Should the Paramedics take on the role of Rural Home Health Nurse?

What do you think?
Earlier this week I attended a 3-hr of public hearing in Sacramento where a variety of speakers were debating a pilot program proposal for an increased role of PARAMEDICS in managing chronic care diseases when attending to home care needs of patients (in rural on inner city areas they say).

While I fully support the notion that something must be done with the dreadful state of CA public health, access to medical care and adherence to home care / discharge plans, with all due respect and deference to paramedics, to manage a chronic condition in a home setting takes fine tuning and years of studies and practice. Just because nobody is bleeding does NOT mean it is not critical, problematic or very complexed issue to deal with.
There is a reason new grad RNs are NOT hired for home health because you MUST have experience in dealing with the disease management before you will be even considered to be sent out there making decisions on location!

It is usually the patients who are not bleeding or vomiting or collapsing that are the biggest problem in a home health setting, those who sit quietly, those who if you don’t know what and how to ask OR if you don’t know what signs to look for – usually, they are the ones who don’t even tell you! They don’t wanna be a ‘bother’ – I’ve heard that SO MANY times from grandmas and grandpas
(Again, I am talking about chronic disease management in home care, not discharge home from tonsillectomy, for example)

To manage chronic care diseases, you must know and understand the disease process, the disease signs & symptoms, to know how it was managed in a hospital, what can be the side effects of any of the above, what to look for, how probable complications look like even before they become major problems…. And finally, you must understand how to fine-tune the care!
Again, paramedic are GREAT and FANTASTIC at what they do, which is the FIRST phase of giving emergency care, I worked with them for many years on 2 continents (and in Czech I worked in the department!), so my hats off to you, but to manage the last part so-to-speak of care such as COPD or CHF or HTN or DM – that takes years of training, learning and practice!

Also, I am NOT saying we, the nurses, are fine-tuning or managing the treatments, that’s why we have specialists such as fantastic pulmonologists, but we the nurses are fine-tuning the plans of care upon discharge, the follow ups and the adherence to those. At least that’s what the nurses should do – but we don’t have them!
Because the State cut the budget in 2011 and DHS and DSS just don’t have the funding! Those positions got cut. …Now we see how much it actually cost us because just because you cut a position or access to care here does NOT mean those patients will not seek the treatment or medical attention elsewhere. Now, all those trips to ERs – they get very expensive for the State! And now with added millions of new patients via Obamacare – don’t get me even started!

While I fully support the need for a change and innovation in our roles and in health care system delivery overall, in fact I have been calling for it for some time now, I do not believe paramedics as chronic care managers or home health caregivers are the long-term solutions to our much bigger problem.
They are trained as ‘ready to go’ as first responders, and I believe they are the BEST in the WORLD, but not as chronic care or home health care giver, and 16-18 hours of added education will not change that.
… At the same time, I absolutely understand what they are trying to do or accomplish and WHY!
I get it, I understand.
But I don’t believe this is the right solution.

Ukraine Today: Political Realism First, Please!

Ukraine Today: Political Realism First, Please!

marketa houskova |Educate Influence Make a Difference

(original post on humanitarian situation written on Feb 20th, 2014 in Sacramento, CA, USA. Updated based on last week’s cease-fire and political agreements on Feb 24th, 2014 in Sacramento, CA, USA)

czech vlajka znak

I was a young Czech nurse when the atrocities were happening in the Balkans, and NOBODY from the EU moved a finger, nobody helped them! I often asked myself what would have I done…?

While I had no influence over it, as after the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, after 40 years of oppression, and 20 years of Soviet occupation, I finally was allowed to travel abroad and I left home.

I looked after children, cleaned houses and pubs, learned English by myself at nights, held 2-3 jobs in order to follow my dreams of studying and obtaining my Nursing licenses in Canada & USA, only to go further towards my biggest dreams of earning multiple university degrees in global politics…

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Hippocrates, the Original Public Health Care Worker?

Hippocrates, the Original Public Health Care Worker?

Recently, I watched a videotaped lecture by the famed Dr. Carl Taylor, MD DrPH (1916-2010), the founding father of then-new academic discipline called International Health. Dr. Taylor’s lecture, taped few years before he died at the age of 93, was called The Key Studies of Primary Health Care and it was available on the Johns Hopkins open access website. This interesting lecture was actually a part of Dr. Taylor’s teaching curriculum at the Department of International Health that he established at his beloved Johns Hopkins. His love, however, was to travel around all corners of the earth and help communities empower themselves!

Johns Hopkins hospital, Baltimore MD

Currently, I am taking Health for All Through Primary Health Care class through Johns Hopkins, and if we realize that by all accounts the most important Alma Ata Conference was held in 1978, that we are faced with a certain crisis of unfulfilled Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015, and that more people live in abject poverty today than ever before – we begin to truly appreciate the genius of Dr. Carl Taylor’s approach and his vision for not only health care as such, but for PRIMARY HEALTH CARE especially!


WHY is primary or community health care THE point? Simple: If the government doesn’t do it for you (i.e. the Top-Down model) the people must do it for themselves (Bottom-Up model)… Hopefully with some help and guidance from global health or international organizations, sure, but by leading themselves nonetheless.

As for me, I would have never believed I would be interested in a discipline that does not have all the critical & intensive bells and whistles that only Code Blue, cardiac arrests, Swan-Ganz and ICP or resuscitation in hallways can provide and only critical intensive nursing can deliver. However, as my professional development began to move forward, I very slowly started to move away from all that acute rush in hospitals to seeing ‘Public Health’ from not only an administrator point of view, but also from the level of public health policy.

And that’s where it really hits you!

Saving people’s lives one by one thus making a difference in my patients and their families lives in ICU or OR or ER or PACU was wonderful and I loved every minute of my 13+ years on 2 continents and 3 countries! But, if you really want to make a difference, difference on a much broader global scale that is, you must look at the discipline of Public Health – and specifically, International or Global Public Health (as is my Masters Degree) through a different set of eyes and through completely different prism.

And this why I LOVE it so much!

In order to be successful and effective here, you must fully understand the intricacies of health care / patient care delivery, from there you must be abreast on how to deliver said services in a department or an organization, which is finally leading you to realization you can have influence through your earned knowledge and understanding over global issues, politics and public policies that are determined by international decisions via foreign policies. Those in turn deeply affect all those other social determinants of health which decide the actual individual health and well being – or not – of your people. … when they come to ICU and I can save them…

The astounding combination of my 3 professional loves and passions:  [Global] Healthcare, Politics & Administration all lead to my overall passion and I believe a certain inner sense of Global Public Health Administration. And that is why I slowly moved, over the span of several years and large sums of money for university education) from all the bells and whistles in intensive and critical care units to a global view of social determinants of health, determinants affected by political decisions.


From Dr. Taylor’s lecture, we learned that the idea behind ‘community-based primary health care‘ is as ancient and as old as Hippocrates himself, as he began to treat sick people in the open, as in village squares where every person from the village could come and offer advice on treatment and getting better! While I don’t really agree with openly spreading germs to the village, the fact that Hippocrates did not isolate the sick, that he did not put them somewhere ‘away’ from the others, shows his initial foresight of holistic / community approach to healing and showed his outlook to the future foundation for community-based primary health care.

What I also did not know is that it was Hippocrates who first started to separate medicine from public health as he started to recognize that different geographical areas meant different patterns of diseases. That was a major fork in the road for healthcare where medicine has clearly different goals and different strategies from community-based primary health care.


Dr. Carl Taylor stated that in the early days, U.S. physicians viewed primary care as ‘individual’ care, while following approach originating in South Africa encompassed and recognized all aspects of health care in its Community Oriented Primary Care approach (COPC). Here again, many years after Hippocrates, we see the resurgence of the core idea that community is at the center of “health” and well-being of an individual thus of the collective “health” of the whole community.

In a historic context, I would compare this community centered resurgence of the South African (and later American and Israeli) approach to the recent resurgence of the principles of the Alma Ata Declaration. Lancet article (Walley et all. 2008) clearly states that the community-based or community-centered approach to public health is going through a re-birth of sorts as more and more studies show that Dr. Taylor’s SEED-scale approach, which clearly encompasses Kerrer’s South African COPC model, is an approach that takes all other, not only health and disease, but also other social determinants of health in account when dealing with “health“.

Walley says: “The emphasis must shift from single intervention to creating integrated, long-term sustainable and ethical health systems…” Nobody, not the U.N. or any NGO, can achieve this Alma Ata-centered goal without dealing with a host of other determinants. Sadly, for our global health care objectives, those determinants are decided and implemented (-or not-) by sovereign national governments.


Herein resides the problem.

Health does not happen in a vacuum! Very rarely do people get sick out of nowhere…

Health” happens as a result of… or a consequence to… certain political actions or social events.
The primary public health care problem we are discussing here, is a problem originating in poverty, lack of potable water, lack of safe environment, lack of developed infrastructure, lack of knowledge and awareness, and lastly, as a lack of political will.


That is why I applaud the resurgence of the Alma Ata principles taught by Dr. Carl Taylor and the ongoing recognition of the variety of other important aspects that influence, directly or indirectly, the overall status of public health and primary health care in particular.

In fact, it was Hippocrates who preceded Alma Ata Declaration with his vision, when he involved and engaged the whole community in the treatment and planning of healing solutions… And that concept is THE cornerstone of  Alma Ata Declaration!

How does your humanitarian passion look like in 150 words?

Humanitarian aid.

Humanitarian aid. (Photo credit: United States Forces – Iraq (Inactive))

How does your humanitarian passion looks like in 150 words?

Humanitarian work, emergency planning & preparedness, disaster relief, deployment to affected regions and being on the front lines of people needing immediate and urgent help has always been my passion!

Ever since working as a nurse in Emergency Dispatch Unit & Urgent Care, or running to and managing Code Blue life-or-death situations and emergency C-sections at any given moment as a Nurse Anesthetist in a regional Czech hospital, always helping & saving people at the side of the road giving first aid or CPR (2x already), all the way to working 10 years as a critical care nurse responsible for the fundamental survival of very sick patients in ICU & Post-Anesthesia Unit while responding to hospital emergencies and Code Blue events again in an American hospital, my passion, enthusiasm, interest and dedication has always been there.

Whether it is organizing, managing, administering, itemizing, transporting or distributing disaster relief during 3-4 deployments to Haiti, bringing supplies to Africa, or immediately jumping in and doing all of the above on behalf of a city during several devastating events of massive floods in my home country of Czech Republic, seeing and experiencing both the human and material loss, I have always been very appreciative I can serve my global community with compassion, professional knowledge, technical expertise and advanced education.

This is how my passion looks like in 150 words!

How does YOURS look like??

A Mid-Career Czech-up: how do you stack up in 100 words?

A Mid-Career Czech-up: how do you stack up in 100 words?

Wondering how your career looks like in 100 words?

Ever wondered how would your career look like all nicely and neatly summarized (since nothing in life is that simple) all the while looking visually appealing ?

I copied & pasted my professional positions, projects & endeavors in public health, healthcare and politics from my LinkedIn profile and used the amazing to see what have I been really up to for the past 13 years in my let’s say all-encompassing career and how does it stack up to what I feel are my professional passions & interests with what I think I’ve done and accomplished in my career so far.

I must say I am (one-could-almost-say) pleased to see my career in a shape for which I worked, studied and sacrificed so much, AND most importantly as we continue to evolve, for one that is leading toward a better defined shape that keeps on toning and strengthening those already ‘shapely’ areas, keeps on finding new ways of doing, seeing, understanding things… all the while never seizing an opportunity to learn from wise, humble, accomplished and interesting people along the way… AND yet staying true to my ongoing professional calling, my passion and my dedication.

Yes, ALL this in 100 words, no kidding!

Yes, can summarize it way better than me, that’s for sure…

How would your mid-career check-up look like?

Is ‘population diversity & behaviors’ to blame for lower U.S. life expectancy…?

Government Spending

Government Spending (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

Last week I posted article asking a pertinent question “If U.S. Spending is so Outrageous, Are We Getting the BEST?”

The answer is “kind of”.

We do have the best technological and medical advancements in the world, and our acute care and treatments can deliver miracles.  We don’t have to wait 4-6 month for a surgery, we mostly get timely care, good care, and we do have great outcomes. However, as wonderful as that is, it does not impact the overall measurements of ‘life expectancy’ as it falls under the category of ‘acute care’ and we do really well here.

It is injuries or conditions lasting more than 6 months that are considered ‘chronic’ and require ongoing management, ongoing medication, follow-up doctors visits, repeated test, etc… and that’s where the U.S. is seriously lacking. So yes, while we are very good at acute care, we lack in chronic care management – and that does impact the overall ‘life expectancy’ and quality of life.

Which brings me to the fact that even after spending over $8,000 per capita in overall healthcare expenditure in 2010 (the highest in the world) , the U.S. has a lower life expectancy compared to other OECD nations. Why is that? Is “healthcare”  to blame? Is “public health” to blame? Or is it due to our “population diversity and behaviors“?  I have heard many  blaming it on the “diversity & behaviors” part, but in that case a question remains –  isn’t it the health and life expectancy of the whole population, no matter what diversity groups it includes, that makes for ‘life expectancy’ studies, surveys and measurements?

I agree with you that our diverse population is an integral part of our society, however, it is 21st Century and everybody knows that if you want to live longer and have a good quality of life, when you are not feeling well or have certain episodes – you should go see a doctor. And this is where the crux of “it is population diversity & behaviors fault” argument weakens, as 50 million of low-income working Americans (yes, majority about 80% are working and 82% are legal citizens) DO NOT have options or access to a non-acute or preventive care, so they go without seeing a doctor, without taking medications, and without ongoing management of preventable conditions – NOT because of their population diversity or behaviors – but because under the current system they have no viable option for obtaining health plans!

This clearly and directly impacts the overall life expectancy and thus the overall quality of healthcare we as ‘all Americans’ get.
If 1 in 5 Americans don’t have access to health care – it seriously impacts all of us in terms of loss of economic potential, loss of productivity, and in the end, in an increase in overall health care spending.

I ask again, does $8,000 per capita (twice as much as others developed nations) deliver the best health care to our society? Does it…?

Now, since we established that “population diversity & behaviors” are not to blame for lower U.S. life expectancy, is it a fault of healthcare, or public health? The answer is “yes” as the status of U.S. health care and it’s overall total health care spending and expenditures is a direct result and implication of U.S. health policies implementations. States are responsible for health care but federal government plays its role in Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP & other programs.

Medicaid, for example, by covering health care needs of pregnant women and prenatal care is not only delivering health care, but also implementing a U.S. public health policy. Smoking cessation programs – public health issue, or health care issue? Both, as continued smoking leads to lung cancer, COPD, emphysema etc… and that is very costly in terms of health care spending. Public health programs are offering smoking cessation in order to prevent future health care spending, a clear integration of health care and public health policies.

Without proper public health policies we will not be able to deliver proper health care to our diverse population. Clear and simple.


Yes, while certain “diverse” behaviors cause increase in health care spending (i.e. smoking, bad diet etc..), if we look at it closer – these behaviors span all socio-economic levels, not only diverse population often mentioned. So we are back at the beginning, why the U.S. has lower life expectancy that other OECD nations? The one clear answer is that it is not due to “population diversity and behaviors”.


If U.S. health care spending is so outrageous, are we getting the BEST?

In today’s heated political and economic debates, healthcare reform and healthcare spending remain a hot topic of conversation – and rightfully so!

Why is it that while the U.S. spent over $8,000 per capita on health care in 2010 (almost 50% more than Norway and Switzerland in 2nd and 3rd place), per OECD ratings, we deliver only average level of care based on U.S. lower life expectancy, lower than Switzerland or Norway. Life expectancy graph puts the U.S. roughly in the middle of the developed countries in life expectancy at birth (the longest gevity is in Japan). How Does the United States Compare page 1.

The problem with that is that other developed countries who show even higher life expectancy than the U.S. are able to bring their population to such age for a fraction (or at least for 50% less) of total health care cost than here in the U.S. It shows that the huge per capital spending does NOT necessarily assure or ensure longer gevity delivered through better care or more advanced technological treatments.

So WHY does health care cost so much in the U.S.?

The answer comes under the cloak of science, as the most significant contributor to U.S. health care cost growth is technology innovation & medical advancement. Clear and simple. We have the best diagnostics, imaging, new-surgery-techniques, technological possibilities and acute care treatments & capabilities in the world – bar none. The fact that we are also a wealthy country contributes to our income growth meaning that the wealthier the country – the more of healthcare consumer spending and insurance-induced demand there is.

It stands to reason that while new medical technology may be expensive, when used in time and appropriately, it does extend patients lives, improves their quality of life which in turn makes them live longer and makes them more productive. So technology – it’s a go! But the need for increased healthcare efficiency with curbed spending will bring a major strain on the U.S. health system in the coming years.

While the U.S. has the best diagnostic and acute health services in the world, we are lacking in preventive care and in management of chronic diseases and conditions affecting a large segment of U.S. (aging) population. Additionally, the wealthiest country in the world and we have around 50 million un-insured people from working families! Yes, you heard right, a vast majority are from working families – as in low-income workers unable to afford private or employer-based health plans premiums. Kaiser Family Foundation Primer (2010) states that 50% of ALL health care spending is used to treat 5% of the population and they are the people with 3+ chronic diseases needing ongoing medical & nursing care, list of medications, follow-up doctor’s visits and other services.

Needless to say that the un-insured have overall much worse health conditions as, due to financial constrains, they do not go see doctors with first symptoms, do not get medications to correct or manage conditions, do not go for tests or follow ups to see how such condition(s) can be treated or fixed or improved. So such condition(s) grow in silence and when finally there is a life-threatening event – they will go to emergency rooms where they will get the care including all those technology innovation & medical advancement tests, images, diagnostic procedures and latest treatments, but they will also get a bill for all that technology innovation & medical advancement. And anybody who went through ER and spent a couple of days in a hospital knows the amount I am taking about here! And without insurance plan to help cover the large amount, they are left with a stark total!

Let’s not forget, these un-insured are not insured not because they don’t want to or feel like getting a health insurance, but because their low-income jobs leave them unable to pay for private or employer-sponsored health plans and not eligible for Medicaid and too young for Medicare (over 65 y.o.)  Yes, it is true, hospitals can write something off, but on average, it still leaves the low-income un-insured with a bill of about 1/3 of the hospital cost. And good luck with that!