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Why Doctors Should Be Less Like Chuck Yeager And More Like Captain Sullenberger

A recent medical error of a wrong-site surgery that occurred in one of the country’s best hospitals, Massachusetts General, reminded me why doctors need to be less like Chuck Yeager and more like Captain Sullenberger.

Growing up, I always wanted to be a fighter pilot, years before the movie “Top Gun” became a part of the American lexicon. My hero was World War II pilot Chuck Yeager, who later became one of the country’s premier test pilots flying experimental jet and rocket propelled planes in a time when they were dangerous, unpredictable, and unreliable.

Much like the astronauts in the movie “The Right Stuff,” Yeager and his colleagues literally flew by the seat of their pants, made it up as they went along, and never really knew if their maiden flight in a new aircraft might be their last. They were cowboys in the sky wrangling and taming the heavens.

Fast forward to January 2009, when shortly after takeoff, a one-in-a-million chance, a double-bird strike completely disabled a US Airways jetliner. Captain Chesley Sullenberger, with the help of his co-pilot Jeff Skiles, ditches the aircraft in the Hudson River in under four minutes even as the nation surely expected a tragedy. But not on that day. Not with that pilot. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

Does It Matter What The Hospitalist Thinks?

I read this article about a young child with heterotaxy syndrome with great interest. Not because I find heterotaxy syndrome something of great fascination, but because of the lack of communication — on both ends of the spectrum:

Even though 5 other Dr. all came in and listened to his lungs and said that he didn’t sound like he was wheezing and that his lungs sounded really good. But because this hospital is overly political, process driven, bureaucratic, and in a constant state of litigious fear they are unable to make any conclusions based on actual medicine and patient care. Common sense is blown out the window when you  have a system were a hospitalist one year out of medical school has an opinion that is as valuable as a cardiologist with 25+ years experience.

But in fairness, they all had to “really consider her opinion.”

So they went and got a pulmonologist to evaluate him, which Scott and I were very happy about because there was nothing in the world that would’ve made me more happy in that moment than to have her proven wrong. Which she was.

The whole article is a case study in stress, distrust, and legalism. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

How To Energize And Engage The Doctor-Nurse Team

Some patients struggle to communicate effectively with their doctors and some doctors and nurses find it difficult to communicate and collaborate with each other.

Historically, the dynamic symbiotic relationship between doctors and nurses has been a little shaky, evidenced by the lack of engagement and respect for one another.

Hospitals are chaotic and stressful. Working in such an environment can lead to frustration and it can take a toll on the staff. Instead of a good working relationship (which may never have been fostered to its full potential from the start), doctors and nurses become a fractured team. As a result, the fractured team will not effectively communicate and patient care may suffer devastating consequences. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

Doctors In Cubicles: A Barrier To Patient Care

I present interesting cases to colleagues often because it’s educational and good for patient care and because I like to. But it has been many years since I was mandated to present a case.

It seems that I’m not the only doctor exasperated by a pesky new barrier to patient care: Doctors in cubicles.

An old friend and mentor, Dr. Richard Kovacs, now chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Board of Governors (and IU guy), has written about these same pre-certification barriers. Dr. Kovacs, being a professor and distinguished ACC official, kindly terms these obstructionists “radiology benefit managers” (RBMs). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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