Have you noticed that there don’t seem to be nearly as many nurses around as there used to be? When you press that call button in the hospital, you may have to worry: Will someone come quick? And will the person who does arrive be qualified to help? The fact is that there is a critical nursing shortage. Many nurses are retiring or choosing other fields or family life. The nursing schools have to turn away many applicants because they don’t have enough faculty. And on the floors of some hospitals, the nurse-to-patient ratio is getting out of whack. In...

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Recently, I spent a couple of hours of my radio show discussing how to care for your aging parents when they’re sick, a topic I also mentioned in my blog. At the time, I didn’t have many suggestions. Now I feel like I have some great advice to share. An idea expressed by Dr. Stuart Farber, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, really stuck with me. When an aging parent permits their adult children to play a role in their care they are giving them a gift of responsibility and an opportunity to give...

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We probably should have predicted it. I certainly tried my best to help. The Medicare Part D provision that offers reasonable prescription drug plans to seniors and people with serious disabilities has people confused, and it launched recently with some serious transition glitches. President Bush is upset, seniors are angry, the private health plans and drug stores are trying to pick up the pieces, and the drug companies vary in their responses. An editorial in the New York Times last Sunday decried the “Medicare Mess.” How did we get here? Did Congress make the legislation too complicated? Was it too...

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When you were a kid, did you ever take a dance class? I did, at Todd Elementary School in Briarcliff Manor, NY on Saturday afternoons when I was in the fourth grade. The boys sported blazers, and the girls wore dresses and white gloves. We formed a circle around the multipurpose room, and ol’ silver-maned Mr. Richards taught us the box step and proper etiquette. I still remember stepping on poor Ann O’Gara’s toes! So it was a pleasure to meet 70-year-old Dick Blake over the phone the other day. Dick lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and he says he’s taught...

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The news item was hard to believe; it had the ring of an urban legend. A research study showed that trained dogs could smell a person’s lung cancer. Their noses could detect the micro parts per billion of certain chemicals that are only emitted by cancer cells. Can Dogs Smell Cancer? [Science Daily] In this study which will be published in the March 2006 issue of the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies, researchers reveal scientific evidence that a dog’s extraordinary scenting ability can distinguish people with both early and late stage lung and breast cancers from healthy controls. Other scientific studies...

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Okay, I admit it. Along with my family - a wife and three kids - I have a sick addiction: Every year for the past four, we make a point to watch what has become one of America’s top TV shows, American Idol. The other night, we watched the 2006 premiere. Just to review for those of you who hate television or prefer to read, American Idol is a nationwide competition to pick a top amateur singer who will be rewarded with a big record contract. Previous winners like Fantasia, a single mother from a small town in North Carolina,...

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You may recall how I was thrilled to meet star NFL running back Shaun Alexander at a cancer fundraiser late last year. At the time, Shaun was the star of my hometown Seattle Seahawks football team. Now he’s a household name ever since he was chosen Most Valuable Player for the season. For an MVP or any player, for that matter, awards are nice - but what matters is winning in the postseason games leading up to and including the Super Bowl. This past Sunday, Shaun got his chance. But football can be a dangerous game. Just a few plays...

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Over the years, I have interviewed thousands of patients. Every once in a while I hear a comment that just gets seared into my mind, words I’ll never forget. One such instance was a few year’s ago, when I was interviewing colon cancer survivors as we built audio programs for the American Cancer Society’s Survivors Network. Bill, a middle-aged man from Philadelphia, was telling me the story of how he was diagnosed. “We were standing around the open grave of my Dad at the end of his funeral. There were six brothers and sisters. Dad had died from colon cancer....

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My wife and I received letters the other week from our primary care provider, Laurie. She’s not a doctor but rather a physician’s assistant. But her experience and caring manner mean everything to us as we navigate the system. She really knows both of us as people, as well as bones and flesh. So we were crushed when Laurie’s letter informed us she was moving away and could no longer be our “doctor.” We had been “assigned” to Dr. C, someone new in the clinic. Well, guess what, Dr. C may be great, but I feel jilted. I am happy...

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My wife works for Microsoft. At 48, she is older than a lot of the healthy whiz kids there. Most don’t get sick very much. But when they do, it’s the same break in productivity that we all face: Get in the car, hit the road, get caught in traffic, search for parking, sit in the waiting room and finally see the doctor. Microsoft knows there has to be a better way - especially if a particular health concern is not especially serious. So they are piloting a system where their employees can use a Web-based questionnaire and e-mail to...

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