Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Malaise of the Poke and Prod, or Health Information Overload

I've been a lazy blogger this week, due to too much time spent around health professionals, looking up health information for a family member, and working in a medical library. I've had a malaise about health information in which I really could not bring myself to blog, or even read up on the latest news. If health information is liquor, I just downed a Jagerbomb after cleaning the place out of whiskey. Never fear, I'll be doing a bunch of catching up this weekend.

To begin with, I had my annual gynecological exam. You should, of course, choose your own poke and prod provider based on your specific needs, but I really love the folks over at the West End Women's Health Clinic. I see a women's health nurse practitioner who is very attentive to my needs and concerns. She has outfitted her exam rooms with things like nice lighting, a bubbling fountain, soft classical music, and other touches such as a soft rug beside the exam table and a framed pencil drawing. It may sound cheesy, but it makes the room feel more comfortable and less clinical. She makes conversation throughout the exam, inquiring as to how grad school is going, if my husband has graduated yet, and making sure I'm happy with my contraceptive, etc. She makes a point to tell me what she's going to do before she does it. The high point was being told that my cervix is "so nice and healthy looking!" Seriously, ladies, this is the kind of treatment you should be getting from your gyn, treatment I've only gotten it from nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives.

Next, I gave blood at a Red Cross drive, which I try to do every few months (although you can donate every 56 days). I have a rockin' bruise at the moment, although getting the needle in took only one try, and the woman taking my blood was also very attentive. I filled the pint bag with my O+ blood in just under 6 minutes. Ah, but the whole process took over an hour. As you might expect from a librarian-in-training, I really dislike poorly set-up systems and disorder. Actually, it infuriates me. With only ~10 people ahead of me at the drive, it still took 45 minutes+ to be screened. At least 2 people left because of the wait, and many more grumbled about the inconvenience, which was exacerbated by the fact that this was a workplace drive. I understand that the Red Cross folks may be volunteers, and giving blood is its own reward, but c'mon people. I have a few suggestions: 1) Establish order. We were directed to chairs where there was no discernable line, and the staff approached us to shout, "Who's next?" leaving it to the crowd to negotiate. Nobody likes that. 2) Set up some self-service. I waited nearly an hour to answer a few questions on a computer which took 5 minutes. Why not set up some computers, let us scan our donor cards and complete the questions, then queue up for vital signs? People shouldn't have to wait an hour to find out if they're eligible to donate. 3) Make sure your staff has what they need, are set up at fixed stations to perform specific tasks, and you have the right number of people. Watching people run around looking for things and hopping from station to station while people wait and stations sit empty is very frustrating. 4) I heard one drive worker say, "If it makes sense, it's not the Red Cross way." Fix that. But thanks for setting up the drive! :)

Finally, I've been looking up information on behalf of a family member diagnosed with cancer. Health information requests for family and friends are the most difficult and exhausting, but also the most rewarding. I want to do a great job for everyone with a question, and that doesn't change if I don't know the person. With people you're close to, however, the stakes seem higher. The worst possible outcome is that you find out that the person has little hope, and the information you provide is going to make that clear to the family. That wasn't the case this time, but it is very hard to maintain a professional distance when working on this type of request. On the other hand, it's a pleasure to be able to contribute skills to help people you love. Tiring and fraught with peril, but rewarding.

To two anonymous library patrons: you made my day. Thank you for being so appreciative that I returned your lost scarf, helped you with the photocopier, and shared the secret trick to getting your ID card fixed. It's so very nice to see a patron leave with a smile.

Some resources related to my week:
  • Find a blood donation opportunity at givelife.org
  • Sign up for blood donation and other health screening reminders at MyHealthTestReminder
  • See what blood types are urgently needed via the Nashville Area Red Cross's website (they'll type your blood the first time you donate)
  • Pap test (from the Nat'l Women's Health Information Center)
  • Schedule of recommended screenings and immunizations for women
  • What is a nurse practitioner? (from the American College of Nurse Practitioners)
  • National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health
  • myMidwife.org - includes a searchable directory
  • Choosing a certified nurse-midwife
  • National Cancer Institute - lots of patient-friendly information
  • Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  • Clinicaltrials.gov - searchable database of trials

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    MeSH Tags: Blood Donors; Librarians; Neoplasms AND Complementary Therapies; Nurse Practitioners
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