What is a Medical Staff?

119543789489042057caduceus_ryland_sanders_01.svg.thumbNot a question that comes up often in conversation, but when it does, many people will envision the caduceus, a staff associated with the messenger god, Hermes, in Greek mythology. With two wings at the top and entwined with two snakes, it is often mistakenly assumed to be a symbol of healing. In fact, Hermes, known as the  god of commerce, moved between the world of man and the world of gods, acting as a messenger and the link between mortals and the Olympians.

Sodownloadme may be familiar with the more correct, but lesser-known symbol, the Rod of Asclepius, which is entwined with a single serpent and wielded by the Greek god, Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. In spite of the symbols carried by these gods, there is a more down-to-earth meaning to the term medical staff.

When a health crisis occurs, most patients put their lives in the hands of the doctors in the nearest hospital. They do so in good faith, without knowing what goes on behind the scenes in order to protect them from unqualified medical practitioners.

If you’ve ever been a patient in a hospital, you were probably admitted by your primary care physician. And that’s where the hospital’s medical staff comes in.

Hospital-based television shows are unlikely to demonstrate the rigorous process your doctor went through to earn the privilege of admitting you to a specific hospital. It would not pass as entertainment.

The process began when your physician was required to provide proof of medical education and training as well as letters of reference from any former hospital where he or she possessed privileges. A credentialing committee then scrutinized the request for membership and privileges and verified the physician’s credentials. Once privileges were granted, the physician spent a period of time being monitored by a senior member of the medical staff. And that’s just the beginning.

To remain on the medical staff, your doctor must regularly fulfill continuing education requirements by attending pertinent educational programs. To retain treatment privileges, he or she must serve on medical staff committees and must attend mandatory medical staff department meetings. On top of that, all physicians who are granted medical staff membership must abide by the medical staff bylaws and are subject to having the quality of their patient care scrutinized by their peers.

The next time you’re in a hospital, either as a patient or a visitor, rest assured that hospital’s medical staff organization is working in the background. Let the television version of hospital life entertain you, but be grateful for real life, where the less entertaining work of upholding the quality of the medical staff goes on, ensuring that you and your loved ones are in good hands.

checked_out_300 (1)CHECKED OUT, book two of the Aimee Machado Mystery series, will be released October 1, 2015. Available for pre-order now, it introduces Aimee’s colleague Cleo Cominoli, Director of Medical Staff Services at Timbergate Medical Center. When Cleo becomes suspicious of a controversial and potentially dangerous woman surgeon on the medical staff, she enlists Aimee’s help and the excitement begins.

Discovering the Azores

When I bring up the subject of the Azores Islands in conversations about vacation destinations, most people I know respond with a blank look. They may have heard of the archipelago, but in most cases, have no idea where the islands are located.

Manadas shoreline

That response changes when conversing with someone of Portuguese descent. Portuguese Americans whose great- or great-great-grandparents emigrated from the Azores know exactly where the islands are. They’re situated in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 900 miles off the coast of Portugal, somewhere in the vicinity of the fabled lost city of Atlantis. More than one theorist has explored the possibility that the Azores Islands are the remnants of Atlantis. But that’s another story.

In contrast to today’s typical island tourist traps, the Azores are relatively untouched by commercialism and have retained their charm. Tourists are welcome and find it very easy to enjoy the many lovely features of these islands. A four hour flight from Boston brings visitors to a refreshing world of islands with diverse vacation pastimes. Hiking, swimming, sailing, whale watching, or simply lying on a pristine beach under a Mediterranean sky.

Hydrangea Hedges

The visual feast alone is worth the trip. Green hills bordered by giant hydrangea hedges, rocky slopes dropping to a shoreline dotted by rustic villages untouched by time. Harbors filled with yachts making this ideal pit stop on their way to or from faraway destinations.Horta Marina

The gustatory feast is one to be savored and remembered long after the experience. The subtle green wine and the cheeses made from the truly happiest cows on earth would be enough to sustain most travelers. But that’s just the beginning. There is nothing as delightful as Portuguese cuisine. Fresh-baked breads, chicken prepared in succulent recipes, myriad seafood dishes, of course, and roast beef flavored with secrets handed down for who knows how many generations? Perhaps from the inhabitants of Atlantis.Atlantis

For folks who dream of finding that mythical location, the Azores Islands might be the next best thing.

The Aimee Machado Mysteries feature a protagonist whose parents have retired and moved to the island if Faial in the Azores. They are very happy with their new life. So far, they are unaware of Aimee’s tendency to get caught up in solving murders that involve her job as a hospital librarian in northern California.

Many websites feature visits to the Azores. One good example is www.visitazores.com.

A Vacation Getaway

Have you ever longed for a few days without computers, television, do-everything phones and devices? It seems ironic that most luxury getaways offer to keep us plugged in and turned on, even when we’re paying a bundle to get away from life’s constant demands on our time and attention.

What could be a greater luxury than to disconnect from the cyber world and reconnect with the natural world we’ve nearly forgotten? Thanks to our country’s protected mountain wilderness areas, it’s still possible to get back to basics—and to remember that we were once, not so long ago, creatures of the earth who used more parts of our bodies than just our thumbs.

Travel Arrangements:

My favorite luxury getaway is one where the only sound of civilization is the distant murmur of a commercial jetliner passing overhead. And speaking of travel, the mode of transportation in the wilderness is as basic as it gets. It’s called walking, and requires nothing more than a well-fitting pair of boots and proper socks designed for hiking. The movie Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, does a great job of demonstrating the problems encountered with incorrect footwear.

Hiking accessories can be minimal, with everything necessary fitting in a backpack. Smoke packingAgain, Witherspoon’s character went far overboard with her pack. With the load she carried, she should have taken along a llama or two.

A few words about llamas: they are great pack animals, but only if the hikers are proficient llama packers. I have it on good authority that hikers with no llama handling experience should not try to rent these extraordinary animals for packing. According to my source, who has seen it happen, it can turn into a “horror show.”

Accommodations:

TentBe cautioned that there will be no maid service. Wilderness hiking requires that visitors leave their accommodations as pristine as if they were never there. Nothing is more disheartening than arriving at a campsite and seeing empty beer cans and cigarette packs scattered on the ground. Fire rings should be dismantled, and broken fishing line, particularly dangerous to wildlife, should be packed out along with all other trash.

Pets:

Dogs may be allowed on your trip, but check ahead to be sure. Outdoor outfitters sell doggy backpacks, so Rover can carry his own food, water, and bedroll. If your dog does come along, check leash requirements. Owners who do not respect these rules may be subjecting their animals to a heap of trouble. Dogs who spook passing llamas or horses on the trail could end up the victim of a vicious kick severe enough to spoil the outing.

Entertainment:

All in all, the preparation involved in wilderness hiking is well worthLake it when the destination is reached. There’s a special joy in sitting on a fallen log after a dinner of fresh trout, sipping hot cocoa while watching moonlight rippling on a clear mountain lake. No TV, no Internet, just human to human communication around a glowing campfire. Ahh . . . time to book a trip.

For information on wilderness hiking throughout the U.S. contact: http ://www.fs.fed .us /organization/506

Checked Out, the second book in the Aimee Machado Mystery series, finds Aimee and Nick llama packing in the northern California wilderness to track down a witness to murder. Due for release in October, 2015.

That Very Scary First Haircut

We’ve all heard stories about the little boy who cries all the way through his first haircut. Our three-year-old was no exception . . . except he’s a llama.

Before we bought Quartz, he had never been introduced to electric shears. Now he was confronted with a big, strong stranger with a mysterious tool that made a very scary noise. The poor llama obviously believed he was about to be killed.

Shearing is important where we live. Our summer heat is not something you want to endure while wearing a thick wool coat. The heat came early this year, and the man who shears our animals had a long list of customers ahead of us. When he called to say he was available, we said, “Come on over.” The job needed to be done, in spite of our doubts about how our new boy would handle his first haircut.

DSC_1058

So what did our three-year-old do? He cried. He spit. He cried some more. Our shearer finally decided to put a blindfold over the llama’s eyes, hoping that would calm him. It did help, and when the job was done, Quartz was much cooler and far more comfortable. Except for the aftertaste of spit that kept him drooling for half an hour.

DSC_1062Smoke, our older, more experienced llama,had been standing by watching the drama of the first haircut unfold. Hard to know what he was thinking. Some people don’t believe animals think, but I disagree. In any case, when Smoke’s turn came, he knew the ropes, both literally and figuratively, and maintained his dignity throughout his own wool removal.

People always ask if we use the wool, or if we sell it. We don’t. Our llamas are used as pack animals. It is the smaller alpaca that is often raised for wool. A good explanation of the differences between llamas and alpacas can be found at http://www.mountairyalpacas.com/llama.html

 

Library Crimes and Misdemeanors

There was a time when the last word we would associate with libraries was crime. Then along came the movie Foul Play, where countless attacks were made on the life of Gloria, the librarian played by Goldie Hawn. The creepiest scene for me was when she was stalked through the stacks in a closed and darkened library. Although most librarians won’t encounter that situation, there are a variety of different crimes that take place in libraries, some creepier than others.

Overdue Items: What might be a simple, easily-corrected oversight sometimes escalates into something worse. More than one librarian has been verbally assaulted by a patron for upholding the policy of refusing to allow more checkouts until fines are paid and/or overdue items are returned. The level of threatening language can require intervention by campus security guards or even local police.

Theft:  This one is a real crime. Patrons take a locked DVD from the shelves, hide in a corner of the library, and pry at the DVD case downloaduntil it opens, then steal the disc, and then toss the broken jacket. To steal a magazine or book, some patrons become savvy enough to figure out where the security strips are adhered to the item. They rip off the strip, then walk through the magnetic gates with the item concealed in a backpack and never trigger the alarm.

Squatters: Some patrons love the library so much they never want to leave. They hide in dark corners until after closing and then spend the night. It might take several days for librarians discover they have an unwanted “house guest.”

Porn: It’s always an unpleasant task for the person on duty in the computer lab to ask patrons who are surfing porn sites to either cease and desist or leave the library.

X-rated Behavior:  One staffer was startled when she went to check that all patrons had left the library at closing time, only to discover a couple having sex under a table in one of the study rooms. Public indecency sounds about right in that case.

Physical Assault: One young woman ignored the no food or drink rule and brought a plate full of chili fries into the library to give to her boyfriend, who was studying there. The library director stopped her, explained that she couldn’t take the food into that area of the library. She responded by throwing the chili fries on the floor and throwing a punch at the director. The punch connected, the director called police, and the girlfriend ended up in court.

Shooters: This is the crime we hope we’ll never witness. I suspect every library has a procedure in place. Where I worked, we all had assigned tasks in the event we were alerted to a potential shooter or any other similar threat on campus. One staffer would make an announcement alerting patrons and giving instructions; others would lock all of the exterior doors. Patrons would be led into an inner room where they would remain behind locked doors until the threat had passed. The one time our library went on lockdown, our bad guy was a disgruntled fellow who wielded a knife and made ominous threats toward an employee in an adjacent building. He was eventually chased down by security personnel. Police arrived, he was dispatched, and the lockdown was lifted. Our library patrons quickly went back to their computers and books, seeming unfazed.

In spite of the above, I still believe libraries are safe havens, and perhaps the most important institutions in our lives and in the lives of people throughout the world. Where would humanity be without them?

Heard any accordion jokes lately? Who Hasn’t?

CIMG1304The accordion has been much maligned throughout its history. Each time I hear someone belittle accordion music, my hackles rise. I must come to the defense of my late mother, an extraordinary musician who made beautiful music on her accordion. Have the detractors of the accordion never heard the romantic and evocative strains of Lady of Spain or a haunting accordion rendition of The Third Man Theme?

Maybe not, those musical delights are from a bygone era. But there are other more modern musicians who have incorporated the accordion into their repertoires. The instrument brings its subtle but enchanting sound to the music of a variety of artists, from the fifties up to the present day. Those delightful notes and chords often go unrecognized, leaving the accordionist an unsung hero of many musical hits. Superstar musicians who have used the accordion to enhance their musical numbers include The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Billy Joe, Bruce Springsteen, Grace Jones, R.E.M., The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Tom Waits and many, many more.

One of my favorite Pandora Radio Stations is the one I created when I discovered Dan Newton’s Café Accordion Orchestra. It is reminiscent of the music heard in Paris bistros of the twenties. It set the perfect mood when I was writing the second novel in my Aimee Machado Mystery series.

Aimee and her co-workers sometimes have lunch at a restaurant near the hospital where they work. The character of Margie, the restaurant’s proprietor who sometimes plays accordion solos for her patrons, was inspired by my late mother. So here’s to Mom and her lifelong love of the accordion. May she live on musically in the pages of the Aimee Machado Mysteries. And whenever I hear an accordion, I’ll continue to say, “Thanks for the memories.”

Call a doctor, or call a librarian?

ID-10099085If you’re in need of immediate medical attention, you’d best hightail it to your nearest hospital emergency room. Once you arrive there, your problem will be identified and treatment will begin. Maybe. Or maybe your condition is one that is so rarely encountered that your doctor will need the help of someone with more specialized knowledge about your  treatment. You may be surprised to know that the specialist your doctor calls is your hospital’s Health Sciences Librarian.

What? Wait a minute. Seriously? Call a librarian? Yes, indeed. Health Sciences Librarians are the unsung heroes/heroines of the medical profession. They directly impact patient care by helping physicians stay abreast of new developments in their fields.

A physician’s mind is crammed with all the information learned in medical school, but suppose your doctor graduated med school ten years ago? Twenty years ago? What’s new since then? Doctors are required to attend continuing education programs often enough to keep their licenses in good standing, but they can’t possibly keep up with all of the latest treatment methods used in the rarest of medical situations and conditions. Here’s one example:

Hypertrichosis, “Werewolf Syndrome”Image result for images of wolfman syndrome

In this syndrome, patients develop abnormal hair growth on their bodies. Their faces can be completely covered in long hair. The condition is on most lists of the rarest known medical conditions.

Your medical problem may not be as visually obvious as this one, but when your doctor needs help in order to diagnose and treat you, a Health Sciences Librarian may be the best source for rush information. A well-trained librarian knows where to find that information immediately—from the most credible sources—thus enabling your doctor to readily access literature that explains the condition and offers the most up-to-date treatment.

So take comfort in knowing that after you seek help from your health care provider, he or she  may turn to a little-recognized but highly qualified and capable medical information specialist—a Health Sciences Librarian.

Some characteristics of effective Health Sciences Librarians include: technological aptitude, creativity and curiosity, service orientation, ability to thrive in a constantly-changing environment, excellent communication skills and teaching ability. For more information about Health Sciences Librarians, including where they work, education requirements and earning potential, visit https://www.mlanet.org/career/career_explore.htmlsc

Image of doctor courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net