BACKGROUND: Poor mental health and high stress levels have been reported in staff working in general practice. Little is known about how practices are tackling these and other issues of health at work in the absence of an established occupational healthcare service. AIM: To establish the extent of knowledge and good practice of health at work policies for staff working in general practice. METHOD: Practice managers in 450 randomly selected general practices in England were interviewed by telephone, and the general practitioner (GP) with lead responsibility for workplace health in the same practice was surveyed by postal questionnaire. We surveyed the existence and implementation of practice policies, causes and effects of stress on practice staff, and agreement between practice managers and GPs on these issues. RESULTS: Seventy-one per cent of GPs and 76% of practice managers responded, with at least one reply from 408 (91%) practices and responses from both the practice manager and GPs from 252 (56%) practices. Seventy-nine per cent of practices had a policy on monitoring risks and hazards. The proportion of practices with other workplace health policies ranged from 21% (policy to minimize stress) to 91% (policy on staff smoking). There was a tendency for practices to have policies but not to implement them. The three causes of stress for practice staff most commonly cites by both GP and practice manager responders were 'patient demands', 'too much work', and 'patient abuse/aggression'. Sixty-five per cent of GPs felt that stress had caused mistakes in their practices. Although there was general agreement between the two groups, there was a considerable lack of agreement between responders working in the same practices. CONCLUSIONS: The study revealed substantial neglect of workplace health issues with many practices falling foul of health and safety legislation. This report should help general practices identify issues to tackle to improve their workplace health, and the Health at Work in the NHS project to focus on areas where their targeted help will be most worthwhile. (+info)
The managed care revolution: how medical technologists have tolerated the change.
A repeated cross-sectional study on the psychological profiles and interpersonal styles of highly stressed medical technologists (perfusionists) has found remarkable consistency in internal psychological profiles and differences in interpersonal dynamics over a 6-year period. Six years ago a longitudinal study was begun to track the psychological profiles of perfusionists. Surgeons can repair cardiac defects only after a beating heart has been stopped. In order for the brain and other organs to survive cardiac surgery, they must be perfused with well-oxygenated blood. As a result, the life of every cardiac surgery patient literally sits in the hands of the cardiac perfusionist. The stress of placing patients on and off the 'pump' is one that is experienced by cardiovascular perfusionists on a daily basis. This stress has been likened to that of air traffic controllers who continually prepare planes for take off and/or landing. In the 6 years between studies, medical technologists have changed very little psychologically. They remain very well balanced. However, there have been significant changes in their interpersonal behaviours. Instead of the 'well-balanced' interpersonal profiles of 6 years ago, there is a higher degree of assertiveness/aggressiveness being reported. Managed Care has begun to impact interpersonal behaviours but has not yet altered the more resilient platform of internal psychological balance. (+info)
Sentinel lymph node biopsy and axillary dissection in breast cancer: results in a large series.
BACKGROUND: Axillary lymph node dissection is an established component of the surgical treatment of breast cancer, and is an important procedure in cancer staging; however, it is associated with unpleasant side effects. We have investigated a radioactive tracer-guided procedure that facilitates identification, removal, and pathologic examination of the sentinel lymph node (i.e., the lymph node first receiving lymphatic fluid from the area of the breast containing the tumor) to predict the status of the axilla and to assess the safety of foregoing axillary dissection if the sentinel lymph node shows no involvement. METHODS: We injected 5-10 MBq of 99mTc-labeled colloidal particles of human albumin peritumorally in 376 consecutive patients with breast cancer who were enrolled at the European Institute of Oncology during the period from March 1996 through March 1998. The sentinel lymph node in each case was visualized by lymphoscintigraphy, and its general location was marked on the overlying skin. During breast surgery, the sentinel lymph node was identified for removal by monitoring the acoustic signal from a hand-held gamma ray-detecting probe. Total axillary dissection was then carried out. The pathologic status of the sentinel lymph node was compared with that of the whole axilla. RESULTS: The sentinel lymph node was identified in 371 (98.7%) of the 376 patients and accurately predicted the state of the axilla in 359 (95.5%) of the patients, with 12 false-negative findings (6.7%; 95% confidence interval = 3.5%-11.4%) among a total of 180 patients with positive axillary lymph nodes. CONCLUSIONS: Sentinel lymph node biopsy using a gamma ray-detecting probe allows staging of the axilla with high accuracy in patients with primary breast cancer. A randomized trial is necessary to determine whether axillary dissection may be avoided in those patients with an uninvolved sentinel lymph node. (+info)
Occupational human immunodeficiency virus infection in health care workers: worldwide cases through September 1997.
The average estimated risk of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection for health care workers following a percutaneous or mucous exposure is <0.5% in incidence studies, although a case-control study suggests it is much higher for highest-risk percutaneous exposure. To characterize exposures resulting in HIV transmission, we reviewed available data on occupational cases reported worldwide, identifying 94 documented and 170 possible cases. The majority of documented infections occurred in nurses, after contact with the blood of a patient with AIDS by means of percutaneous exposure, with a device placed in an artery or vein. High-exposure job categories, e.g., midwives and surgeons, are represented mostly among possible cases. Transmission occurred also through splashes, cuts, and skin contaminations, and in some cases despite postexposure prophylaxis with zidovudine. Health care workers could benefit if these data were incorporated in educational programs designed to prevent occupational bloodborne infections. (+info)
High prevalence of hepatitis G virus (HGV) infections in dialysis staff.
BACKGROUND: Patients on renal replacement therapy, haemodialysis (HD), or after kidney transplantation (TX), are known to be at risk of acquiring blood-borne infections (HBV, HCV). GBV-C/Hepatitis G virus (HGV) has been described recently and is considered to cause blood-borne infections. The aim of this study was to analyse the risk for the medical staff of HD and TX patients to acquire HGV infection. METHODS: Eighty-five HD patients and 86 TX recipients were compared with 49 health-care workers and 64 blood donors as controls. The HGV prevalence was determined by RT-PCR and antibodies to E2 protein. RESULTS: A high prevalence of HGV was found in the medical staff (24%) which nearly corresponded to the prevalence of the patients (TX 36%, HD 25%) but not to the controls (9%). In contrast, the prevalence of HCV was low in the medical staff (2%) and controls (0%) but high in HD (13%) and TX (13%). Age and duration of employment in the department did not significantly influence the HGV prevalence in staff. The number of viraemic subjects in staff was high, possibly indicating a more recent infection. CONCLUSION: An occupational risk for HGV exists in medical staff of dialysis and transplant patients. Further routes of transmission than only parenteral may play a role in this setting. (+info)
Nosocomial group A streptococcal infections associated with asymptomatic health-care workers--Maryland and California, 1997.
Group A Streptococcus (GAS), a common cause of pharyngitis and uncomplicated skin and soft tissue infections, can cause serious invasive infections (including necrotizing fasciitis and streptococcal toxic-shock syndrome [STSS]) and death. Since 1965, at least 15 postoperative or postpartum GAS outbreaks attributed to asymptomatic carriage in health-care workers (HCWs) have been reported. This report describes two nosocomial outbreaks of GAS infection in Maryland and California during 1996-1997; the findings suggest that early infection-control measures that include active surveillance may interrupt transmission and prevent morbidity and mortality. (+info)
Effectiveness of training health professionals to provide smoking cessation interventions: systematic review of randomised controlled trials.
OBJECTIVE: To assess the effectiveness of interventions that train healthcare professionals in methods for improving the quality of care delivered to patients who smoke. DESIGN: Systematic literature review. SETTING: Primary care medical and dental practices in the United States and Canada. Patients were recruited opportunistically. SUBJECTS: 878 healthcare professionals and 11,228 patients who smoked and were identified in eight randomised controlled trials. In each of these trials healthcare professionals received formal training in smoking cessation, and their performance was compared with that of a control group. MAIN MEASURES: Point prevalence rates of abstinence from smoking at six or 12 months in patients who were smokers at baseline. Rates of performance of tasks of smoking cessation by healthcare professionals, including offering counselling, setting dates to stop smoking, giving follow up appointments, distributing self help materials, and recommending nicotine gum. METHODS: Trials were identified by multiple methods. Data were abstracted according to predetermined criteria by two observers. When possible, meta-analysis was performed using a fixed effects model and the results were subjected to sensitivity analysis. RESULTS: Healthcare professionals who had received training were significantly more likely to perform tasks of smoking cessation than untrained controls. There was a modest increase in the odds of stopping smoking for smokers attending health professionals who had received training compared with patients attending control practitioners (odds ratio 1.35 (95% confidence interval 1.09 to 1.68)). This result was not robust to sensitivity analysis. The effects of training were increased if prompts and reminders were used. There was no definite benefit found for more intensive forms of counselling compared with minimal contact strategies. CONCLUSIONS: Training health professionals to provide smoking cessation interventions had a measurable impact on professional performance. A modest, but non-robust, effect on patient outcome was also found, suggesting that training alone is unlikely to be an effective strategy for improving quality of care, unless organisational and other factors are also considered. (+info)
Understanding adverse events: human factors.
(1) Human rather than technical failures now represent the greatest threat to complex and potentially hazardous systems. This includes healthcare systems. (2) Managing the human risks will never be 100% effective. Human fallibility can be moderated, but it cannot be eliminated. (3) Different error types have different underlying mechanisms, occur in different parts of the organisation, and require different methods of risk management. The basic distinctions are between: Slips, lapses, trips, and fumbles (execution failures) and mistakes (planning or problem solving failures). Mistakes are divided into rule based mistakes and knowledge based mistakes. Errors (information-handling problems) and violations (motivational problems) Active versus latent failures. Active failures are committed by those in direct contact with the patient, latent failures arise in organisational and managerial spheres and their adverse effects may take a long time to become evident. (4) Safety significant errors occur at all levels of the system, not just at the sharp end. Decisions made in the upper echelons of the organisation create the conditions in the workplace that subsequently promote individual errors and violations. Latent failures are present long before an accident and are hence prime candidates for principled risk management. (5) Measures that involve sanctions and exhortations (that is, moralistic measures directed to those at the sharp end) have only very limited effectiveness, especially so in the case of highly trained professionals. (6) Human factors problems are a product of a chain of causes in which the individual psychological factors (that is, momentary inattention, forgetting, etc) are the last and least manageable links. Attentional "capture" (preoccupation or distraction) is a necessary condition for the commission of slips and lapses. Yet, its occurrence is almost impossible to predict or control effectively. The same is true of the factors associated with forgetting. States of mind contributing to error are thus extremely difficult to manage; they can happen to the best of people at any time. (7) People do not act in isolation. Their behaviour is shaped by circumstances. The same is true for errors and violations. The likelihood of an unsafe act being committed is heavily influenced by the nature of the task and by the local workplace conditions. These, in turn, are the product of "upstream" organisational factors. Great gains in safety can ve achieved through relatively small modifications of equipment and workplaces. (8) Automation and increasing advanced equipment do not cure human factors problems, they merely relocate them. In contrast, training people to work effectively in teams costs little, but has achieved significant enhancements of human performance in aviation. (9) Effective risk management depends critically on a confidential and preferable anonymous incident monitoring system that records the individual, task, situational, and organisational factors associated with incidents and near misses. (10) Effective risk management means the simultaneous and targeted deployment of limited remedial resources at different levels of the system: the individual or team, the task, the situation, and the organisation as a whole. (+info)