Health Careers Journal

Safety on Campus and at the Workplace

On Thursday, February 14, 2008 shortly after 3pm a gunmen entered a crowded classroom at Northern Illinois University. The gunmen opened fire, killing five students injuring 18 others and eventually taking his own life. In the early morning hours of April 16, 2007, a gunman attacked the campus of Virginia Tech killing 32 people. Unfortunately, stories like these are becoming all too common. For students of health care, the danger is increased due to the vulnerability of hospitals and health care workers. According to Keith Kelly, Director of Security at Ingham Regional Medical Center in Lansing, Michigan, violence in the workplace is on the rise. Most vulnerable are those who work alone, those who work with money and valuables (including drugs), healthcare workers, and women. While tips such as locking your personal belongings in your car or locker while at class and/or work, never walking alone and staying off your cell phone while walking so you are not distracted, may keep you safe in a personal safety situation, would you know what to do if your school or place of employment fell victim to an attack like those seen last week in Illinois or last April at Virginia Tech? Being aware of your surroundings is key. We are generaly aware of what our surroundings should look like at any given time. Use your instincts, if something feels wrong it probably is. Make note of it and then take further action, such as reporting suspicious findings to police, hospital security or campus safety. There are almost always “red flags” that are recognized as such too late. Know the building that you work in or attend class in. Knowing how to get to your floor or classroom and to the restroom or cafeteria is not enough. It is imperative that you know how to escape in case of emergency and you can not do that efficiently (or even at all) if you do not know your building. Make note of all exits, stair wells, and hallways so you could make a quick exit if the need arose. Hospitals are unique in that they are a place where people can be significantly compromised in health, mental capacity and emotional stability, leading to the greater vulnerability of those who work there. Every workplace (every floor) should have an emergency plan that details procedures for dealing with security issues. The safety plan should include measures for dealing with distraught patients and/or family members, violent co-workers or other potentially volatile situations. Each plan should include a “safe room” for employees to retreat to, information on how to contact hospital security and police as well as a method for alerting other co-workers of impending danger. Kelly points out that you can have safety, or you can have convenience, but you can never have both. Safety and security take effort and we have to be willing to do our part in keeping ourselves safe.; even if that entails a measure of inconvenience. Sadly, attacks like those suffered at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech are likely to continue. Knowing what you should do in a volatile situation can save your life. Be aware, use common sense and remember that safety is not necessarily convenient; it is however, essential. Learn more about safety on campus at

February 20, 2008   1 Comment

A Free Medical School and Nursing Graduate Program, Plus More

Did you know there is a school, started in 1972, that offers one of the best educations in the world? It is the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine and Graduate School of Nursing; which is part of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. It serves all four branches of the military and Public Health Service. Uniformed students receive their usual pay and benefits. Medical students have a seven year obligation to serve after graduation. Only military nurses are accepted in the post-graduate nursing programs for Master’s degree or PhD completion. Some civilians who are employed by the federal government may be eligible for admission and receive their full salary while attending.

The university specializes in the extraordinary requirements of deployed troops. For that reason the school is year-round and the medical education contains an added 7700 hours of military needs training. Other programs are available with an emphasis on research into uniquely military clinical findings (post-traumatic stress, etc.). In 2006 a new program was initiated studying radiation biology.

For information about the opportunities, see them on-line

Want to go to the medical or graduate school of your choice? If it is in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, optometry, clinical psychology or nurse anesthesia there’s a scholarship waiting for you. The most extensive scholarship plan is the F. Edward Hebert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program. Not only is this a free ride for tuition, but also comes with a monthly stipend, books, non-expendable equipment, and promotions. To qualify, students must have already be enrolled or received a letter of acceptance from a program in the United States or Puerto Rico, qualify for commissioned officer status in the Army Reserve, be a United States citizen, and maintain full-time student. What you owe them is full-time status and dedicated effort to get good grades, 45 days active duty for training, commission as a second lieutenant and its obligations post-graduation. Your first year of training after school is performed on active duty at an Army medical center. To start the application procedure you will need the following:
  • Letter of Acceptance to a Professional School (Four year scholarships only)
  • Dean’s Letter stating that you are currently enrolled in the Medical School and are in good standing with a projected graduation date (For 2nd, 3rd & 4th year medical students).
  • 3 to 6 Letters of Recommendation (You must provide your Army Counselor/Recruiter with the names, address and telephone number of these individuals). Committee Letter can count as all three (3) for 4 year scholarships only
  • Copy of MCAT / DAT / VCAT / OAT / GRE results (which ever applies)
  • Proof of Birth / Citizenship: Copy of Birth Certificate / Passport / Naturalization Cert.
  • Official Transcripts from ALL Undergraduate and Graduate Schools attending or have attended.
A physical examination is also required. Your free physical exam will be provided. APPLICATION PROCEDURE: To get started now contact your Army Health Care Recruiter

February 16, 2008   No Comments

Securing the Residency of Your Choice

The rigors of medical school take an immense toll on prospective physicians. They are put at risk financially, physically and emotionally for the impending pay off of a career in medicine. While there are many factors that will determine the success of the gamble medical school presents, resident placement is important. After the long years of school work have been completed a student’s choice of residency depends upon location, specialization and reputation of the University. Prospective residents may have little to say about where they are accepted, making the application and interview process to a particular residency significant. Knowing what to expect and what’s expected of you can help. Know what you’re doing. Clearly, good grades and board scores are important to the selection committee; reality is, the competition is fierce and those numbers are unlikely to separate you from a competitive field. More than that, confidence in your knowledge and skill is essential, as well as knowing what you need to learn. Your letters of recommendation should come from someone who knows you well and can make reference to your unique assets and skills with authority. Ideally the candidate should have a letter from someone inside the specialty they are applying to. Obviously, the best choice would be the chair of the department you are applying to; unless that person does not know you. It is of greater value to ask for a letter of recommendation from someone who can be authentic in their recommendation. Personal statement. When crafting your personal statement it is important to consider that members of the selection committee read hundreds of these. Make yours stand out with a memorable patient story that has helped direct your career choice. Make it interesting and memorable. Using stock answers such as “I have always wanted to be a pediatrician …” is unoriginal and appears inauthentic. Remember that you are interviewing. You are vying for a position that hundreds of applicants are after. While humor has its place in medicine and patient care, now is the time to remain professional and astute. Have good questions ready, they are expecting them and utilize them to learn about you and who you are through your thoughts. Be professional in demeanor. If a dinner is hosted, refrain from excessive alcohol. Dress appropriately. For more interview tips look here - The extra mile. Be courteous and professional with the staff that arranges the interviews. Typically, these people assist the program director in running the residency. Leaving a good impression with them may not help your cause, but being rude and uncooperative with them is likely to hinder your chances. Follow up with notes of thanks to these people who make things work, as they are looked upon with great admiration by the selection committee. Obviously, the groundwork for your residency application begins deep in the years of medical school. Going the extra mile in preparation for your application and interview process may help give you a voice in helping to determine your placement. Check out for more tips on a successful residency application and interview.

February 15, 2008   No Comments

9 Examples Of How Health Care In America Can Be Improved

1. Carol Ann Reyes Dumped From Hospital Into Skid Row

1.jpg A homeless woman named Carol Ann Reyes was admitted to Kaiser Permanente Bellflower hospital because of a nasty fall she took. She stayed for three days, at which point Kaiser called her a cab, and instructed the cab driver to dump her in the Los Angeles area known as Skid Row. Reyes was wearing only a thin hospital gown, because, as the hospital later admitted, her clothing had been lost. Carol was confused and suffering from dementia, but Kaiser put her on the streety anyway, and was only caught because of a videocamera running outside of a homeless shelter. Source

2. Hannah Devane's Insurance Company Won't Pay For The One Thing She Can Eat

2.jpg Hannah Devane has a horrible disease of the esophagus that makes it impossible for her to eat normal foods. Hannah literally needs a special formula called Elecare to survive, if she didn't drink the Elecare she wouldn't get enough food to live. Naturally her health insurance company refuses to cover Elecare, calling it a "nutritional supplement." The thing that she needs to live is a supplement to the insurance company. Her only source of nutrition. Hannah's father, a police officer, is now working two jobs so that he can afford the formula for Hannah. Source

3. 9/11 Workers Denied Health Care

3.jpg A large portion of the 40,000 people who worked at Ground Zero in the days following 9/11 have come down with life changing respiratory illnesses. The dust in the aftermath of the terrorist attack was filled with asbestos and tiny bits of glass. This is a terrible fact, but one would assume that these people would have nothing to worry about. Surely the government wouldn't forget about the people who sacrificed their personal well being on that day. Forty percent of 9/11 responders are without health care, either because they never had it, or because they have lost their jobs since becoming ill. The government pledged a paltry $52 million to cover their health care costs, a figure that was deemed "inadequate" by the federal 9/11 health coordinator. It has gotten so bad for 9/11 workers that they recently have been forced to sued the World Trade Center insurance fund so that their health care needs could be met. Source

4. Emanuel Wilson Denied Chemotherapy In Wake Of Hurricane Katrina

4.jpg Emanuel was a school bus driver in Louisiana before losing his job in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The government met some of his needs after he was displaced - he received money and food stamps - but what he really needed was chemotherapy. Wilson had intestinal cancer, and had been getting monthly chemo before the hurricane hit. The government helped people with health care after Katrina, but only if they were completely destitute. If you had health care and a job before the Hurricane, you were out of luck after if you lost that job and health care. So essentially Wilson was punished for playing by the rules. He was covered. Until natural disaster. Source

5. Shirley Loewe Denied Medicaid Coverage For Breast Cancer Because Of Loophole Law

Shirley Loewe was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. At the time of diagnosis she was uninsured and her $15,000 a year income as a hairdresser was too high for her to qualify for Medicaid in Texas. 51.jpg However, there is a federal law that allows women diagnosed with breast cancer to receive Medicaid treatment even if they don't meet all of the normal criteria. Loewe was denied again anyway. At the time Texas was one of 20 states that only applied that law if a woman was diagnosed at a clinic that received federal funding. Loewe was not diagnosed at such a clinic. She was diagnosed at a medical center half a mile away from a qualifying clinic. Loewe ended up cutting back her work hours so that she could qualify for charity care. Loewe died in June of 2007, after four years of stress dealing with money and bureaucracy. Source

6. Tonya Gullino Has Miscarriage, Blue Cross Deems It "Elective Abortion"

6.jpg Tonya suffered a miscarriage last August, and understandably had to make an emergency room visit. About three weeks later Blue Cross & Blue Shield sent a statement denying the claim related to the miscarriage. Tonya called to find out why and was told "We do not cover ELECTIVE abortions. If you chose to terminate your pregnancy for non-health threatening reasons, BCBS will not cover it." Despite the emergency room visit occuring near midnight (who gets an abortion at that time of night?), Blue Cross still asked Tonya to fax over her records stating that she did not have an elective abortion. Source

7. Jim Dawson Hit With $1.2 Million Hospital Bill, Despite Having Health Insurance

7.jpg Jim Dawson found himself in the hospital at the age of 61 fighting an infection. It proved to be a lengthy battle, with Jim spending five months in the hospital, but it had a happy ending. At the end of the five months he was pronounced healthy, and was able to go home to his wife Loretta. That's when the phone calls from California Pacific Medical Center started, reminding him that he still owed $1.2 million in medical bills. This happened despite Jim having health insurance, because his insurance caps lifetime benefits at $1.5 million, a cap Dawson hit two and a half months into his stay. He also has debts totalling into five figures to scores of doctors who were involved with his case. Tough luck you might be thinking, caps are there to protect health insurance companies from massive payments far beyond what you could reasonably expect right? Sure, maybe, but Jim would have never hit his insurance cap if his hospital wasn't doing things like charging him $791 for stockings (to improve blood circulation) that can be found online for $12. Or the $2,225 to $6,675 a night for an oxygen mask to help him sleep. He also wouldn't have hit his cap if doctors had correctly diagnosed his staph infection early enough to be easily cured. Various doctors made the wrong call however, leaving Dawson with a medical bill he can't hope to ever pay. Finally, when a reporter from the Wall Street Journal began investigating the story, California Pacific decided to write off his entire bill. Strange how that works. Source

8. Aetna Takes Eric Simpson's Prosthetic Arm

8.jpg Eric Simpson lost his arm after being brutally attacked by a masked gunman who shot him seven times, all in the arm. Luckily, he had insurance (for which he paid $530 a month), and Aetna said he was fully covered to obtain a prosthetic arm. Good thing because the prosthetic cost a whopping $37,000. Eric got the arm, and spent a week learning to use it when he took a call from his insurer telling him they were sending someone to collect his new arm. They told him he should have known he only had $2,000 in coverage for artificial limbs. Despite the earlier pre-approval. Aetna followed through, and repo'd the arm, before realizing (a week later) they had made a mistake. Eric had full coverage for prosthetics after all, and eventually got his arm back, but not before going through an incredibly stressful experience at an already unbelievably stressful time in his life. Source

9. Natalee Sarkisyan Dies Because Cigna Drags Their Feet

9.jpg Natalee Sarkisyan was a 17 year old girl from Glendale, California. She suffered from recurrent leukemia, but was lucky in that her brother was a marrow match. She received a bone marrow transplant from her brother in November of 2007, but the transplant led to multiple organ failure that affected her kidney and liver. Natalee needed a liver transplant, and was covered through her parents health insurer, Cigna HealthCare. Cigna denied the liver transplent. Her family organized widespread protests and attracted a great deal of media coverage, causing Cigna to reverse their decision. But it was too late, and Natalee died just a few hours after Cigna approved the procedure. Source

February 14, 2008   15 Comments

Tax Day Up Ahead: Tax Tips For Health Professionals

With the promise (or curse) of tax day up ahead, finances can be weighing heavily on our minds. When finances start to become a distraction to work, family time and your health and wellness it’s time to sort it all out. Follow these tips to help find your financial freedom.
  • Pay down your debt - Set a goal of zero debt excluding your home mortgage. Generally you should work on paying the debt that carries the highest percentage of interest first – paying a smaller bill at lower interest may feel good as you pay it off sooner but you need to weigh that with the fact that it is costing you money in interest. When deciding how much you can afford to pay on your debt, be careful to budget enough each month to allow for expenses. Paying extra on your credit cards each month only to run short and end up racking up more charges isn’t getting you any further ahead. Learning to decipher between “wants” and “needs” will also help those bills from accumulating. Calculate your debt to income ratio here - MSN Debt to Income Calculator.
  • Emergency Fund - Based on your risk aim to accumulate six to nine months worth of expenses. This money would be used to cover daily living expenses if disability, illness or unemployment leaves you with an unexpected loss of your income. This important step can eliminate or decrease the need to rack up new debt.
  • Budget - Budgets are meant to be working tools. Use past and projected expenses as well as accumulated debt to forecast doable budget constraints and then control your spending. If you budget $200 for entertainment for the month and you’ve spent it all - even if there’s a play you’d really like to see – refrain. If you see a big purchase on the horizon – a new appliance or carpet – plan for it and save ahead of time.
  • Retirement Savings – Some experts advise “paying you first”, or make investing in your retirement top priority. Others disagree. Determining your debt load and comparing that to your employer’s retirement plan, together with your accountant you can make a decision that will save you the most money. The key is not to pay more in interest on debt than you would be accumulating in a retirement plan.
  • Keep good records – Keep track of work expenses like uniforms, continuing education credits and certification and licensure expenses – talk with your accountant about those un-reimbursed employee business expenses to see how they may benefit you. Filing away important tax papers as they arise thru the year makes preparing for April 15 a little less stressful.
  • Get an accountant – As healthcare workers, we are the experts in our industry. Assuming that we are experts in every industry – particularly finance – can be damaging to our portfolio. Consult an expert, make a plan and execute it. Find out more about CPAs at Consumer debt and living above our means are cited as two of the biggest roadblocks to financial freedom. Controlling the impulse buying of “wants” vs. “needs” is essential to gaining control of your finances. Pay down your debt, save and control your spending with a budget tool – these steps will lead you to healthier finances in 2008 and beyond.

February 12, 2008   No Comments