nurses

  1. The problem that's seven times worse than reported

    To err is human... but to make a potentially deadly mistake and consider it just another normal day on the job, you'd have to work in a hospital.

    The newest numbers on medical mistakes are in, and they're uglier than ever: The Department of Heath and Human Services says six out of seven errors -- including potentially fatal blunders -- go unreported.

    Now, no one likes to admit to their mistakes... and in the past, doctors and nurses were no exception. They'd often fail to report their mistakes simply to cover their own butts.

    But DHS investigators say today's doctors, nurses and other hospital staffers are a different breed: They'll admit to those mistakes... if they could only figure out what constitutes a mistake!

    Believe or not, many don't realize when a patient has been hurt by botched medical care. And others make or encounter mistakes so often that they don't consider them mistakes anymore.

    It's just another day at the office.

    But recognizing those mistakes is supposed to be a key part of the Medicare process -- with hospitals that hope to cash Medicare checks required to report all patients who are harmed by their care.

    That includes patients hurt or killed by hospital-acquired infections, drug overdoses, wrong medications, bedsores, delirium from too many painkillers and more.

    To find out that doctors and nurses can fail to spot that six times out of seven is just astounding -- and that's not even the biggest problem here. The agency's inspectors also found that even when a mistake is recognized, it almost never leads to changes to prevent it from happening again.

    In the new study, independent doctors reviewed a small sample of patient records and found 293 who were harmed by their medical care -- with only 40 of those incidents reported to hospital management.

    Of those, only 28 -- less than 10 percent of the original total -- were investigated, and just five led to actual changes in either policy or practice.

    But that's just scratching the surface. All told, investigators say 130,000 Medicare patients are harmed by their care every single month -- some of them more than once.

    One recent study even found that 15,000 Medicare patients are killed by those medical mistakes every month.

    The sad reality is that if you're sick or injured, the hospital is turning into the last place you want to be.

  2. Don't quit your day job -- it might kill you

    There are some clear benefits to working the night shift: higher pay and… well.. OK, there's one clear benefit to working the night shift.

    And in exchange for more money, you're literally putting your life on the line if you take that night job: Shift work has been linked to obesity, heart disease and more.

    Now, the latest research adds one more big-time risk to the list: Diabetes.

    And nurses, you might want to pay close attention to this one -- because the latest study was done specifically on your profession, as researchers compared data on nurses who worked night and rotating shifts to nurses who kept to the daytime.

    I know what you're thinking: What nurses work only during the day? But trust me, they're out there -- and try to make yourself one of them, because those who worked even three nights a month had a 58 percent boost in diabetes risk over 20 years.

    Not planning to work 20 years on the night shift? Better keep an eye on the calendar -- it can happen more easily than you might think.

    Besides, even nurses who spent less time on the night shift had a much higher risk of diabetes: A 40 percent boost for those who spent at least a decade on rotating shifts, 20 percent increase after three years, and a five percent increase after a single year.

    The study didn't finger a specific cause, but anyone who's worked the night shift -- and I've been there myself -- knows what happens.

    First, there are the obvious changes in habits. You tend to eat lousy food. You tend not to get out much, especially if your night shifts are more regular, so you're more stationary.

    But there are also more subtle changes taking place on the inside -- hormonal changes as your body tries to flip its internal clock.

    Tries, and fails… because no matter how many years you spend on nights, it's never easy to go to sleep when the sun is up.

    Put it together, and you've got the perfect set of risk factors for diabetes and any number of diseases.

    So that day job you have? Don't quit it… no matter what.

  3. Dirty docs don't wash hands

    Doctors are so smart most of them must've skipped a grade -- and that grade was probably kindergarten. How else can you explain the fact that they still haven't figured out how to wash their hands?
  4. Wake-up call for surgeons

    Picture this: You're about to go under the knife for a non-emergency procedure, and just as you're given the anesthesia, the surgeon delivers a quick message: "Umm... I know this probably isn't the best time to mention this, but I was up all night doing emergency work and I am plum tuckered out."

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