Nurses deal with battle fatigue in the fight against burnout


Being a caregiver for someone who’s ill or injured comes at a cost.

Oncology nurse Willa Roney and patient Frank Ratino

Sometimes that cost is emotional. Sometimes it’s physical. It doesn’t matter if the caregiver is a paid professional or a family member or friend.  

If the caregiver doesn’t take time to take care of themselves, they and the patient can end up suffering. The caregiver can suffer from compassion fatigue, a kind of secondary traumatic stress disease that can manifest in depression, burnout, disengagement and depersonalization.

A caregiver with compassion fatigue can end up giving less compassionate, effective care, causing the patient to suffer.

When Siteman Cancer Center and Barnes-Jewish oncology nurse managers approached Pat Potter, director of research for patient care services, and Teresa Deshields, director of psycho-oncology services for Siteman Cancer Center, about boosting morale among their staff, Potter and Deshields, turned to compassion fatigue expert Eric Gentry.

Together, funded by a grant from the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, they developed a program to teach skills to nurses that would make them more resilient and able to battle compassion fatigue. The program is now rolling out to the entire hospital.

See what the Wall Street Journal has to say about the program and read more about the program here.

Game-changing heart valve procedure approved by FDA


We’re excited to announce the the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially approved what’s being called a “game-changing” heart valve procedure, which will provide many with a chance at a longer life.

Why is transcatheter aortic valve replacement considered a game-changer? It let’s patients who are considered too high-risk for surgery to have open-heart surgery without the “open”.

The Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center was one of only 23 centers in the nation to participate in the nationwide PARTNER (Placement of AoRTic traNscathetER valves) trial which lead to the FDA’s approval. We are proud to have been part of such an important trial and to have treated many in our community with this procedure, and are looking forward to treating many more.

For more on this breaking news, read our official press release here.

We also have an event coming up called “Open Heart Surgery Without The Open” on December 7th which will feature Washington University Cardiothoracic Surgeon Hersh Maniar, MD, and Cardiologist Alan Zajarias, MD, discussing the procedure in detail and taking questions from the attendees. To register for this event, go here.

It’s a pretty incredible procedure – to get a closer look at it, watch the video below.


Breast-feeding can help reduce risk of breast cancer


When we think of modifiable risks associated with breast cancer, things like weight, alcohol consumption, and even hormone replacement therapy immediately come to mind.

Another modifiable risk that often isn’t thought of immediately, or even at all, is breast-feeding.

Breast-feeding is often overlooked and completely natural, and it’s something that many women can do to help prevent the occurrence of breast cancer.

For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Rosanna Gray-Swain discusses why breast-feeding can help reduce the risks and why it’s often overlooked as a modifiable risk factor.


World Alzheimer’s Day


As anyone who has dealt with Alzheimer’s can tell you, it’s a struggle for everyone involved. Whether it’s a spouse, a family member, an in-law, a friend or a neighbor, the long-term outlook can quickly become overwhelming.

I’ve not had to deal with this first-hand, but have friends who’ve watched their parents and grandparent succumb to this disease. They’ve told me how difficult it was to watch their family members forget who they are, where they are, and see their mental state decline. The family members were often angry, confused, and sometimes got into physical altercations with their caregivers.

An article in Innovate earlier this year discusses how a new study found that friends and family are better at detecting Alzheimer’s disease earlier, as they are more apt to notice changes in behavior. There is a two-minute questionnaire called the Ascertain Dementia 8 (AD8) questionnaire that helped to deduce this.

The specialists at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Memory Diagnostic Center are well-versed in working with patients and their families on diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease. They work with  patients and their families to provide the kind of therapy that will work best for them in an effort to slow the disease process and to make necessary lifestyle arrangements.

To test your knowledge of Alzheimer’s, take our online quiz here.


Study links diabetes to likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s


In case you needed another reason to lose weight and become more active: 

Washington University Alzheimers researchers

Researchers keeps finding that obesity and poor eating habits can endanger your mental health as well as your physical health. For instance, a study out of Japan finds that people with diabetes may have double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Again, that’s double the risk.

The study also found that people with pre-diabetes also had an increased risk of dementia. Pre-diabetes is condition in which your blood sugar is elevated, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. However, the majority of those diagnosed with pre-diabetes do progress on into full-blown diabetes eventually. Unless they do something to stop the progression.

If there is an up side to this study, it’s in researchers finding another little piece of the incredibly complex puzzle that is Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers around the world, including those here at Washington University, keep finding pieces.

I think it’s inevitable that researchers will eventually put these pieces together and solve the puzzle, finding a way to prevent and maybe even cure Alzheimer’s.

In the meantime, studies like this Japanese one give us an idea of what we can do to keep our brain healthy – keep your body healthy!

-Kathryn Holleman

Legendary coach announces she has Alzheimer’s


News that’s sad, yet strangely hopeful, came from the world of sports

Pat Summitt

today. Pat Summitt, the legendary woman’s basketball coach at the University of Tennessee (UT), announced that she has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Summitt, who is only 59, has more than 1,000 career wins and has won eight national titles with the UT Lady Vols.

Early onset Alzheimer’s disease has been found to have a genetic component, and Summitt has had family members who have suffered from the disease.

The hopeful part – she doesn’t plan to retire. In a video statement, she said that with help from her coaching staff and doctors, she would continue on “as long as the Lord lets” her. It seems to me that she is sending a sign that life doesn’t end with a diagnosis. And good on her for that!

Although there is still no cure, more treatments are being found, and researchers, including our physician partners at Washington University School of Medicine, are gaining more understanding of Alzheimer’s. For instance, see how Washington University is advancing the knowledge of the genetics of early onset Alzheimer’s.

For Pat Summitt and the millions of other Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s, a cure can’t come soon enough. In the meantime, we salute her courage and dignity and wish her all the best in her fight against this devastating disease.

-Kathryn Holleman

New study shows benefits of Parkinson’s patients cared for by neurologists


Good news on the Parkinson’s disease front was announced today.

In a new study published in Neurology, results show that Parkinson’s patients who are seen by a neurologist are less likely to break a hip and less likely to be put into a nursing home.

Analyzing the records of nearly 138,000 newly diagnosed Parkinson’s disease patients between during 2002, 58% of these Medicare patients saw neurologists between 2002 and 2005.

Washington University researcher and physician, Allison Wright Willis, participated in the study and said, “There are ways that we can help improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s disease beyond discovering a cure and beyond discovering the cause.”

For more on this article, go here.


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