Criminal Minds: Can a Patient be Admitted for Psychological Distress?

In a recent episode of Criminal Minds, a woman was nearly shot and killed by a madman operating a drone. She is saved and uninjured, but is admitted to the hospital just in case she begins to suffer some psychological distress.

Can this really happen?

The situation as portrayed on television— no.

When admitting someone emergently for a psychiatric problem, one of two things needs to be a concern. Either the person is a threat to themselves, to another, or both. You might hear a provider ask, “Is the person expressing HI or SI?” which stands for suicidal ideation or homicidal ideation.

If a person is expressing either or both of these concerns then a couple of things happen. The patient first must be medically cleared by a physician to ensure that there are not any coinciding medical concerns. Once this takes place, they then are put through a mental health evaluation.

Once a mental health evaluation is complete, it is decided what type of psychiatric services the patient may require. Sometimes, it is admission under an involuntary hold. Other times, the patient may be connected with outpatient services.

Think about the many events that have happened just in the US where people will be suffering psychological distress, but are not expressing suicidal or homicidal thoughts. The  devastating hurricaines. The mass shooting in Las Vegas. Put simply, if we admitted every patient that we were concerned for the potential of psychological distress outside of expressing HI or SI— we’d quickly run out of hospital beds. Plus, patients expressing these concerns should not be placed on a medical floor unless they also have co-existing medical problems that they need treatment for. Also, in that case, they require one on one observation.

Although a nice thought, you do have to have a mental concern other than psychological distress from surviving a potentially life-ending event to be admitted into the hospital.

Kardashian Style Ultrasounds on Reality TV

Critics who say reality TV is fake must not watch the ultrasound scenes on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. On a recent episode, Khloe Kardashian visits an infertility doctor with her sister, Kim, and receives an ultrasound of her uterus and ovaries.

Instead of being like most Hollywood scripted shows, KUWTK portrays this scene with spot-on accuracy. Watch the video below… (Caution: Some adult language is censored during this scene).

What KUWTK did right

We can all see that this doctor’s visit is legit. Maybe it was scripted, but at least they recorded the ultrasound as true to real life. Here are the things they did right and something Hollywood needs to study for future TV shows.

1) The physician has the machine turned at the appropriate angle. It is facing the physician and pulled down where he can reach the dashboard. The camera still is able to give him plenty of TV time while Khloe and Kim can watch the scan on the wall monitor.

2) Khloe is pretty much covered with a paper sheet during the scan and the physician or sonographer inserts the probe. This is a very accurate scenario for a real life internal vaginal ultrasound. Sonographers and physicians who scan make sure the patient is comfortable and covered while the scan is being completed. We utilize vaginal scanning to view the uterus and ovaries and also first trimester babies. We scan on top of the belly for second and third trimester pregnancies or other types of imaging.

 3) The machine is relatively quiet. The only noise heard in the background is the cooling fan on the system. No heartbeats or added sound effects are slipped into the scene to make it seem more authentic. Finally, TV got this detail correct.

4) The physician uses the appropriate probe and the appropriate anatomy is shown on the screen. The images we see on the monitor are the uterus and ovaries.  Many times, shows present anatomy on the screen that doesn’t match the discussion they are having or the sounds coming from the machine.

5) The ultrasound equipment is a top of the line GE ultrasound machine. No ancient relic from the 1980s being thrown into a scene because it’s the only thing in the props room. Hollywood must think no one will know the difference. This physician uses modern ultrasound technology to do his job.

Reality TV might get a bad rap for not being truly “reality”, but this scene was the most accurate ultrasound example on TV to date. Maybe Hollywood films and television directors need to learn from Keeping Up with the Kardashians as an example of what to do when filming an ultrasound scene.

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Shannon Moore Redmon writes romantic suspense stories, to entertain and share the gospel truth of Jesus Christ. Her stories dive into the healthcare environment where Shannon holds over twenty years of experience as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. Her extensive work experience includes Radiology, Obstetrics/Gynecology and Vascular Surgery.

As the former Education Manager for GE Healthcare, she developed her medical professional network across the country. Today, Shannon teaches ultrasound at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and utilizes many resources to provide accurate healthcare research for authors requesting her services.

She is a member of the ACFW and Blue Ridge Mountain Writer’s Group. Shannon is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. She lives and drinks too much coffee in North Carolina with her husband, two boys and her white foo-foo dog, Sophie.

The Good Doctor is Bad Medicine Part 3/3

This is the third part of a series examining the medical aspects of ABC’s new medical drama called The Good Doctor which highlights the struggles of autistic surgical resident Shaun Murphy. You can read Part I and Part II by following the links.

Episode 2 has so many issues it’s taking me two posts just to cover it.

The other issue in Episode 2 is the care of a young girl with abdominal pain. Everyone but Dr. Murphy thinks this belly pain is caused by the girl’s parents’ divorce.

Issue #1: Ordering proper medical tests. One of the easiest things I feel like a medical show can get right is ordering the proper tests. Any medical consultant worth their salt should be able to assist the writing staff in this. For this patient, a child suffering abdominal pain, he orders a D-dimer, lactate, and amylase. Together, these tests make little sense. A D-dimer is used to look at blood coagulation. A lactate at how acidic the blood is. A lactate isn’t crazy, but a more applicable test for this girl would be what’s called a BMP or CMP— both of which are metabolic panels that look at the function of several organs in the abdomen. An amylase is okay as well— but drawn with other tests that make more sense. How about just a plain x-ray of her abdomen while we’re at it?

Issue #2: Going to a patient’s house. Despite the inappropriately ordered, fairly normal lab tests, the results bother Dr. Murphy so much that he goes to the patient’s house and insists on examining her. I cannot emphasize how much this would be frowned upon and I have personally never seen this happen. How would this be handled? First, simply a phone call to the family and request they come back to the hospital for further studies. If the situation is deemed serious enough, and the family cannot be reached by phone, involving law enforcement to help would likely be the next step.

Issue #3: Not calling an ambulance. When the girl is checked on, she is unresponsive and has vomited in her bed. Instead of calling an ambulance, Dr. Murphy insists that they take her by car. In an urban setting (in absence of a mass casualty situation), this is highly irresponsible. EMS response is generally very good and medical care can be started more quickly than driving a patient to the hospital. The episode proves my point when the girl becomes clinically more sick on the drive to the hospital and Dr. Murphy starts CPR. If EMS had been called to the house, this could have been prevented.

Issue #4: When to start CPR? In pediatrics, generally CPR is not started until the heart rate is under 60 beats per minutes. In this case, Dr. Murphy starts CPR for a weak, thready pulse. Looking up American Heart Association guidelines for pediatric CPR would be an easy way to figure out when CPR would be indicated.

Issue #5: Inaccurate medical portrayal of shock. When the 10 y/o girl arrives to the hospital, Dr. Murphy states, “Patient is a ten-year-old female with hypovolemic shock and bradycardia.” Hypovolemic shock is shock related to fluid losses, but seemingly this patient has vomited one time. Really not enough to set in shock in the older child. Also, the body’s response to hypovolemia is to increase the heart rate. The patient should be tachycardic. A pediatric patient can become bradycardic, or have very slow heart rate, in relation to shock, but it is a very late sign and I don’t think the medical history given on this girl is enough to warrant a code.

Issue #6: A surgical resident taking a patient to the OR. Keep in mind, Dr. Murphy is like on day #2 of the first year of his surgical rotation, yet he orders an OR, takes the patient to surgery, and is only interrupted by his attending when he’s about to make his first incision. Just no, no, no.

I think overall The Good Doctor has good intentions in looking at how people with special needs can operate in certain professions. However, don’t look at the first two episodes as any representation of good and accurate medical care.

There is always a way to maintain tension and conflict while still being medically accurate.

The Good Doctor is Bad Medicine Part 2/3

I’m continuing my evaluation of ABC’s new medical drama The Good Doctor. You can find Part I here. The series follows first year autistic surgical resident, Shaun Murphy, as he navigates his surgical residency.

The second episode sees Shaun begin his duties and he’s been accepted into the program, albeit with some outward disdain from some of the attending surgeons.

In the opening scene of this episode, a middle-age woman has had a CT of her abdomen that shows a large mass.

Issue #1: Morphine dosing. The patient’s initial dose of morphine is 10mg. This is a little on the high side. Generally, we’ll start with lower doses and work our way up. However, they distress the patient with news of her medical diagnosis and so the attending surgeon says to the resident, “Give her as much Morphine as she wants.” So the way we deal with patient distress is by overdosing them on narcotics? I don’t think so.

Issue #2: Reviewing medical tests in front of the patient. Two surgical residents and the attending surgeon pull up the CT results in front of the patient without having reviewed them first and the test shows a very concerning exam. Dr. Murphy diagnosis her with cancer, in front of the patient, based on this scan. This is reason #1 why you know what the patient is dealing with before you go talk with them. Nothing should be hidden from a patient, but also should the information be presented in a compassionate, informative way.

Issue #3: The definitive diagnosis of cancer can only be made by biopsy. Are some radiology studies highly suggestive of malignancy? Yes, absolutely. But always, the cells must be looked at for definitive diagnosis, which means a biopsy.

Issue #4: Supposedly, Shaun Murphy is crazy uber-smart despite his communication difficulties related to his autism, but he seemingly made it out of medical school without an understanding of what “scut work” is. Sure.

Issue #5: Nursing as boss. In one scene, a nurse is placed as Shaun Murphy’s “boss” to keep him from ordering unnecessary medical tests. Put simply, this is not nursing’s responsibly.  It is a nurse’s responsibility to protect patient’s assigned to her from unnecessary medical testing (or at least question the physician about tests that seem out of bounds), but never would a nurse be assigned to follow a resident around all day to keep tabs on him. This is the responsibility of the surgical hierarchy and they need to keep tabs on this resident. Also, this nurse seemingly works every area of the hospital from the ER to the PACU. This is also unrealistic.

Issue #6: Nurses are called by their first name— not “Nurse” and their last name. Again, can we get rid of this stereotype?

Issue #7: Lab delay in pathology results. Lab works very closely when surgeons are waiting for results with a patient on the table. These would be considered “stat” reads and would not be placed in the normal milieu of other lab tests.

Issue #8: Threats of violence are taken very seriously. Shaun’s response to the lab personnel not immediately reading the pathology slides is to verbally threaten to throw a rock through their window. This is completely unacceptable behavior, regardless of the autism diagnosis of the surgical resident, from any member on a hospital staff and would not be treated with a kind response (as in she smiles and concedes to his demands.) A statement made like this would receive disciplinary action.

Issue #9: These amazing medical centers cannot do amazing surgery. In this episode, the surgical team decides they must cut out the kidney in order to get a better look at the tumor. Fine, great. But why not reimplant it once the surgery is over?

There are so many issues with this one episode of The Good Doctor it deserves a Part III.

The Good Doctor is Bad Medicine Part 1/3

The Good Doctor is a medical drama that’s first season just started airing on ABC. Of course, anytime a new medical drama hits the airwaves I get messages from people curious about my opinion.

The drama focuses on first year surgical resident Shaun Murphy who has autism. I’ve watched the first two episodes and though the premise of the drama is mildly intriguing— I don’t find the medical aspects or interactions between the medical staff worthy enough to keep watching. Unless, I keep analyzing episodes for this blog. We’ll see.

Episode 1 features the fight of a hospital administrator to get him accepted into the program. On Murphy’s way to the hospital for seemingly his first day, of course, he saves a life at an airport.

A teen is showered with glass and suffers life-threatening injuries to the neck and chest. An older male, who identifies himself as a doctor, begins to render aid by putting pressure on the wound. The doctor says, “His jugular vein has been cut.”

Issue #1: Placement of direct pressure. Murphy chastises the older doctor for holding direct pressure improperly (for a pediatric patient) and for occluding the patient’s airway because of it. The doctor adjusts and the patient begins to breathe again. Truthfully, there are differences between the adult and pediatric airway, but I’ve never heard of adjusting pressure d/t anatomy. You have to put pressure on what’s bleeding. If that causes problems with the airway, then the patient requires intubation to protect the airway.

Issue #2: Doctors having sex in the call room. Can we please just get rid of this stereotype? Please, just please. There is never as much rampant sex as portrayed on TV in hospitals. In my almost 25 years of nursing, I’ve heard ONE rumor.

Issue #3: Airport Security. I cannot believe in this day and age that, regardless of what someone says, hospital security would allow anyone to grab a knife and run wildly through the airport without being arrested— even if a patient’s life is in danger.

Issue #4: EMS response. Considering this is an airport, the EMS response time is laughingly long.

Issue #5: Chest tube. Of course, Dr. Murphy places a chest tube in the patient as well as makes, MacGyver style, a chest tube drainage system. Once this is done, he triumphantly raises it above the patient and the patient dramatically improves. Just, no. Drainage systems should always be level or below the patient to drain. Never above. Like never. You can check out this nifty nursing video that explains just that.

Issue #6: Direct OR admission from the ambulance. The now stable patient is met by a surgical resident and goes straight from the ambulance to the OR. No, just no. First of all, why does a stable patient need to go to the OR? Secondly, everything first to the ER. The ER attending will make a decision to consult surgery and a plan will be made to take the patient to the OR.

Honestly, there’s more in this episode. Can we talk about the language the doctor uses to get consent? I’ll spare you until next post where I examine episode 2.

 

Escaping Hunted

Hunted was a new reality show that aired earlier this year on CBS. Nine pairs of people “go on the run”. If they survived twenty-eight days they won $250,000 per team. This show was really interesting as an author to watch because it highlighted what kinds of tactics law enforcement uses to capture evaders of justice. Some things I didn’t even know existed.

Here are things NOT to have your characters do if they are on the run from law enforcement.

1. Don’t contact anyone you know. The couples that lasted the longest really stayed away from their network of friends and family.

2. Internet use will be your downfall. The hunters, as they are called, comb through all your social media and even use it against you. In one instance, they saw one contestant loved a particular basketball team because he had photos of being at their games and wearing their jerseys. The team’s name ended up being a password to one of his online accounts. They also would post “wanted” posters on contestant’s Facebook page asking for help in locating “fugitives”.  Also, deleting your social media accounts doesn’t really work. “Nothing is ever erased on social media.”

3. They will access everything to try and find you. They can access real time banking information. Vehicle registration. Closed circuit TV cameras. They’ll look at your old high school yearbooks. There are systems in place on major highways that automatically capture and scan license plates and they can put an alert out for it.

4. Burner phones. Burner phones may not necessarily be the answer. Although the phone may not pop up with a name, they can see the phone number that you’re calling from on the receiving person’s phone bill. A new, unknown number calling? They’re going to guess that it’s you. Once they pin down the phone number, calls between you and people you assume are safe can actually be listened to.

5. Telematics. In all cars built after 2010, GPS satellites can be used to track your car.

6. Mail Cover. Did you know the post office takes photos of every letter sent through their system? Yea, me either. A warrant can be issued for a particular address to try and find you. Here’s an interesting news story specifically about mail cover.

7. Don’t do something you would normally do. If you’re a parent, don’t call your children. If you’re an outdoor expert, maybe don’t go camping. Many duos were successful if they stayed off grid, but many also grew tired of being on the run after a few weeks and would contact friends and/or family for respite. That’s when they were usually caught.

Hunted was a fascinating show of real life cat and mouse. If you’re an author, it’s definitely worth the time in research to take in the episodes.

Only two of the nine couples made it twenty-eight days. Do you think you could last that long?

Medical Errors in Manuscripts: Criminal Minds and Bodies Hidden in Cement

Happy Halloween Redwood’s Fans! What fun festivities do you have planned for today? What will your kids be dressing up as to celebrate?

criminalmindsToday, I thought a fitting Halloween post would be an evaluation of a recent episode of Criminal Minds. I’ve been a fan of the show for years and am always intrigued with the cases and devious/suspenseful minds of the screenwriters.

A few episodes back, uber chipperPenelope was presenting a case about a woman who had been buried in a barrel full of cement. She stated the woman’s body was discovered using ultrasound and then proceeded to show a picture of the body that looked like a plain x-ray.

This is a common mistake among writers— not knowing the proper technology to site or the right radiology equipment to use. First of all, ultrasound couldn’t penetrate cement to find the body and the scan images would not resemble anything that you’re used to seeing.

What probably would be used is something that utilizes Ground-Penetrating Radar (something that can actually look through cement) and I found an extensive article that discusses its indications and use which I’ll definitely be referencing later.

Writers— keep in mind that not all forms of radiology are interchangeable with one another. If you’re discussing the use of a particular radiological study in your manuscript— make sure it’s the right one.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!