One Nation Under Pressure, Indivisible, With Hurriedness and Heart Attacks for All


I dont need to tell you that as a nation, weve become a whole lot busier than our forebears; according to a Harris poll, the amount of leisure time enjoyed by the average American has shrunk 37 percent since 1973, and 71 percent of those surveyed said their lives had gotten busier (nearly one-third attributed this increase in busyness to expanding workloads). But in case you need additional data to back up my opening statement, a new poll by the Associated Press (AP) finds that we also have become a lot more impatient because of it. We start drumming our fi ngers at the five-minute mark on hold on the phone, and tapping our feet after waiting about 15 minutes in line, according to the AP. I think thats pretty generous actually; my threshold is much lower.

You see, I am the physical embodiment of impatience. As a borderline member of Generation X, I have both the industrious nature of the Baby Boomers and the modern technology of the current day, and thats a highly flammable mixture that fuels my Type AA personality and my need for speed in everything that I do. I witnessed the birth of the personal computer, fax machine, and cell phone smaller than a bread box, as well as the evolution of the microwave oven and these are tools I certainly treasure, but none of them is fast enough for my tastes. I grow impatient while nuking my lunch (how dare I be made to wait four minutes?!), and get irritated by the interminable time it takes to send words on a piece of paper halfway around the world in seconds when I send a fax. Speed dialing isnt fast enough, and well, lets just admit that I can accomplish three other tasks while my computer is merely booting up.

Not that I have a choice, mind you. I have to hurry things up, because after all, youre standing behind me in the grocery store line, making little noises and checking your watch every five seconds.

Youre also waiting for me to pump my gas, drop my letters in the drive-through mailbox, and giving me the bird if I dont stomp on the gas pedal a split second after the light turns green. Well, maybe youre not that rude, but the pace of modern life has made you rushed, too, and together, were this teeming mass of hurried hotheads, and not only is it bad for our hearts, its bad for business, too.

What Im thinking of is how this hurriedness translates to our work. Now, if I rush, I might just make a typo as Im writing; its no big deal. But if you rush, heres what might happen:

  • You forgot to wash your hands after visiting patient A and before visiting patient B  

  • You swore there were 15 sponges, not 14  

  • You didnt wipe down that bedrail with disinfectant after the patient with C. diff was discharged  

  • You didnt have time to flush the lumens thoroughly  

If you rush, people get infected and they quite possibly die its as simple as that. Its also as simple as refusing to be carried along by our modern state of hurriedness and refusing to take the kinds of shortcuts well never admit to taking because we know how risky they can be. Medical errors continue to make headlines, and many of them could be avoided with something as elementary as a quick time-out to take a deep breath, get ones bearings, and consider the implications of ones actions. Remember, significant numbers of patients contract healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) daily because someone rushed and took a risky shortcut. Please dont be one of them.

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Until next month, bust those bugs!

Kelly M. Pyrek
Editor in Chief

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