something is explained in clear and easy-to-understand, people seem to be so much more relaxed and receptive to what is going to happen next – even if they’re facing something serious. However, if patient education isn’t available, I do like the CME/CHE material. It’s teaching and I think, somewhere deep down, I’m a closet teacher. I studied adult education for a while, I also studied Teaching English as a Second Language, and I did teach it for a while. Oh, and I taught first aid too. So, it all seems to tie together, doesn’t it?

News for today:
Lifestyle changes help protect heart postmenopause
Fruit, Vegetable-Rich Diet Halves Lung Disease Risk
Asthma study shows patients have more options to control disease

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

When is baby sick enough to go to see the doctor?

Taking care of our children can be scary if they aren’t feeling 100%. An infant who is vomiting or a toddler who fell out of bed can bring out the worst fears. How do we know when it’s important to seek medical help and when can we take care of things on our own?

There are a few guidelines that are generally followed, but the best thing to do is listen to yourself. If your gut is telling you that something is wrong, follow that intuition. While you may end up seeing a doctor only to be told that everything is fine, it’s much better that you have a false alarm than if you ignore your intuition and end up having a more serious problem.

I used to teach first aid and many people in my classes were young parents. This was one of their concerns: how to tell if their child was really injured or sick? I can assure you that even a nurse, with many years of experience, as well as being a first aid teacher, I wasn’t always right myself. I sometimes brought my children unnecessarily and other times, they waited a bit longer than they should have. But, we can only do our best.

Now, it’s fine to tell you to follow your intuition, but as I said earlier, there are some guidelines as to when you should call your doctor as soon as possible (Source: Mayo Clinic, Ohio Health).


Circumcision: Boys whose penis begins to bleed or is oozing.
Dehydration: Babies who haven’t wet a diaper for 6 hours or longer.
Diarrhea: Babies who have diarrhea or watery stool for 6 or more diaper changes in a row.
Fever: Babies under 2 months old who have a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).
Lethargy: Babies who are difficult to wake, don’t want to feed and seem really out of sorts.
Loss of appetite: Infants who don’t want to nurse or take a bottle for a few feedings in a row.
Umbilical cord: Infants whose umbilical cord seems tender, oozes, has a foul smell or bleeds.

While not emergencies, you should also call a doctor if your child:

-appears to have ear pain, pulling on ears, discharge
-discharge from the eyes
-has a rash for an extended period of time
-has skin that is jaundiced, or yellowish
-is constipated (for infants, after only a couple of days)

Emergencies that require a visit to an urgent care or emergency for any age child include:

Bleeding that you can’t stop with pressure
Head injuries
High fever
Sudden lethargy or inability to move
Trouble breathing

For older children, many emergency room visits result from accidents. If your child has injured his or herself, it’s best to be safe than sorry. Listen to your instincts and listen to your child. You make up the best team and can usually figure out what to do.

News for today:
U.S. Mammography Rates Dropping

Anti-epilepsy medications recalled

Mumps sidelines hospital workers

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Childhood diseases making a comeback

Measles, mumps, German measles and chicken pox: all are childhood diseases that may seem to be benign, but that’s only because we haven’t really seen them – and their effects – for a long time.

When the vaccines for mumps, measles and German measles (rubella) first came out, the medical community had to convince the general population that it was safe and beneficial to have children vaccinated against these diseases. As time went on, it became standard and people just did it. Unfortunately, that became a bit of our problem because since so many children were vaccinated, the number of these cases dropped drastically. With the drastic drop, there’s a whole generation of people who had no idea what it was like to have these diseases and there was a whole generation of people who didn’t know anyone who died or suffered severe disability because of them. Many parents began to choose not to vaccinate.

Add to that the onset of autism and the fear of a link between the vaccines and autism, now we have kids who are open to developing these diseases not just as children, but as they grow into adulthood.

Childhood diseases are not benign. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an article from the mid 1990s, (Measles) one in 10 children who get the measles get ear infections, as many as one in 20 develop pneumonia and about 1 in every 1000 children develop encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. People who get encephalitis can have seizures, deafness or mental handicaps. Encephalitis can also cause death.

If a child is infected with mumps, about one out of every 10 develops meningitis (German Measles). While the children may not have the severe effects that measles and mumps can have, if a pregnant woman is exposed to German measles during the first trimester, there is a chance of miscarriage and as high as an 80% chance that the baby will be born either deaf or blind. They could also have other abnormalities with their heart or brain, and there could be brain damage.

Chicken pox is the most recent childhood disease to have a vaccine made available. This is particularly important because anyone who has had chicken pox can develop a painful condition later on in life called shingles, or herpes zoster. Having had shingles myself, I can assure you, it is no picnic.

While most children who get chicken pox come through relatively unscathed, save for some scars on the face or elsewhere, there are some who get significantly sicker. Although rare, encephalitis can occur, as can Reye’s syndrome and myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscles, pneumonia and even arthritis. Children with low immune defences can become quite ill, even die, if they get the chicken pox. Mothers who catch chicken pox while pregnant can deliver babies with congenital infection, meaning babies born with infection.

People who have shingles later on in life can develop a very painful condition called post-herpetic neuralgia. Seniors and people who are immunocompromised are most at risk of developing shingles. People who are vaccinated against chicken pox will not have the virus in their system and cannot develop shingles later on in life.

And now, in 2007, mumps is making the rounds in universities. A recent outbreak in a university in Canada has begun to spread as the students are making their way home for the summer. You can read this Globe and Mail article to learn more: Mumps outbreak moves from the Maritimes to Ontario.

News for today:
Skin Patch Approved for Early Parkinson's
Higher Dose of Clot-Buster Is Better Before Artery Procedure
Daily Aspirin May Prevent Bowel Cancer New Study