When A Mystery Outbreak Strikes, Who You Gonna Call?

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NPR’s Morning Edition did a fantastic report on a mysterious disease outbreak in Liberia that was spreading rapidly and was potentially deadly.  Read the excerpt below:

In April 2017 about 150 people had gathered for the funeral of a Christian minister in the small port city of Greenville, Liberia, in West Africa. The memorial spanned April 21 and 22 and included a wake that extended late into the night of the first day.
Just one day after the minister was buried, ten people arrived at the local hospital violently sick. Most of them were vomiting and had severe stomach cramps. Some had diarrhea as well. A few ran a fever, but most did not.
The symptoms came on rapidly.
But it was unclear what the patients were suffering from.
What was clear was that it could be lethal.

Head on over to the NPR Morning Edition website to read the rest, and see how they figured out what the disease is and how they figured it out, but before you do comment below with what you think it could be!

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Late to the game:What can China and South Korea teach America?

By | Blog, Healthcare Policy, Kathleen Bartholomew, Public Health | No Comments


This is the third in a series of guest posts by Kathleen Bartholemew, author of The Dauntless Nurse.  Don’t miss her first two blog posts, “It all comes back to staffing” and “How much weed is to much for Nurses“.  Check out all of Kathleen’s posts and leave comments below!

In 2008 both South Korea and China declared that gaming addiction was their number one public health problem. Today, these countries have sixteen treatment centers, a school internet screening tool, two week detox program and over 5000 counselors trained in internet addiction. In contrast, the CDC does not list internet addiction as even one of its top ten public health concerns – despite the fact that the screen time for America’s youth is over 7 hours a day, and that our children today only spend 4 to 7 minutes a day outdoors.

As a country we have failed to adequately acknowledge this crises as well as the impact it will ultimately have on our society. Most people do not even know that gaming in excess causes physical changes to the brain’s very structure at a time when it is still evolving. According to Dr. Hillarie Cash, founding member of ReStart Life, the signs and symptoms of addiction are:

  • Attention, learning and self-control problems
  • Impaired social skills
  • Emotional problems, anxiety, low self-esteem and depression
  • Aggression and indifference to human pain
  • Physical problems – eye strain, weakness, carpal tunnel
  • Strong correlation with sex and porn

Concerned, I paid a visit to the first digital addiction treatment center in the nation. Dr. Hillarie Cash  gave me a tour of the group treatment center at ReStART, but most enlightening were the personal conversations with the residents themselves who could barely make eye contact with me. Emphatically, these young men relayed what parents should NOT do:

  • Don’t tell kids its bad – tell them and show them the impact gaming has on their lives
  • Don’t get help until children admit there is a problem (it’s usually an event)
  • Don’t act like being on the internet is a reward
  • Don’t say “as long as you do what you are supposed to do (like good grades) then I don’t care

What should parents do? Unanimously these men wished that their parents had put parental controls on with explanations about the power of digital addiction – and they also wanted their parents to sit down and eat dinner with them. Real human connection appears to be a good antidote.

Pass this information along. Educate yourself on the powerful pull of digital media. Bring up the subject in PTA meetings, churches and social gatherings to help raise awareness in our society of the insidious damage of digital media addiction and inform your loved ones- in person! Or maybe download the APP “Moment” to monitor your own screen time (a reality check for my husband and I). As adults, set a good example. Over 60% of adults sleep with their cell phones at night, and half of adults read their emails during the night.

There has been a two year waiting list for ReStart Life for quite a while now – which clearly demonstrates the need. We may be late to the game, but there is still time for us to rally together to preserve the personal connections that make us human, and to protect our children from danger that they cannot see.

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It all comes back to staffing

By | Advocacy, Blog, Kathleen Bartholomew, Nurse Politics, professional, Workplace Safety | No Comments

This is the second guest blog post in a series of blog posts by Kathleen Bartholomew, author of The Dauntless Nurse. Make sure you check out her first blog post, “How much weed is too much weed for Nurses?“.

It’s been 14 years since the Institute of Medicine recommended that nurses not work more than 12 hours within 24 hours.

It’s been 8 years since the Joint Commission issued a sentinel event alert based on the evidence that connected extended work hours, fatigue and decreased patient and worker safety.

It’s been 4 years since Elizabeth Jasper was killed driving home after a 12 hour shift and Editor-in-Chief Maureen Shawn Kennedy wrote an editorial in the AJN pointing out that “Best practices” should also cover the health and safety of those who practice.”

What’s changed? If you listen to the voices of thousands of nurses on the front line, the answer is “Nothing – in fact, it’s gotten worse”. What is staffing like where you work? And how do you normally cope with short staffing situations?
Negative repercussions can be very subtle. One example would be the manager telling you that she can’t approve your time off (when she/he had previously agreed.) It’s difficult, but important, to still act professionally in all of these situations and to find common ground. One nurse approached her manager and began the conversation by saying, “I know you care about the patients and nurses here as much as I do….”

Do you ever feel retaliated against for standing up for safe staffing? Here is a list of some things you can do because so often we feel hopeless and underestimate our power:
• Make a report to the Joint Commission
• Never skip a meal or break – call your manager or house supervisor to step in for you and then keep going up the chain of command. File a missed break/meal report.
• Don’t feel responsible for your organizations failure to hire an adequate number of nurses – travelers, temporary nurses and a float pool are options they know they have
• Advocate for a resource pool to your Board of Directors by using specific examples from your daily practice of how unsafe staffing effected both nurse and patient safety
• Contribute money to your state’s Nursing Political Action Committee
• Stay connected to your 675,000 peers in Show Me Your Stethoscope!

But remember, the day that the profession of nursing is respected will be when nurses have the power to decide for themselves how many nurses they need. And that day is long overdue.

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How Much Weed is Too Much for Nurses?

By | Blog, Healthcare Policy, Kathleen Bartholomew, Medical Marijuana | No Comments

This is the first guest blog in a series by Kathleen Bartholomew, author of The Dauntless Nurse. Don’t forget to read her second post in the series “It all comes back to staffing

There -are now 28 states that have approved the use of medical marijuana – and 8 states recreationally. So chances are strong that some nurses are using marijuana for medical reasons, or for recreation. But how much is too much?

One joint in the 1970’s has the same potency of one puff today. Since 1998 the potency of marijuana has doubled. But what if you smoke a few hours before your shift? Edibles can take a few hours to feel the effects – and if you smoke it can take three hours or more to get out of your system. Having a medical-use card does not give nurses sufficient protection, as discussed this Medscape article.

Nurse Mary has lupus and a medical marijuana card. She also wants to make sure she is safe taking care of her patients; and that her license is safe. The laws don’t prohibit use unless it impairs practice, but employers can still take action. So both of these areas are still gray zones as marijuana is not supported federally, there is no consensus on toxicity level, and a hospital can decide independently to fire someone who tests positive whether they have a card or not. In Washington State for example, driving under the influence of marijuana is similar to driving drunk: 0.8 for alcohol – or 5ng/ml THC. But do you know your THC level when you arrive at work?

“If you consistently notice any of the problems listed below in a peer, it is your ethical obligation to compassionately go to your peer, and share your concerns. Our primary obligation as nurses is to protect our patients, but we should also care for each other. A large percentage of nurses are over the age of 45, so some of the symptoms below may be related to menopause! We shouldn’t jump to conclusions or make judgments, but most importantly we can’t ignore impaired nurses.

How would you handle a situation with a nurse that appeared to be impaired?

What would you do if a nurse had symptoms of being impaired by marijuana such as:

  • Short term memory problem
  • Impaired thinking and or delayed decision making
  • Decreased concentration
  • Impaired ability to perform complex tasks
  • Decreased alertness and reaction time
  • Paranoia and/or drowsiness (and of course, Increased appetite!)
  • Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board

    See more from Kathleen Bartholomew Here:

    Check out the Dauntless Nurse Here:…/…/B01MTLK5QI

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    The rare perfect shot (in Golf and Health Care)

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    By Mark Davis

    Golf is a peculiar game. No matter how badly you play on any given round, there’s always that one beautiful, perfect shot that keeps you coming back for more. EMS is the same way. My golf game is by no means on par with Phil Michelson or golfBubba Watson, but I love getting out on the course with some good friends and having a good time. Similarly, I don’t count myself among the “Paragods” of our local EMS scene, and we have many, but I do consider myself a solid EMT, and the bond with fellow EMS, Fire and Law Enforcement brothers and sisters is amazing. Just as I relish the moment I strap my clubs to the back of a golf cart and head for the first tee box, I enjoy racing to the scene of a call knowing that the people I will be working alongside and trusting with my back are among the very best in the business.

    In the game of golf, it is critical to know the right club to use in the various fairways hazards and greens. Likewise, it is critical to know the correct equipment and drugs to use to treat a patient.

    I remember the first birdie I scored. I still have the ball. I also remember my first CPR, although I have no souveParamedics loading patient into ambulancenirs other than the mental images. It was a 19 year old female who had been transported to the ER with an asthma attack. Her condition deteriorated to the point that she coded. When the Code Blue was called, my partner and I happened to be heading back out to the truck after dropping off another patient, so we jumped in for manpower. They threw everything but the kitchen sink at that patient, but never could get her back. I still remember the Latin Kings gang tattoo on her chest. Those things stick with you.

    But just like the good golf shots we make, so we also celebrate our saves. I remember the approach shot I made with a wedge that left the club face perfectly, hit the green exactly in the right spot, and rolled to the right, tracking gracefully into the hole as my buddies whooped and hollered. One of them commented that it was the best shot he’d seen since he attended the Masters in Augusta five years earlier. Likewise, I remember the code we ran on a middle-aged male who worked at a car wash and had a MI. The teamwork and smoothness of that call was phenomenal, and that man walked out of the hospital 3 days later.

    emt_after_a_very_long_shiftOf course, the fun and camaraderie doesn’t end after the 18th hole. After the round of golf, friends gather for food, cold beverages and to talk about the game. Just as we interact with our partners in the ER, handing over patient care to the Doctors, nurses and techs who will continue to care for the patients we bring.

    There are good times, bad times and great times. If only we in the medical field could have mulligans.




    [author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Mark Davis, is a longtime SMYS member, AEMT (Advanced Emergency Medical Technician) and FTO with Lifeguard Ambulance Service. He has been in EMS and rescue for over 20 years, and currently works in Chattanooga, Tennessee[/author_info] [/author]

    Interested in writing a blog post for SMYS? Email We love content from a variety of healthcare professionals, topics, and perspectives

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