Were You Heartbroken this Valentine’s Day?

Did your loved one forget the flowers or cancel the candlelight yesterday? Worse still, did cupids arrow miss entirely, and you ended up getting ditched or dumped?

If so, you may well be feeling brokenhearted today. And before someone tells you there’s no such thing as a broken heart, take heart!

According to Dr. Binh An P. Phan, a cardiologist at  Loyola University, a broken heart is an actual medical condition. Broken heart syndrome can occur during highly stressful or emotional times, such as a painful breakup, the death of a spouse, the loss of a job or extreme anger.

Not that you’ll find the term “broken heart syndrome” in any medical text book.  Professionals refer to it as stress cardiomyopathy. During an extremely stressful event, the heart can be overwhelmed by a surge of adrenalin and other stress hormones. This can cause a narrowing of the arteries that supply blood to the heart, similar to what happens during a heart attack. Symptoms are also similar to those of a heart attack, and include chest pain and difficulty breathing.

But, unlike a heart attack, broken heart syndrome is reversible.  Over time, the symptoms go away. And unlike heart attack patients, people with broken heart syndrome do not suffer lasting damage to their hearts.  Their wallets maybe, their pride – almost certainly – but not their hearts!

Still, as it’s difficult to distinguish between broken heart syndrome and a heart attack, SRxA’s Word on Health advises anyone experiencing symptoms such as chest pain and difficulty breathing to call 911.

Who knows?  You could even meet your Valentine while getting checked out at the hospital!

NP’s prevent patient readmissions

Researchers at Loyola University Health System  have shown that adding a nurse practitioner (NP) to an in-patient hospital surgical department can decrease post-operative emergency department (ED) visits. According to a study just published in Surgery, by improving the continuity in care and troubleshooting problems for patients, an NP can reduce ED visits. The addition of an NP also resulted in an improved use of resources and financial benefits for the health system.

NP’s are advanced practice registered nurses who have completed graduate-level education (either a Master’s or a Doctoral degree) and have a dramatically expanded scope of practice over the traditional RN role. Their core philosophy  is individualized care. Nurse practitioners focus on patients’ conditions as well as the effects of illness on the lives of  patients and their families and make prevention, wellness, and patient education their priorities.

The study analyzed 415 patient records one year before and one year after the NP joined the staff. The two groups were statistically similar in age, race, type of surgery, length of hospital stay and hospital readmissions. Patients were tracked after they were sent home from the hospital to determine how many unnecessarily returned to the ED (defined as an ED visit that did not result in an inpatient admission).

Mary Kay Larson, the nurse practitioner involved with this study, communicated with patients and coordinated their discharge plan. During this time, telephone conversations with patients increased by 64%; and visiting nurse, physical therapy or occupational therapy services increased from 25% before Larson joined the department to 39% after. Most importantly, these services resulted in 50% fewer unnecessary ED visits.

This study demonstrates the important role that nurse practitioners have in our increasingly complex health-care system,” said senior author Margo Shoup, MD, FACS, Division Director of Surgical Oncology, Loyola University Health System. “Hospitals must continue to adapt to the changing health-care environment. The addition of a nurse practitioner clearly represents a way that we can adjust to meet the increasing demands of patient care while we are being asked to do more with less.”

SRxA has long recognized the value of NP’s and physician assistants (PA’s) in both patient and peer-to-peer education. To help our clients gain access to this important and rapidly growing group of health professionals we have recently established an NP/PA group.   For more information, and to find out how you can leverage their expertise in your next project, contact us today.

Now Wash Your Hands Please

Word on Health was horrified to learn that when you meet someone and shake their hand, there’s a one in five chance that they didn’t wash their hands after going to the toilet.

A recent study of 2,000 adults found that more than half did not clean up before eating and even more worryingly, 3:1 men and almost 1:5 women said they also often failed to wash their hands after going to the toilet.

Of those, almost a quarter said they were not worried about hygiene after using their toilet at home because they would only be picking up germs from other members of their family, while one in five said their hands already looked clean without the need to wash them under a tap.

Although 88% of those questioned could correctly name at least one food bacterium such as salmonella, E. coli or campylobacter, many did not realize how easy they were to pick up.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and leading public health officials, hand washing is the single most important method of preventing the spread of infection.

Perhaps it’s because hand washing is so basic that it’s often taken for granted. Yet the quantity and variety of germs that we carry on our hands everyday is astounding. Each square inch of our skin contains about 5,000 different bacteria.  When we forget to wash our hands, or don’t wash our hands correctly, we can spread these germs to other people.

The importance of hand washing cannot be overstressed. It is so simple and yet forgetting to do it can have such serious consequences.” says Sir John Krebs, chairman of the UK’s Food Standards Agency.

And it’s not just children or the general public that forget to wash their hands, seems health workers are just as guilty.  In the US it is estimated that hand washing alone could prevent 20,000 patient deaths per year. Despite this, studies have shown that hand washing compliance among health-care workers is poor.

Things, it seems, are so bad that  Loyola University Health System has just hosted a forum led by hand-hygiene authority Professor Didier Pittet, MD, MS, and President of The Joint Commission Mark R. Chassin, MD, FACP MPP, MPH.

This forum was designed to educate healthcare leaders about proper hand washing techniques as well as provide strategies to overcome challenges to achieving a highly effective hand-hygiene program.

For those of you who missed the forum, SRxA’s word on Health is pleased to bring you some simple hand hygiene tips:

Always wash your hands before:

  • Preparing food
  • Eating
  • Treating wounds or giving medicine
  • Touching a sick or injured person
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses

Always wash your hands after:

  • Preparing food, especially raw meat or poultry
  • Using the toilet
  • Changing a diaper
  • Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes or waste
  • Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands
  • Treating wounds
  • Touching a sick or injured person
  • Handling garbage or something that could be contaminated, such as a cleaning cloth or soiled shoes

Of course, it’s also important to wash your hands whenever they look dirty…or before you come to shake one of ours!

For more on hand hygiene we suggest you check out the CDC’s Clean hands save lives site.