Guiding COPD Patients from Diagnosis to Treatment

Guiding COPD Patients from Diagnosis to Treatment

Helping patients to navigate what comes after a difficult diagnosis is a necessary part of our profession. In my many years working with patients facing progressive diseases, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), I have found that they often have questions, namely:

What do I do now?

That’s where we, as nurses and other health care providers, can offer answers. COPD is not currently curable; however, there is still hope for these patients. Lifestyle changes and medical advancements make it possible for patients to improve their ability to breathe and overall quality of life. The objective of treatment is to slow the progression of the disease and assist with managing its symptoms. As patients with COPD come to terms with their disease, here’s what I would recommend to guide them through the next steps of their journey, from diagnosis to treatment:

Work With Them to Create a Plan

After giving a diagnosis of COPD, educating patients on the disease and working with them on a personalized plan to start addressing their symptoms is an important first step. In fact, there are many lifestyle changes that patients can make every day to not only accommodate their new medical needs but also to help improve lung function. Committing to a diet of anti-inflammatory foods — like fatty fish or dark leafy greens — participating in regular low-impact physical activities and other techniques can help to reduce inflammation in the lungs that can exacerbate symptoms.

Help Them Take the Steps to Quit Smoking

Smoking can cause significant damage in the lungs which only increases over time. One of the best things that patients can do if they’ve been diagnosed with chronic lung disease is to quit smoking if they currently smoke. It’s important to arm them with information and tools they need to successfully do so — whether it’s helping them to identify smoking triggers, create an exercise and diet regimen or connect to support groups or other resources. For example, at Lung Health Institute, we offer our patients access to programs like American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking® Plus, a flexible online smoking cessation program that can be completed in six weeks.

Have an Honest Conversation About What Treatment Is Right for Them

Every patient is different, and treatments will vary for each patient with COPD — depending on the severity of the disease and other factors, including age, fitness level or medical history. That’s why it’s critical to create an environment where patients are comfortable being completely honest about how they’re feeling both physically and mentally. That will ensure that we can provide them with the best course of action when it comes to their treatment.

Melissa Rubio, Ph.D., APRN, is a nurse practitioner and principal investigator for research at the Lung Health Institute, based at its Dallas clinic. Rubio also currently serves as a visiting professor at DeVry University’s Chamberlain College of Nursing in Downers Grove, Illinois. Prior to joining Lung Health Institute, Rubio worked at Pleasant Ridge Internal Medicine in Arlington, Texas, as a family nurse practitioner. Rubio holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the same school. She is a board-certified family nurse practitioner and a certified principal investigator. Rubio is also a member of the North Texas Nurse Practitioners and the Southern Nursing Research Society.

When it Comes to Population Health, the Answer is Motivation

When it Comes to Population Health, the Answer is Motivation

It was no great leap for Austin Regional Clinic to embrace the concept of population health, an approach that aims to improve the health of groups of people, particularly those with more medically complex conditions. Our medical group was founded on those principles back in 1980, when no one ever heard of the term. Over time, we became very good at population health and now we are often asked to present our “best practices.”

What’s the secret to our success? The long answer often includes a description of our IT investments. No doubt the advent of electronic medical records has made us better — instead of reacting to illness, we are beginning to use the data to predict illness, allowing us to shift resources to the sickest patients.

But it is the human element — the way each provider engages with the patient — that takes us from simply identifying the high-risk to making a difference in their lives. The technique we’ve honed is motivational interviewing.

Listen Versus Fix

The “front line” of our population health program is our nurse navigation team. Ten years ago, it consisted of four trained nurse navigators who primarily guided our Medical Home patients — individuals living with chronic conditions who rely on frequent care from various specialists. Today, this team has grown to 25 and now includes in-hospital nurse navigation as well as a Home Health Navigator.

While the roles within our team have expanded, our approach to patient interaction has not. Instead of telling our patients, we ask questions. We hire listeners, not fixers.

To a psychologist, motivational interviewing is a fundamental technique. It is less well known in most doctor and nurse cultures. Providers are taught to fix. Yet, we’ve found, that without first understanding the patients’ goals and then uncovering the obstacles that stand in the way of their goals, our sickest patients don’t feel compelled to change.

How does it work? Instead of telling patients to change, we guide them to express their own commitment out loud, which has been shown to improve patients’ ability to actually make a change.

‘Fishing with My Grandson’

When I asked one of my patients with a chronic breathing disorder about his goal, he replied, “I’d like to be able to fish with my grandson.” Later, at his appointment and others, I asked questions about what might be getting in the way of his goal. “I can’t breathe outside” or “I can’t leave the house without my breathing device.” We discussed the obstacles and set forth reasonable small goals to progress him forward. Each time he achieved a goal, he was motivated to set another.

My patient was aware of his barriers. With motivational interviewing, he became empowered to learn how to overcome them.

Numbers Reflect Success

A successful population health program is an investment in time and money, but the effort pays off. As last year showed, Austin Regional Clinic’s success has the numbers to back it up:

  • More than $3 million in 2018 shared savings, bringing the total to almost $25 million in the past eight years
  • An 80% screening rate for depression and fall risk, up from 38% just two years previous
  • 12% of diabetic patients moved to “good controlled” from “poor controlled”
  • 73% of our Medicare population is up to date on their colorectal screenings, up from 65% a few years before

Every year we set new population health goals, raising the bar just a bit. Admittedly, improving population health is a marathon, and we are only in the first leg of the race. Enhanced predictive analysis using artificial intelligence and machine learning will guide us to the patients for whom we can make the greatest impact on their health.

Our philosophy concerning our patients is unwavering — to not just consider each patient’s illness, but to see the person. To understand their values, their lives, and their support. To listen and to empower.

The most accurate predictive analysis cannot compel a patient to change — a patient’s will does that … and the dream to fish with a grandson.

Healthcare Heroes: Dialysis Nurses

Healthcare Heroes: Dialysis Nurses

In honor of “Nephrology Nurses Week,” September 8-14, 2019, Daily Nurse is highlighting two very special dialysis nurses.

At 25 years old, Jackson, KY resident Bridgette Chandler was living with her husband and raising two young children while enjoying a satisfying career as a nursing tech.

Bridgette’s life changed forever after she rushed to the emergency room with what she thought was a case of the flu. Instead of flu, doctors informed her, she was actually suffering from kidney failure. During the long wait for a transplant she underwent arduous four-hour dialysis treatments three times a week.

Despite finding that dialysis made her “a completely different kind of tired that sleep doesn’t fix,” in her determination to remain actively involved with her young family, Bridgette opted for at-home dialysis at the Fresenius Kidney Care clinic in Kentucky. With her home treatments, Bridgette managed to experience all of the special events that happen in a family, from games and recitals to the hubbub of birthdays and holiday seasons. She remarks, “For me, being able to take part in special moments with my family was most important and that’s why I chose home therapy. It gave me the opportunity to take back some of the control of my health.”

Five years later Bridgette found a donor and had her kidney transplant surgery. Even before the hospital had discharged her, she asked her doctor how long she had to wait before she could start school and become an RN. Now, Bridgette is working alongside her former nurses, treating home dialysis patients at the same clinic that treated her. “Because of my personal experience, my intention had always been to become a nephrology nurse” she says. “I stayed in touch with my nurses and doctors who made such a difference in my life. When a position became available in the clinic with those nurses and doctors, I jumped on it.”

Bridgette’s experience also creates a special bond with her patients: “helping patients find ways to make dialysis work for them has definitely been beneficial. I’ve had so many patients tell me they respected me so much more because I understand what they are going through. Many of my patients have even told me that I give them hope.  That is just as important to me as it is to them. That’s why I wanted to be a nurse.”

Anne Diroll was also destined to become a nephrology nurse.

A year after losing her father to a sudden heart attack, 15-year-old Anne was hospitalized for a week after being struck by a car.

During her time in the hospital, unable to walk, and suffering from a “huge hematoma,” she had plenty of time to think and look around. She saw—and deeply admired—the nurses who cared for her, and was inspired by fellow patients stories, learning of “tragedies and hardships in others’ lives that I had never experienced or been aware of at a young age, and [I] thought ‘this is a part of life that needs healing.’”

Anne began her nursing studies almost as soon as she was discharged from the hospital. Initially working as a pulmonary nurse, when she sought a new job, she “didn’t know anything about kidneys, except that they made urine. In my interview for a dialysis nurse position, my interviewer explained that the reason dialysis nurses exist is because [failing] kidneys don’t make urine, so I was able to understand that dialysis is to kidneys as ventilators are to lungs. I got the job and have been a nephrology nurse ever since.”

Today Anne manages a Fresenius Kidney Care clinic in California, overseeing the care of 50 patients.

The American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA) launched Nephrology Nurses Week in 2005 to give employers, patients and others the opportunity to thank nephrology nurses for their life-saving work. In addition, ANNA seeks to interest other nurses in the career opportunities available in nephrology.

About 30 million adults in the United States suffer from chronic kidney disease. The nephrology nurses who treat them make a positive difference in the lives of patients and their families every day. Caring for kidney patients requires nurses to be highly skilled, well educated, and motivated, and nephrology nurses cite the variety and challenges of the specialty as fueling their ongoing passion.

For more information nephrology nursing, the Nephrology Nurses Week celebration, and more, visit www.annanurse.org/

The Rules of Verbal Jiu-Jitsu With Patients: how to deflect and defuse manipulative conversations

The Rules of Verbal Jiu-Jitsu With Patients: how to deflect and defuse manipulative conversations

You are seeing a newly booked patient in your jail medical clinic. He states that the last time he was in jail, he was given a second mattress because he had surgery on his back many years ago. You note that the patient has not seen a doctor on the outside for many years, that the patient walks and moves normally, and that he has a normal neurological examination. You tell the patient that medical does not give out passes for extra mattresses. The patient angrily erupts in a blaze of obscenities and threatens a lawsuit.

Manipulation happens when a patient wants something that they should not have (like an extra mattress and pillow) and will not accept “NO” for an answer. There are several strategies patients may employ in an attempt to force practitioners to change a “No” to a “Yes.” This patient started with the “other doctors gave me what I want” strategy and when that didn’t work, he employed the “threatening” strategy. (I covered this in more detail in a post last month.)

Verbal Jiu-Jitsu is what I call the technique of deflecting and defusing such manipulative confrontations. The first and most important rule of Verbal Jiu-Jitsu is to remember that this is not a war or a contest! There should be no “battle of wills” between you and your patient. There is no winner or loser. Instead, you and your patient are having a conversation. The whole goal of Verbal Jiu-Jitsu is to avoid any kind of verbal battle.

I know that it is tempting to think of an unpleasant verbal exchange as a debate-style contest, with a winner and a loser at the end. But even if you “win” a verbal battle, you’ve actually really lost because you have not accomplished your goal of getting your patient to understand and accept your treatment plan! Your patient is still not happy and will simply renew the verbal battle at another time in another way — and maybe more effectively next time.

The second rule of Verbal Jiu-Jitsu is to have compassionate understanding of your patient. That person in front of you is not an opponent to be defeated. He is your patient. Like everybody else, inmates are just trying to get by as well as they can in a very tough environment — they’re in jail! It’s just that many inmates (and people on the outside, for that matter) have poor interpersonal skills and resort to pathological social habits. This is what they know and what works for them. If a patient has successfully gotten his way throughout his life by bullying and threatening others, that is how he is going to interact with you, too.

You don’t have control over this — but you do have control over your reaction. When patients confront you with threats, they will expect you to respond the way that most other people would — which is either to fight back or to give in. You should do neither.

Take, for example, the case of this patient in your clinic who has angrily threatened to sue you plus has lobbed in a few F-bombs for good measure. There he is, red faced, fists clenched, and LOUD. Nurses, deputies, and other inmates are watching. How are you going to handle this? How will you accomplish your goal of defusing the situation and facilitating reasonable communication with your patient?

The single worst thing you could do would be to respond to anger with anger: “You can’t talk to me like that! Get the hell out! Who do you think you are?” First of all, the patient is accustomed to this type of response and will be far more comfortable and effective with a loud confrontation than you.

Second, the patient (and everyone watching) have now learned that a verbal confrontation is an effective way of getting under your skin — very useful information! Also, since you (hopefully) are not practiced and adept at angry shouting, your heart will be jack-hammering and you’ll develop a monster headache — at least that’s what would happen with me. You will have ruined your own mood for the rest of the day. How effective are you then going to be with the rest of your clinic schedule?

Finally, the fight is not over! The patient can (and will) renew the attack at another time.

Another wrong response is to compromise: “There is no reason to be angry! Calm down and we can work something out.” This is a mistake! If you compromise, you have established the precedent that becoming angry is an effective strategy with you. Other inmates will learn this and you will inevitably have to endure many more confrontations like this.

Instead, defuse and deflect. One way would be to say: “I see that you are angry, so we are done for now. Security will take you back to your dorm. We’ll talk again later after you’ve calmed down.” It’s important to say this without raising your voice and, if possible, to betray no emotion on your face or body language. The lack of any reaction goes a long way to defusing such situations. No compromise, no bargaining, no reaction.

The next day — or even in an hour or two — you can call the patient back to medical and confidently expect a more productive conversation. It is important at this second interaction not to upbraid or belittle the patient. You should act as if the last incident is forgotten.

It takes training, practice, and time to master verbal defense skills. The best way to learn is through role-playing scenarios. The response to angry outbursts happens to be one of the easiest Verbal Jiu-Jitsu skills to learn. The principles are: betray no reaction or emotion, end the session (if the patient will not calm down immediately), but make sure that such patients know that they are welcome back as soon as they calm down. Bring them back later and act as if the incident is forgotten.

This story was originally posted on MedPage Today.

Failure to Rescue–When Nurses Lack Critical Thinking

Failure to Rescue–When Nurses Lack Critical Thinking

Thousands of hospitalized patients die every year and the cause is directly attributed to nurses and their “failure to rescue” the patients within their care. We’ve all heard about that one patient that came in with one issue and died of another. Those of us who have reviewed charts for malpractice cases refer to it as the “snowball effect”—reading the progress notes of a patient who died due to failure to rescue will make you cringe at the glaring errors.

Patients may have one clinical issue, however minor, that if overlooked by the nurse, cascades into a huge mess of concurrent errors and oversights that often leads to the injury or needless death of a patient. Did you ever wonder why this occurs? Short staffing? Maybe. Nurse burnout? Could be. The main contributing factor, though, is that unfortunately there are many nurses who don’t think creatively or innovatively. They don’t act on their assessment findings nor do they follow up on a change in patient condition. They fail to act as advocates for their patient. Nurses who fail to rescue use “traditional thinking” rather than critical thinking.

Failure to rescue always includes four key elements: (1) Omission of care; (2) a failure to recognize a change in patient condition; (3) a failure to communicate a change in patient condition to medical or other staff; and (4) poor or lack of clinical decision making.

Preceptors and nursing instructors, no matter the level of nursing taught (RN, BSN, MSN, NP, or DNP), should review the below list. It contains elements of traditional thinking. Promoting traditional thinking stifles critical thinking.

Nurses who don’t think critically:

  • Don’t learn from their mistakes or the mistakes of other nurses.
  • Demand that nothing changes and have a “but we’ve always done it this way” attitude.
  • Treat each patient interaction in isolation.
  • Fail to “connect the dots” from one interaction to another.
  • Fail to learn about cause and effect.
  • Do not connect new events with prior knowledge.
  • Do not see what is possible in the future.
  • Solve problems in isolation.
  • Demand that all things be done their way and not any other.
  • Allow personal dislikes and prejudices to cloud judgement.
  • Lack self-confidence.
  • Have poor verbal and written communication skills and do not interact well with others.
  • Do not further their education or promote education for others.
  • Force others to make decisions quickly or set time limits on when decisions can be made.

The behavior and clinical actions of nursing preceptors and instructors affect a student or new nurse long after their clinical rotation or orientation has ended. In fact, the actions of a preceptor or instructor will influence the new nurse far into their nursing careers.

The following statements, said by a preceptor or any nurse to another nurse, will stifle critical thinking:

  • “That’s a dumb idea.”
  • “I can’t believe your school didn’t teach you __________.”
  • “Your idea is good, but it won’t work here.”
  • “It’s too complicated so I’ll just do it and you can watch.”
  • “You spend too much time talking with your patients.”
  • “We tried that here on our unit and it didn’t work.”

How do you teach critical thinking to your preceptees and students? Let us know in the comments!

Dip in Avoidable Hospital Deaths

Dip in Avoidable Hospital Deaths

But low-ranking hospitals had nearly double the risk

The estimated number of avoidable deaths in U.S. hospitals each year has dropped, according to updated analysis prepared for The Leapfrog Group by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers.

Matt Austin, PhD, an assistant professor in the school’s Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, and Jordan Derk, MPH, used the latest data from Leapfrog’s semiannual hospital safety grades to estimate that there are 161,250 such deaths each year, down from the 206,000 deaths they estimated three years prior, according to their report.

Austin and Derk said they used 16 measures from Leapfrog’s 2019 data to identify deaths that could clearly be attributed to a patient safety event or closely related prevention process. The reduction is the result of two main factors, they wrote: One, hospitals have made some improvement on the performance measures included in Leapfrog’s safety grades. And, two, some of the measures “have been re-defined and rebaselined” in the past three years, they wrote.

Furthermore, these data likely represent an undercount, Austin and Derk wrote, noting that other studies have estimated anywhere from 44,000 to 440,000 deaths due to medical errors.

“The measures included in this analysis reflect a subset of all potential harms that patients may encounter in U.S. hospitals, and as such, these results likely reflect an underestimation of the avoidable deaths in U.S. hospitals,” they wrote.

“Also, we have only estimated the deaths from patient safety events and have not captured other morbidities that may be equally important,” they added.

The updated analysis was released to coincide with the latest release of Leapfrog’s controversial scores, which assessed quality data from more than 2,600 hospitals and assigned each an “A” through “F” letter grade.

“The good news is that tens of thousands of lives have been saved because of progress on patient safety. The bad news is that there’s still a lot of needless death and harm in American hospitals,” Leapfrog Group President and CEO Leah Binder said in a statement.

Less than one-third (32%) of hospitals secured an “A” grade. More than a quarter (26%) earned a “B.” The group gave a “C” to another 36%, a “D” to 6%, and an “F” to less than 1% of hospitals.

The analysis from Austin and Derk found that the rate of avoidable deaths per 1,000 admissions was 3.24 at “A” hospitals, 4.37 at “B” hospitals, 6.08 at “C” hospitals, and 6.21 and “D” and “F” hospitals combined. That means patients admitted to a “D” or “F” hospital face nearly double the risk of those admitted to an “A” hospital, the Leapfrog group said.

This story was originally posted on MedPage Today.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Listen to the Chapter Podcasts for Jonas and Kovner's Health Care Delivery in the United States


Gain a better understanding of the current state of the US health care system and how it might impact your work and life.

You have Successfully Subscribed!