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What Really Happens On A Night Shift At The Hospital

I wonder how many cups of coffee an average night nurse consumes during their shift. Look, there’s someone we can ask, although it looks like her caffeine buzz is wearing off. Notice the telltale chin to chest head tip that gives sleep deprived nurses away. She may look like she’s charting, but she really is in a twilight sleep.


Working nights isn’t for wimps. Neither is working holidays and weekends. You are always short of help, and BIG things seem to go wrong just as the day shift staff heads out the door. I always thought that I was just paranoid about working the off shifts, but Muhammad Saleem from RN Central sent me some information that validated my observations. I’ve posted their research results below. I’ve lived through a lot of these situations. I’ve seen seasoned nurses nod off at the desk at 3AM because they’ve been working their butts off, and I’ve worked with doctors who don’t answer pages promptly during evening hours and on weekends even though they are on call. I’ve also worked with new residences who are unable to write coherent orders until the third week of their rotation. Sometimes I’ve wondered why more things don’t go wrong in a hospital.

I think their information looks accurate. What do you think? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Nurse Ratched's Place*

Increased Number Of Antidepressants Prescribed To Patients Without A Psychiatric Diagnosis

Prescriptions for antidepressants given by nonpsychiatrists to patients without a specific psychiatric disorder increased more than 12% in 12 years, leading to the drug class becoming the third most commonly prescribed, a study found.

A study in the August issue of Health Affairs reported that antidepressant prescriptions by doctors who didn’t record a specific psychiatric disorder increased from 59.5% of all prescriptions by nonpsychiatrists in 1996 to 72.7% in 2007.

Researchers reviewed data on patients age eighteen or older from the 1996-2007 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys, a national sample of more than 233,000 office-based visits. The proportion of antidepressants prescribed for patients without a psychiatric diagnosis increased from 2.5% of all visits to nonpsychiatrist providers to 6.4% between 1996 and 2007. For visits to primary care providers, antidepressant prescribing grew from 3.1% to 7.1%. For other nonpsychiatric providers, visits without a psychiatric diagnosis grew from 1.9% to 5.8%. In contrast, antidepressants prescribed with a psychiatric diagnosis increased from 1.7% to 2.4%.

Patients who received antidepressants without a psychiatric diagnosis by nonpsychiatrist providers were more likely to be Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Pregnant Women: How Sleeping Position Might Affect Baby’s Health

A little knowledge is dangerous; especially when it relates to medicine. A recent article in the British newspaper, Daily Mirror discussed a medical study that attempted to prove there was a link between pregnant women’s sleeping positions and stillbirth. The author is of the opinion that the study was small and biased and therefore “there is a serious need for more research before we’re in a strong position to make ¬any recommendations.” Obviously this author has limited knowledge about the cardiovascular system of a pregnant woman.

Our organs and tissues require oxygen to function. Without it, they essentially die. Blood from the lower part of our body flows back to the heart where it receives oxygen, compliments of a large blood vessel called the Inferior Vena Cava (IVC). The inferior vena cava is a large, thin-walled blood vessel located near the spine. As the pregnant uterus becomes enlarged, it can press against the IVC and reduce the amount of its blood flow. Why is that not good? Because it reduces the circulating blood flow in the body that is commonly known as our cardiac output (CO). When the pregnant uterus squeezes the IVC and reduces cardiac output, a woman might feel dizzy and even faint. Her blood supply of oxygen is reduced and the unborn baby’s is as well. When a pregnant woman in her early or late third trimester feels faint after lying flat on her back, the syndrome is called Supine Hypotensive Disorder. Her blood pressure has dropped because her cardiac output has dropped. The heart can only pump out what comes into it, so less blood into the heart means less blood going out of the heart and the patient feels faint. How is this avoided? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Fatigue: A Symptom With Many Possible Causes

woman-fatigue

Feeling tired? If so, it’s not surprising. Fatigue is one of the most common problems people report to their doctors. The Health and Retirement Study of more than 17 million older people ages 51 and up reported recently that 31% said they feel fatigued.

Fatigue is a symptom, not a disease. Different people experience it in different ways. The tiredness you feel at the end of a long day or after a time zone change might feel similar to that resulting from an illness. But fatigue from stress or lack of sleep usually subsides after a good night’s rest, while disease-related lethargy is more persistent and may be debilitating even after restful sleep.

Finding the cause. How do you know if your low-energy is caused by an underlying illness or is the result of stress, poor diet, or lack of sleep? For example, could you have chronic fatigue syndrome? That is an unusual illness and an uncommon cause of persistent fatigue, says Anthony Komaroff, M.D., professor of medicine at Harvard, world-renowned expert on chronic fatigue syndrome, and medical editor of a new Harvard Special Health Report, Boosting Your Energy. About 4 to 8 of every 1,000 adults in the United States suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, which is about twice as common in women as in men. The causes of chronic fatigue syndrome are still unknown, and there is no accurate diagnostic test. However, scientists have found abnormalities in the brain and peripheral nervous system, in the immune system, and in energy metabolism in people with this syndrome. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Are Sleep-Deprived Medical Residents More Likely To Make Mistakes?

As of this writing, 5 air traffic controllers have been found asleep at the switch. By the time this piece is posted, several others may have joined the slumber party. Keep in mind, there’s a lot more snoozing in the towers than we’re aware of. We don’t know the denominator here. Our wise reactive government has recently issued orders that airport control towers must not be manned by only one individual. Somehow, prior to NappingGate, our bloated and inefficient government that is riddled with redundancy, thought that one sole guy watching the radar at night was sufficient.

There are some jobs where nodding off poses no risk. Let me test my readers’ acumen on this issue. Which of the following professions would not be at risk if an unscheduled siesta occurred?

  • A race car driver
  • A congressman
  • A circus clown (not to be confused with above listing)
  • A lawyer (not to be confused with the above listing)
  • A school bus driver

Let’s face it. Some folks on the job simply can’t safely snore their way through it. We don’t want Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at MD Whistleblower*

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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