Walking in a nurse’s shoes

National Nurse Week begins tomorrow. I’m fresh off a 4-hour shift shadowing a nurse on a busy inpatient unit with cardiac surgery patients. I was taking part in the “Walk in My Shoes” program at Stony Brook Sue in scrubs cropped (2)Medicine where I currently serve as interim CIO.

All the executives were asked to block out 4 hours this week to shadow a nurse. I looked forward to my shift despite the other work on my desk. And as I told the nurse I shadowed, spending time on their unit was more fun than some of the problems I deal with as a CIO.

But I wasn’t there to have fun. I was there to understand what a nurse’s day is like and find ways that administration can help. And as the CIO, I wanted to understand how they use the systems we support and to find opportunities to improve them.

I donned a pair of scrubs, the universal hospital uniform and a fashion neutralizer. It’s amazing how different it feels to be on a nursing unit in scrubs compared to being a “suit” who periodically does rounds with a bunch of other “suits”. The staff seemed more willing to just tell it like it is when I encouraged them to be candid with me.

As soon as got to the unit a nurse realized I was from IT. His first thought was that I was there about a system problem that had been reported in the patient safety system. I introduced myself and my role as interim CIO. I told him that while I was there to shadow another nurse, I wanted to hear about their IT issues.  This was my “gemba” walk with a group of nurses. Continue reading

Learn from history but look to the future

Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) and #healthITchicks are two initiatives that focus on developing women in technology. As National Women’s History Month ends, I want to profile Women around CR tabletwo leaders who are committed to developing women in IT through these groups. Leaders who inspire others.

Jennifer Dennard founded the #healthITchicks community several years ago.  I asked her why she decided to start it, and she said, “I felt that women working in healthcare technology needed a dedicated social media space where they could network, learn, advise, and ultimately harness the tremendous energy and expertise they have in a way that would be beneficial to us all.”

Lofty as that sounds, she admits it may have been shortsighted.  She believes that, the women (and men) who have joined have helped the #healthITchicks community blossom into truly a force for good. So what have they accomplished?

The network has grown to over 550 people, and the hashtag has taken on a life all its own. Her efforts have provided a springboard to the many conversations about women working in health IT and technology at large.  Continue reading

Women’s History Month, not exactly a Hallmark card event!

It is the beginning of National Women’s History Month. It has been celebrated since 1987 but has its roots in International Women’s Day (March 8th)  which started in 1911. The National Women’s History Week canstockphoto35399887 herstorywas first declared by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

This year’s theme is “Honoring Trailblazing Women in Labor and Business”. Last year’s theme was “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government”.

I doubt there are any greeting cards at the store to celebrate this month. But who needs a corny card. Women just want to be paid equally, afforded the same opportunities as men and recognized for their contributions in all aspects of life.

With the 2017 theme focused on business, you can learn more about the women being recognized this year at the National Women’s History Project.

They include:

  • Barbara Hackman Franklin, former Secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush who served five presidents in various roles and led efforts to increase the number of women in government.
  • Alexis Herman, first African American to serve as Secretary of Labor and who led the effort to institute a global child labor standard. She also launched an aggressive initiative to help unemployed youth.
  • Lilly Ledbetter, equal pay activist whose long fight is reflected in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed by President Obama in 2009.
  • Barbara “Dusty” Roads, flight attendants union leader who fought against the airline industry’s sexist working conditions and regulations in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Norma Yaeger, first woman stockbroker to be permitted on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in the 1960s.

With my career focus on technology within healthcare, I want to highlight some women in technology and science I’ve learned about recently. Continue reading

A passion for health care

Doctor Talking To Senior Female Patient In Hospital Bed

I have worked in health Information Technology my entire professional career. In high school, I worked as a part-time nurse’s aide in a nursing home. In college, I worked in a hospital as a unit secretary, back before there were computers at the nurse’s station. I never wanted to be a nurse or physician,
but I am passionate about health care and what we do to improve people’s lives.  I found the path for me is through health care IT.

But I still remember some of the elderly people that I cared for back at that nursing home: Anna, who never had a visitor but was the sweetest and most grateful little old lady you’d ever find. And Hilda, who was as demanding as any but turned on the charm to make sure you liked her and met her requests.  Oscar, who was as grumpy and mean as anyone could be. And Ida, who fought us every time we tried to give her medicine; it took two people most of the time. In spite of their varying personalities and needs, we cared for all of them as best we could, with empathy and support.

My daughter used to joke when she was upset with us that she would put us in a cheap, bad nursing home far away. But for many, it’s no joke. My heart breaks for elderly people alone and without family visitors. I applaud a retired friend who has found “Meals on Wheels” to be his volunteer focus – what a wonderful way to show up for someone. I also applaud a recent retiree from the UMHS ambulatory services leadership team; I saw her in the hospital recently wearing a blue volunteer smock. She is there twice a week as a communion minister.

I remind my IT staff we are part of the extended care team – we don’t touch patients directly Continue reading

Providing care, no matter where

Against all odds and in spite of personal risk – doctors and nurses provide health care, especially emergency responders. We’ve all seen the stories and images from recent disasters and war zones.

The Hospital in the Rock Museum in Budapest, Hungary is one of the most vivid examples of providing care under adverse conditions. Hospital in the RockOn a recent trip to Europe, I toured the museum; it’s an actual underground hospital built in a cave system inside Budapest’s Castle Hill.

We walked along long and twisting corridors into a series of irregularly shaped rooms. I could see that the rooms were, in fact, caves; the walls were painted rock. The ceilings curved domes. Now, the passageways and rooms are brightly lit, but I could imagine them lit more dimly in the past. The walls and ceilings were lined with pipes for water, air and electricity. Our guides told us that they turn off the ventilation systems during the tours because it would be too noisy for anyone to hear the narrations.

The Hungarians built the underground hospital in the 1930’s for about 60-70 patients. During WWII, and especially in the 1944-45 Siege of Budapest, it cared for 600 wounded soldiers. During the Cold War, it was converted to be a shelter in case of a nuclear war.

During WWII, the focus was on broken limbs and wound care and of course preventing infection. We saw small, narrow wards with bunk beds pushed next to each other; three patients could be fit into two beds if needed. We saw an operating theater that accommodated two patients.  Talk about major infection prevention challenges! Continue reading

Nurses got talent

It doesn’t matter what you think about beauty pageants. It doesn’t matter if it’s been years since you watched one. If you have ever been cared for by a nurse you need to know about the dust-up last week following the 2015 Miss America pageant. Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson, is a nurse and she was named second runner-up for Miss America. Her talent offering was a monologue describing how she cared for an Alzheimer patient and how it helped her realize how she was more than just a nurse. It is a talent clip that has been seen by millions at this point.

The women who host the daytime TV show, The View, disrespected Kelley and all nurses with their comments the day after. It sparked a social media firestorm for several days. Hashtags such as #NursesUnite were all over Twitter. Once advertisers pulled out of The View, the co-hosts apologized. Media outlets have covered this including Time Ideas and Huffington Post with posts describing what it means to be a nurse. Our own University of Michigan Health System video, “Day in the life of a nurse” was shared again widely on social media.

In support of nurses everywhere, I’m sharing “A salute to the nurses among us” post I published on May 12th during National Nurses Week. Continue reading

Spreading hope, 21st century style

1 in 9 people in the U.S have used it. Its reach extends to 236 countries. In 2014, 2.2 million new people joined communities. 300,000 people visit every day. More than 72,000 families created a website in 2014. Any idea what I’m referring to?

Those are some of the key stats for a social media tool called CaringBridge. It works like this: patients set up a private and secure website where they post journal entries about their health journey. They invite close family and friends to join their site, creating a caring and supportive community. Family and friends are kept up to date and they can post encouraging and supportive messages. It takes the communication burden off the patient and their immediate family so they can focus on healing.  It replaces the black hole of not knowing for those who care and worry.

I first learned about CaringBridge many years ago when I was the CIO at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. We jointly sponsored it with Dana Farber Cancer Institute and encouraged our cancer patients to use it. At the University of Michigan Health System, we make patients and families aware of this service and another similar one called CarePages.

For all my years working in health care and using the main social media platforms, I’m finally experiencing firsthand the healing power of CaringBridge.  Continue reading

At work and at play: IT leaders connect with patients

Monday was the 42nd annual  C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital Golf Classic. While the golfers have a lot of fun, it is a significant annual fundraising event that makes an important difference in the lives of children and their families at Mott Children’s Hospital. Over the years, individual and organizational sponsors have provided support for computers at patient bedsides, medically safe camps for children with serious health issues, assistive devices for children with special needs, and many more important projects and services.

The Mott Golf Classic is committed to advancing pediatric medicine and enhancing the care experience for patients and their families. It supports unique initiatives that distinguish Mott Children’s Hospital which is ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Reminding all of us in health care why we do what we do, each year a child and their family are recognized as an honored guest and we hear their story.  This year Larry Prout Jr. and his parents, Larry and Kathy, along with his five older siblings and other family members were the guests of honor.  Larry Jr. was born with three birth defects – Spina Bifida, Cloacal Exstrophy, and a massive Omphalocele. His parents didn’t know if he would make it through the first 24 hours after birth and there were many times during his first six months that he had to fight for survival. With their love and the specialized medical care of a multi-disciplinary team at Mott, Larry Jr. overcame many setbacks. He is celebrating his 14th birthday on June 11th.

One of my IT leaders, Joe Kryza, Executive Director of Infrastructure and Systems Operations, has made significant contributions over the past 10 plus years to the Mott Family Network, a non-profit volunteer organization that many of our IT staff contribute time to. Continue reading

A salute to the nurses among us

National Nurses Week officially ends today, May 12th on Florence Nightingale’s birthday. But of course you can thank a nurse and recognize him or her any day, any time. Many of us have personal stories of being cared for by a nurse with great skill and empathy.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a teacher. But my part-time high school and college jobs were actually as a nurse aide in nursing homes. I saw firsthand how nurses cared for the elderly and how hard their work was.

There are several nurses in my family whom I love dearly and respect greatly. I know I can call on them whenever I have a health question. I have to be careful to not abuse this access.  Every family who has a nurse or doctor amongst them knows how valuable they can be.

My sister, Mary Sheehan, is a nurse. She went on to get a master’s degree in public health. She ran just about every division in the Minnesota public health department during her long tenure with the state. Before retiring she served as a county health and human services director. Continue reading

Snow days and everyday heroes

If you live in the north, you know about snow days. Your kids feel cheated if there aren’t a few each winter. Parents juggle to find backup plans when school closings are announced. If your employer is quick to close when there is a major storm or tells you to work from home you may breathe a sigh of relief.  You’re just glad that you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to shovel out your driveway and try to get down your unplowed street.

But hospitals never close, nor can they or should they. The everyday heroes I want to recognize are everywhere at the University of Michigan Health System. The nurses who pulled a double shift because their colleagues couldn’t make it in to relieve them. The support staff throughout the hospital who ensure patients are cared for, in a safe, clean environment. The diligent teams who ensure there are meals for patients and staff.  There are too many to mention but just think about all the hospital staff you see on a normal day – they all keep the hospital operating like nothing happened. Continue reading