Emergency Triage and the ESI

Emergency Concept Vector Illustration

This spring, a correctional facility I visit regularly, implemented a new triage system as part of the facility’s emergency response plan. It’s called the Emergency Severity Index (ESI) and has been recommended by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) since 2010. Since then, more and more hospital emergency departments have been implementing use of the ESI. In the Essentials of Correctional Nursing we recommended that correctional facilities use the same triage categories as those used by emergency service providers in the local community. If the ESI is being used in your community maybe it’s time to consider incorporating it into your facility’s emergency response system.

What is the Emergency Severity Index or ESI?

The ESI guides nurses’ in the evaluation of patient acuity and the resources that will be needed to treat the patient. Acuity is defined as the stability of a patient’s vital functions and the potential threat to life, limb or organ. Resources are defined as the number of resources to stabilize and initiate treatment. The result is a triage decision that stratifies patients’ need for emergency treatment into five levels of urgency. It was developed by a group of emergency nurses, physicians, managers, educators and researchers in collaboration with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) who continue to update the tool and related training material.

How does it work?

The ESI is an algorithm that incorporates only four questions and the answers lead to a triage conclusion. The four questions are:

  • Does the patient require immediate life-saving intervention? If so the patient is triaged as ESI level 1. No further triage is necessary and life saving measures are initiated immediately. Life saving measures are those which secure an airway, maintain breathing, support circulation or address a major change in level of consciousness. If the answer is no then go to the next question.
  • Can the patient wait to be seen medically? Three criteria are used to make this determination.
    1. Is it a condition that could deteriorate quickly or for which treatment is time-critical?
    2. Is the patient confused, lethargic or disoriented?
    3. Is the patient in severe pain or distress?

A yes answer to any of the above means that the patient cannot wait and so is triaged as ESI level 2. No further triage evaluation is necessary and the nurse’s focus shifts to ensuring prompt initiation of treatment. If the patient does not need to be seen urgently then proceed to the next question.

  • How many different resources are needed to address the patient’s chief complaint? The nurse uses their experience to predict how many different kinds of interventions will be necessary to diagnose and treat the patient. Resources are those beyond basic first aid, point of care testing and medications. Diagnostic tests, procedures, consults, and inpatient admission are considered resources.

If more than two different resources will be needed (i.e. lab and an EKG) the patient is triaged ESI level 3. If one resource will be needed (i.e. x rays) the patient is triaged ESI level 4. If no resources will be needed (i.e. injury dressed, ice applied and medication administered) the patient is triaged ESI level 5. These level determinations may be altered by the presence of abnormal vital signs, which is considered next.

  • Does the patient have abnormal vital signs? Any patient with an elevated heart rate, increased respirations or a low oxygen saturation rate should be reconsidered for ESI level 2 and seen urgently.

What are the advantages of using the ESI?

The ESI has been found to be more accurate than other triage systems because it is simple and reduces subjectivity. One benefit is that it identifies patients in need of immediate attention more rapidly than other methods. The ESI can help prioritize clinical staff attention and resources and it facilitates communication about patient acuity more effectively. It also has been used as the foundation for facility policy and procedure. The jail referred to at the beginning of this post has since drafted policy and procedure setting timeframes for response to each of the ESI levels. By keeping track of emergencies by ESI level the data can be used to determine if practices could be improved with targeted training or enhanced resources. Finally, the AHRQ maintains a website on the ESI that includes an implementation handbook that can be downloaded for free. There are also DVDs that include lectures and case studies that can be used to support training in use of the ESI. There is no charge for these materials but they must be requested from the site.

How easy and reliable is it?

The ESI has been found to be an easy, reliable and valid measure of patient acuity and resource need in multiple hospital settings and comparison groups. If you want to try it out, use your experience to determine the ESI rating for the patients in these four examples which come from the training material provided at the AHRQ site:

  1. A 58-year-old male complains of left lower-quadrant abdominal pain for 3 days. He denies nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. No change in appetite. past medical history HTN. Vital signs: T 100°F, RR 18, HR 80, BP 140/72, SpO2 98%. Pain 5/10.
  2. An 18-year-old female is brought to medical because her cell mate found her lethargic and “not acting right”. The patient has a history of depression. On exam, you notice multiple superficial lacerations to both wrists. Her respiratory rate is 10, and her SpO2 on room air is 86 percent.
  3. A 72-year-old male fell and hit his head in the cell. He is awake, alert, and oriented and remembers the fall. He has a past medical history of atrial fibrillation and is on multiple medications, including warfarin. His vital signs are within normal limits.
  4. “I have had a cold for a few days, and today I started wheezing. I need a breathing treatment,” reports a 39-year-old female with a history of asthma. T 98°F, RR 22, HR 88, BP 130/80, SpO2 99%, No meds, no allergies.

Answers: 

  1. ESI level 3: Two or more resources. Abdominal pain in a 58-year-old male will require two or more resources. At a minimum, he will need labs and an abdominal CT.
  2. ESI level 1: Requires immediate lifesaving intervention. The patient’s respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and inability to protect her own airway indicate the need for immediate endotracheal intubation.
  3. ESI level 2: High risk. Patients taking warfarin who fall are at high risk of internal bleeding. Although the patients’ vital signs are within normal limits and he shows no signs of a head injury, he needs a prompt evaluation and a head CT.
  4. ESI level 4: One resource. This patient only needs a nebulizer treatment for her wheezing. No labs or x-ray should be necessary because the patient does not have a fever.

How did you do? Was it easy to use? There are hundreds of case examples included in the ESI training materials which is a great resource for correctional nurses. There also is a chapter devoted to evaluating competency in the use of the ESI tool.

This blog post is dedicated to bringing down to earth, practical resources and advice for nurses who practice in correctional settings. The ESI is described here because it is increasingly being used by emergency departments in the United States and may be used in your community. If so, you may want to consider using it at your facility as well. If you use the ESI at your facility, please share your experience by replying in the comments section of this post.

For more on this subject read Chapters 16 in the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order a copy directly from the publisher or from Amazon today!

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Stewardship involves the health care team

The last two posts have been about the challenge we all face in preventing the development of antibiotic resistance and treating those who have antibiotic resistant diseases. In today’s world of antibiotic resistant diseases, we all are guided to be vigilant when the plan of care contains antibiotic therapy. Providers have an important role in antibiotic stewardship and so does the rest of the corrections health team, including the nursing staff, the pharmacy, laboratory and clerical staff to ensure our patients receive the community standard of care with regard to treating infectious disease. This post highlights the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons’ development of guidelines for antibiotic stewardship in correctional health care.

Clinical practice guidelines

In 2013, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) published Antimicrobial Stewardship Guidance. The BOP is the first correctional health care system to develop and make available to the public a written plan to address prevention and treatment of antibiotic resistant disease. Since then other systems have used it as the basis to develop their own guidelines on the use of antibiotics.  The BOP guidelines provide information about:

  • diagnosing and identifying infections
  • understanding lab values,
  • therapy selections,
  • multi-drug resistant organisms
  • national guidelines for treatment.
  • to communication, competencies and training.

Strategies of the BOP Program

The BOP guidance is based upon four strategies:

  • Education for all staff about appropriate use of antimicrobial agents
  • Formulary management with varying degrees of restriction in the use of antibiotics
  • Prior approval programs for antibiotic medications not on the formulary
  • Converting patients from broad to narrow spectrum antibiotic therapy.

Communication, communication, communication

Communication, is at the heart of success in promoting antibiotic stewardship.  The BOP guidelines stress that patient satisfaction is influenced more by communication, than by whether or not the patient receives an antibiotic. Communication is used to validate the patient’s illness, help them understand the disease as well as the treatment options. Sometimes antibiotics are warranted and sometime they are not and we use communication to help the patient understand the treatment recommended for their illness.  Communication practices recommended by the BOP include:

  • Choosing terminology–using the diagnosis name instead of referring an illness as “just a virus” validates the patient’s symptoms. They will be more willing to participate in the treatment plan when they know you care about what is happening to them. No matter how mild or severe, all illnesses are important to the patient.
  • Offering symptomatic relief—it takes sensitivity when talking about a condition that is a virus or other illness that does not require use of antibiotics. Provide information about symptomatic relief such as over the counter medications, showers, hydration, gargles and warm or cold packs. In addition to talking with the patient provide a handout to reinforce the information.
  • Discuss expectations for the course of illness and possible medication side effects—none of us hears everything the provider tells us at a visit. Our patients benefit from knowing what to report, what improvements looks like and when to report worsening symptoms. Patients should receive information about their illness, treatment or self-care options, what to expect and when to seek medical attention from nursing staff and others at every subsequent patient interaction.

Good communication provides the means to engage patients in the recommended and most appropriate treatment regime.

Nursing competencies and training

Infectious disease is a large group of illness and a challenge in maintaining a current knowledge base. In corrections health, we become more proficient in the most common diseases that our patients have. To assist us we have tools, such as standard protocols for MRSA and skin infections, pneumonia, tuberculosis, sepsis, gynecological infections, urinary infections and sexual transmitted diseases. Just keeping up with the laboratory tests and newly developed antibiotics can be a daily learning experience.

The BOP guidelines list the following infectious disease competencies for correctional nurses:

  • Understanding culture and sensitivity laboratory report results.
  • Understanding common IV antibiotic dosing, frequencies and regimes.
  • Knowing the signs of improving clinical status that facilitate de-escalation.
  • Understanding the timing of medication dosing and blood sample collection.
  • Knowing the signs/symptoms of common allergic reactions to frequently used medications.
  • Awareness of the facility antibiotic therapy guidelines.
  • Knowing the common side effects and adverse events associated with antimicrobials.
  • Understanding the principles of antibiotic stewardship.

The ups and downs of antibiotics

In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming, discovered a naturally occurring antiseptic enzyme. He was quoted as saying “one sometimes finds what one is not looking for”. From his work, in six years, penicillin was discovered.  From early to modern history antibiotics have played a major part in wellness and prevention of mortality.  Today, we have new challenges from organisms adapting to medications and not curing illness. Everyone in the health care profession is working to curb this and to ensure all of us receive treatment that HEALS.

Are the infectious disease competencies for correctional nurses recommended by the BOP the ones you would recommend? What additions or changes to this list of competencies would you recommend? Please share your ideas by replying in the comments section of this post.

Read more about the identification and management of infectious diseases in the correctional setting in our book the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order a copy directly from the publisher or from Amazon today! 

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Superbugs are not only in your garden!

superbugsDo you find bugs in your yard and garden that are eating your plants, roots, grass and eliminating flowers? Have you tried pesticides only to find the bugs come back stronger by becoming pesticide resistant? Our bodies are the same as plant life in the garden.  The ready availability and use of antibiotics to treat illnesses has resulted in emerging infectious diseases that are resistant to known treatment modalities.

News is Full of Superbug Warning

There are more and more articles in the community papers, TV news shows and health care literature about the challenges to cure health conditions that are caused by medication resistant organisms. The most recent story  warned that in the US this new “nightmare superbug” is a strain of e-coli.  They used the words “alarming development and terrifying”.  Other frequently discussed antibiotic resistant infections have been for tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and skin infections. Some parts of the world are trying to get a handle on resistant strains of malaria.

Corrections Health Responses

In recent years, corrections health programs have developed guidelines and procedures for skin infections and tuberculosis.  They vary with the program and include prevention, identification, treatment and follow up care.  The level of isolation or protection and the use of an antibiotic regime is set by the medical directors and pharmacists.  Custody and health staff have become accustomed to being taught about preventing contagious disease and are skilled in using standard precautions, wearing gloves, respecting wounds that are bandaged and reporting concerns to medical.  Having sanitizing gel and gloves available around the facilities is the norm now instead of the exception.

Precautions to Consider

The picture of superbugs really encompasses a world view as changes in how we live and the treatments we receive for illness has contributed to more organisms being resistant to current therapies.  We normally focus on our facilities, however, some of the recommendations to help slow down the emerging resistant diseases encourages us to take a larger world view of public health. The United Kingdom recently published a multi-nation review of how to tackle the problem of drug resistant organisms infections. The report outlines steps that should be taken by each of us individually and as leaders in health care at our facility to curb the tide of emerging “superbugs”.

  • Raise awareness of the threat of inappropriate antibiotic use.
  • Improved hygiene to safeguard against infections.
  • Less unnecessary microbial use in agriculture, aided by improved transparency by retailers and food producers.
  • Better monitoring of drug resistance.
  • Development of both diagnostics to cut unnecessary antibiotic use and improved vaccines and alternatives.

Another recent article about superbugs described a woman in Pennsylvania diagnosed with drug resistant e-coli and noted the specialized diagnostic and therapeutic resources necessary to treat her. The article also described how new the information about emerging drug resistant disease is and the lack of coordinated and widely disseminated research.  So not only do we all need to keep abreast of the infectious disease that are arriving in our facilities, but bring awareness of the need for specialized education and training in infectious disease prevention.

Main Warning

We have heard for years about the dangers of antibiotic resistant diseases and have developed procedures and protocols in monitoring and treatment. The most frequently stated practice change is to have antibiotic stewardship programs to curb the inappropriate use of antibiotics. Many of our patients coming into custody have a history of frequent antibiotic use and want us to give them antibiotics for many of their ailments. We need to provide patients with education about appropriate antibiotic use; we also need to ensure staff are knowledgeable and that the practice guidelines are based upon the most current evidence.  To address resistance in gardening we now treat superbugs with beneficial insects like green lacewings, ladybugs and praying mantis so lets do the same in health care with appropriate antibiotic use and stewardship. That way we may affect the predictions that millions of people may become ill from “superbug infections” by year 2050.

What are you doing to help curb antibiotic use in your place of work? Do you have any special patient teaching tips or resources you would like to share with us? If you do please put your sharing in the comment sections below.  We all can learn from each other.

 

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Intake Health Screening: Truth or Consequences?

Skinny Fighting LiarLast week I reviewed a letter responding to a complaint from an inmate’s wife that her husband was not receiving proper care for a back injury received when he was apprehended. The response starts like this “During intake screening on February 10, 2016 the inmate denied recent injury or hospitalizations. He also denied any past history of injury. Upon examination there were no signs or symptoms of injury to his back.”

How many times had you had something similar happen- an inmate seems to be healthy and denies any medical or mental health issues at intake, then a few hours, days or weeks later complains about a particular health issue alleging that it either happened just before incarceration or has been long standing? I have seen this happen lots of times. The letter above reminded me once again how inaccurate and unreliable health information obtained at intake can be. Some nurses I work with actually took a retrospective look at the accuracy of health information collected at intake compared to information obtained by asking the same questions a week later.  What were the findings? Well, it was surprising how much more information the inmate was able to provide.

What do you think are some of the reasons that information taken during intake screening differs from that obtained later? These are some of the reasons that nurses give when asked this question:

  1. Inmates are unreliable or untruthful. If you think about your experience with patients in emergency nursing, urgent care and to some extent ambulatory care settings you would probably agree that they didn’t always tell the whole truth either. Inmates really aren’t different in this regard. It is unrealistic to expect patients to tell you the whole truth when you are asking screening questions.
  2. Inmates are affected by drugs or alcohol and not aware of other health problems they may have, like infected teeth or other sources of pain. Jail nurses cite this as a reason more often. This is because the detainee arrives at the facility directly from the community. It’s always wise for the nurse to be mindful that they have not witnessed the inmate or their environment in the minutes, hours or days prior to intake screening and the inmate may not be able tell us that the headache they have, for example, is a subdural hematoma from a fight that happened on the transport bus an hour ago.
  3. Inmates are manipulative and distort the truth for secondary gain. Yes, they do. If I imagine myself in the same situation, I would too. If what I tell the nurse about my health gets me a preferable setting, with more access to visitation or a lower custody housing assignment, or protection from other inmates then I would answer intake screening questions in a way that is likely to result in my desired outcome. It doesn’t matter if the nurse has that kind of decision making power or not; if the inmate believes the nurse can influence these things they will answer accordingly.

Realizing that an inmate may not have answered the health screening questions fully will protect you from coming to clinical judgements and decisions that are based upon incomplete or inaccurate information. Other reasons for inaccurate intake screening information include:

  • An environment that is not conducive to sharing personal health information. This could be because other inmates can overhear the interview or that correctional officers are nearby. At one jail I visited, intake screening took place with a nurse sitting at a computer behind an elevated counter. The inmate was standing below, speaking to the nurse through a Plexiglas screen. Other inmates were standing about five feet away and officers were everywhere. This was equivalent to giving your health history by megaphone at a football game. No thanks!
  • Failure to communicate effectively. This could be because of cultural or language differences or disability. Health information is a complicated subject. If English is not the inmate’s primary language, the accuracy of screening information collected using English is not going to be as accurate as that collected in the inmate’s native language. The same is true of those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Considering cultural practices regarding health care will also yield richer information than when these are disregarded. Lastly, an uninterested and hardened nurse is not going to elicit personal health information very well from a patient in any setting, not just inmates in the correctional setting.
  • Health care is really not a priority at intake. This is true for the inmate as well as the facility. When an inmate arrives at a jail it is usually because they have just been arrested. Again, when I imagine myself in those shoes, I would be more concerned about when or if I could make bail, how to make contact with my family or someone who can help me and the immediate consequences of my arrest. My health care is not very important until I begin to feel bad. Being asked a bunch of questions about my health status and history is really an annoyance, especially if I believe I won’t be in jail very long. Prisons or detention facilities are different, but still at intake, health care is not likely to be as important as other things, such as housing, access to property, contact with family, and safety for most detainees. Later when these other concerns have been addressed, aspects of health care become more important.

So what does a correctional nurse do about this?

  1. Remember that intake screening is for the purpose of safety. It is to make the best determination possible about care or treatment that an inmate will need for the next few days. Establishing medical support for detoxification, arranging for an inmate to continue important medications and addressing trauma are the primary things to get done. It is not the best time to expect a complete history and physical.
  2. Think of every subsequent health care encounter as another opportunity to add meaningful information to the inmate’s health record. What was documented at intake may no longer be as accurate. Inmates are usually not very sophisticated about health care and may not know or remember what is important to tell their health care provider about. You can model this in your interaction with inmates and can also coach them in preparation for their primary care appointment. View each encounter as adding a chapter to a patient’s book rather than a battle over what the inmate gets or not.
  3. Take an objective look at what intake screening is like from the inmate’s perspective. Go out to booking or the intake area and observe the process. What is the experience like? Identify the things that may be barriers to giving information during health screening and see if anything can be changed to improve the process. Not all of the barriers can be eliminated but just knowing what they are gives a good picture of the things that make intake screening vulnerable to inaccuracy. This information can be used to identify inmates or the kinds of situations which might benefit from scheduled follow up.

Are there reasons that you think make intake health screening inaccurate or unreliable that are not mentioned in this post? What advice would you give others to improve the accuracy or reliability of intake health screening?

For more about the art and science of intake health screening refer to Chapter 14 about Health Screening in the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. You can order a copy directly from the publisher or from Amazon today.

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Heart Disease and Women Part 5: Answers to the Cardiac Risk Quiz

Heart disease risk

The last post gave five case examples and readers were asked to identify the cardiac risk factors in each. In addition, readers were asked which of the five had the most cardiovascular risk and which had the least. Finally, readers were asked to identify the counseling recommendations for each patient. The following are the answers to the questions and a discussion of each answer.

Which of the five women is at greatest risk for heart disease?

All five women have risk factors for heart disease however based upon what we know now about each of them, Ms. Joseph is at greatest risk. She has two of the most significant risk factors, smoking and diabetes. Ms. Joseph also has more risk factors than the others and risk accumulates with each additional risk factor. These include that she is over 65, menopausal, sedentary and has little or no social contacts. Because she has diabetic complications we may find other risk factors upon gathering additional data.

Ms. Ott and Ms. Hollister would be the next most at risk. Ms. Ott because of the significant risk factors of continued tobacco use, hyperlipidemia and poor treatment adherence. Ms. Hollister because of the cumulative number of risk factors, including family history of heart disease, menstrual irregularity and now menopause, sedentary lifestyle, being overweight and excessive intake of alcohol.

Which of these women is at the least risk?

Ms. Falwell is in the best cardiovascular health of the group. Her hypertension is well controlled. Her alcohol and drug use and emotions about the separation from her children are the only contributors to her risk of heart disease. She is of normal weight, physically and socially active. Ms. Garcia’s only risk factors are obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Obesity, though is a significant contributor to heat disease (2-3 x risk increase) and because she is continuing to gain weight, Ms. Garcia cannot be considered at lowest risk.

What are the recommendations you would make in counseling each of these women?

Case example 1. Ms. Falwell’s counseling emphasizes three points: a. continued involvement and attention in managing her hypertension (regular monitoring and medication adherence) b. stress management and developing healthy avenues to address anger and anxiety c. limiting drug and alcohol use (perhaps participating in the facility AA or NA groups or attending classes to increase her knowledge about the effects of drug and alcohol as well as treatment options). Ms. Falwell already has several good lifestyle habits that can be leveraged to increase opportunity to control cardiac risk.

Case example 2. Ms. Joseph’s counseling is focused on achieving good control of her diabetes to prevent further complications as well as the identification and early intervention to address other cardiac risk factors, including obesity, dyslipidemia and hypertension. Most correctional facilities no longer allow smoking so Ms. Garcia has been forced into smoking cessation which will lower her cardiac risk over time but if she is to be released to the community continued smoking cessation would be an important goal for her. I would also recommend a mental health evaluation to rule out depression or another mental health disorder as an explanation for her social isolation and based upon those results try to increase her social interactions. Lastly, a program to increase her physical activity should be developed that is appropriate for her age and physical limitations.

Case example 3. Ms. Ott’s counseling is directed to smoking cessation as a first priority and second, the effectiveness of her treatment for hyperlipidemia. While smoking at the facility is prohibited Ms. Ott continues to crave cigarettes and has violated this disciplinary rule recently. She should be encouraged to participate in one or more smoking cessation programs that are available at the correctional facility and her steps to do this discussed and acknowledged during her health care appointments. Ms. Ott’s medication administration record should be monitored and she should be seen regularly to discuss adherence with the medication she is prescribed. Barriers to adherence should be identified and ways to resolve adherence problems developed with the patient. A change in medication should be considered if her lipid levels cannot be lowered with the currently prescribed medication. Her lipid levels should be monitored closely.

Case example 4. Ms. Garcia’s counseling emphasizes weight loss, proper nutrition and incorporating exercise into her daily life. She has gained weight since admission to prison and is now more than 30% overweight, a tremendous increase in cardiac risk. She already is on a heart healthy, reduced calorie medical diet but eats a lot of canteen food. She should be monitored regularly for symptoms of hypertension, dyslipidemia, and metabolic syndrome perhaps best done in a cardiovascular chronic disease program or nursing driven wellness program, she should receive education about heart disease prevention and encouraged to adopt better eating habits and to begin walking or some other form of aerobic exercise three to five times a week. Finding out what she is most motivated to change and helping her to develop plans to make small change or new behavior is the primary focus of counseling Ms. Garcia.

Case example 5. Ms. Hollister’s family history cannot be changed so her counseling focuses on the alterable risk factors of weight control, exercise, and limited alcohol use. She gave a history of significant alcohol use and should be referred for alcohol and drug counseling, and encouraged to attend AA or NA groups, if she has not already. Helping her to understand her risk of heart disease resulting from alcohol use may provide additional motivation for her to participate in treatment. Education about nutrition choices on the institution menu and canteen, counseling or problem solving to reduce caloric intake along with weight monitoring to lose some or all of the 35 extra pounds would be another counseling goal for Ms. Hollister. She also would benefit from adding aerobic exercise three to five times a week to her schedule. A group wellness or heart healthy program is a convenient way to provide information, educate and encourage adoption of lifestyle changes that increase fitness and reduce weight.

Each of these women would benefit from knowing their cardiac risk profile and participating in an earnest discussion about what can be done to limit or prevent heart disease. Any success you have with these patients not only effects their health during incarceration but far into the future. Even if you are not successful in achieving a single improvement now the information you provide makes it more likely one or more of these women will make a change in the future than if you did nothing. After suicide, heart disease was the leading cause of death among women in jails in the United States from 2000 through 2013. Except for cancer, heart disease caused the most deaths among women in prison in the United States during this same time period (2015).

You might want to identify those women at your facility who have the highest risk for cardiovascular disease and then offer a counseling, diet and activity program developed to reduce their risk. It would be interesting to see what results would be achieved at 4 weeks, 8 weeks and 12 weeks. It would be a great study especially if it was compared to a control group.

What ideas do you have about nurses’ involvement in programs to reduce heart disease and related deaths among women who are incarcerated? Please comment by responding in the comments section of this post.

The following are some excellent online resources about heart disease and women:

To read more about nursing care of women patients in correctional settings with cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases see Chapters 6 and 9 of the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order a copy directly from the publisher or from Amazon today!

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Heart Disease and Women Part 4: Assessing Cardiac Risk Quiz

Portrait of young beautiful woman doctor holding red heart against gray background

We have spent the last several posts examining how women’s’ presentation in an impending cardiac event differs from men. We also looked at the emerging data that differentiates women’s cardiac risk from that of men. In this post we put our knowledge assessing cardiac risk to the test! Review the following paragraphs and identify the cardiac risk factors in each case example.

Case example 1. Ms. Falwell is a 38-year-old black woman who has been incarcerated for 10 months. She is single with three children who are living with her mother. Ms. Falwell has hypertension which has been well controlled with medication (ACE inhibitor). She is of a normal weight and her labs are unremarkable. She has a history of THC use and moderate alcohol intake but has not used tobacco. She is considered well-adjusted to prison life having been active in classes and other programs at the facility and taking part in competitive sports but also has expressed a good deal of anger and anxiety to her counselor and other inmates about the separation from her children and its impact on them.

Case example 2. Ms. Joseph is a 65-year-old white woman who is incarcerated for neglect and abuse of children in her day care. She has been an insulin dependent diabetic since she was in junior high school. She has diabetic retinopathy as well as peripheral neuropathy. Until her incarceration last year, she had been a heavy smoker since adolescence. She is housed in the special needs unit near the infirmary because she uses a wheelchair and needs assistance with all activities of daily living. She has no visitors or contact with her family and does not participate in any programs at the correctional facility.

Case example 3. Ms. Ott is 55 years old, of Malaysian descent and has just been incarcerated for manufacturing and distributing drugs. She has used drugs and tobacco daily for more than 30 years. During her admitting physical she was diagnosed with hyperlipidemia – her HDL was 35 mg/dL and LDL was 145 mg/dL. She has been prescribed a lipid lowering agent but is only partially adherent. Ms. Ott was disciplined recently for having cigarettes in her property so it is likely that she is still smoking even though this is prohibited at the facility.

Case example 4. Ms. Garcia is a 44-year-old Hispanic woman incarcerated the last two years for theft from several businesses where she and her husband were the night janitors. At 5’3” weighing 220 lbs. she is considered obese. Her provider has her on a reduced calorie diet but has gained weight since incarceration because she barters for junk food from the canteen. Her abdominal girth is substantial and the prison jumpsuit she was issued had to be altered to fit. She does not participate in any exercise programming at the facility. She does work two hours a day as the janitor on her living unit.

Case example 5. Ms. Hollister is a black woman 49 years of age and was transferred from jail to prison a few days ago to begin serving a ten-year sentence. During the admission health assessment, she gives a family history of heart disease. Upon further inquiry by the nurse Ms. Hollister’s father had an MI at age 53 and he eventually had a CABG procedure done. Her brother had a fatal MI at the age of 46. She has been receiving hormone replacement therapy for menstrual irregularity and now is in menopause. Ms. Hollister has led a sedentary lifestyle, is 35 lbs. overweight, does not exercise and has a significant history of alcohol use.

Questions:

  • Which of these five women is at greatest risk for heart disease?
  • Which of these woman is at the least risk?
  • What are the recommendations you would make in counseling each of these women?

See how your answers compare with the discussion about each of these questions in the next post. In the meantime, read more about correctional nursing in our book the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order a copy directly from the publisher or from Amazon today!

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Heart Disease and Women Part 2: Traditional Cardiac Risk Factors

Heart - Female Organs - Human AnatomyWomen, as well as their healthcare providers, tend to underestimate risk of heart disease in women. The woman in the case example last week presented with six risk factors for heart disease.  Age, gender, family history and ethnic background are the only risk factors that cannot be altered; all of the others can be prevented. By midlife (40 to 50 years of age) almost all women have at least one cardiac risk factor (more than 80%) and the burden of heart disease increases synergistically with the presence of each risk factor. Among women, ages 18-39 years old, followed for an average of 31 years, those with 1 or fewer risk factors had 88% less cardiovascular mortality compared with those who had 2 or more risk factors. This is why the American Heart Association recommends that prevention of cardiovascular risk factors in women begin at an early age. The following paragraphs describe each of the risk factors traditionally associated with heart disease and their impact on women and their health.

Obesity: Incidence of obesity in the U.S. is greater than any other country with 24 states reporting rates of obesity over 30%. The prevalence of heart disease and death are the highest in these states as well. Non-Hispanic black women compared to other racial groups have the highest obesity rates (49.6%). The incidence of obesity among post-menopausal women has been reported as high as 40% and even when women do not gain additional weight, their weight is redistributed to the abdomen which is associated with higher rates of heart disease. Women who are obese have 2-3 times greater risk of an acute cardiac event compared to women who are not overweight.

Dyslipidemia: Elevated serum levels for low density lipoprotein, triglycerides, and total cholesterol as well as low levels of high density lipoprotein are all associated with heart disease in women. Data from the Nurse’s Health Study showed significantly higher risk for myocardial infarction and ischemic heart disease among women who had a higher intake of saturated fat in their diet. All of the major treatment guidelines recommend similar approaches for treatment of men and women and yet women are less likely to be prescribed lipid lowering medication or achieve recommended goals for cholesterol compared to men. This finding supports the role of nurses in informing women about risk factors and helping to advocate for treatment consistent with guideline recommendations.

Diabetes: The number of women diagnosed with diabetes has tripled since 1980 and is now more common in women than men. Women with diabetes experience more serious cardiovascular disease and have a cardiovascular mortality rate twice that of diabetic men. Women with diabetes have 6 times higher risk of cardiovascular death compared with women without diabetes. Diabetes is considered the second most significant risk factor for heart disease.

Metabolic syndrome: This refers to the clustering of obesity, dyslipidemia, diabetes, and hypertension in an individual. Women with metabolic syndrome have significantly increased prevalence of atherosclerotic disease and higher cardiovascular mortality rates than women who do not.

Physical inactivity: Among women 18 years of age and older, only about a third engage in regular physical activity. Women report lower levels of physical activity compared to men which contributes to risk for heart disease. Although the benefits of cardiac rehabilitation programs in reducing cardiovascular risk after a cardiac event are well known, women are referred by their health care provider  at lower rates than men. Those who are referred have low attendance rates compared to men and are significantly less likely to complete cardiac rehabilitation.

Hypertension: Women with hypertension have greater risk of heart disease compared to men with hypertension. Hypertensive women have three to four times the risk of heart disease compared to women with normal blood pressure. Women with hypertension are less often diagnosed than men and when diagnosed and treated, the condition is not as well controlled as in men. Furthermore, hypertension in non-Hispanic black women tends to be more severe, treated less adequately and results in significant cardiac morbidity and mortality. Pregnant women and women older than 65 years of age are also at high risk of developing hypertension.

Tobacco use: Women who smoke are at 25% greater risk of ischemic heart disease than men who smoke. Women who smoke experience significantly higher rates of fatal and non-fatal ischemic heart events compared to women who do not smoke. The largest difference in risk between smokers and non-smokers was among women less than 49 years of age. Women who smoke more than 24 cigarettes a day have a tenfold increase in risk for myocardial infarction compared to non-smokers. Smoking is considered the most preventable cardiac risk factor.

Psychosocial: Depression is a major risk factor for ischemic heart disease and this mental health disorder is twice as common in women compared to men. In addition lack of social relationships, particularly loneliness, in women is associated with greater cardiac morbidity and mortality. Also two studies have found hostility to be a significant predictor of risk for ischemic heart disease in women. Interestingly several studies failed to find a correlation between Type A personality traits and heart disease among women.

Hormones: Postmenopausal women are believed to be more vulnerable to heart disease because of the absence of estrogen. However large clinical trials of postmenopausal women receiving hormone replacement have not shown that it reduces heart disease, suggesting that the relationship between hormones and heart disease is complex and not yet well understood. Women who take oral hormonal contraceptives are at increased risk of heart disease especially in the presence of other cardiovascular risk factors.

The rate of heart disease increases with the number of traditional risk factors present. This is true of both men and women. In Ms. Locke’s case (the example in last week’s post) there were six risk factors for heart disease; which one of these was not preventable? What were the other five risk factors? What nursing interventions should be included in her chronic disease care plan?

The use of traditional risk factors alone has been criticized as underestimating heart disease risk in women, particularly those with subclinical disease. Improving risk estimation and detection of heart disease in women has led to the identification of newer or non-traditional risk factors. Next week we will look at the new or non-traditional risk factors for heart disease in relationship to women’s health.

For more about nursing care of patients in correctional settings with cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases see Chapters 6 and 9 of the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order a copy directly from the publisher or from Amazon today!

References:

McSweeney, J.C., et al. (2016) Preventing and experiencing ischemic heart disease as a woman: State of the Science. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation:133.

Halm, M. A (2014) Women and Heart Disease. NetCE Course # 33221. Accessed March 2016 at http://www.netce.com/courseoverview.php?courseid=1001

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