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A Big Message Stems From Hypothermia

I was called to perform ACL surgery on a (thin) boxer. As I was ready to start surgery, the anesthesia technician and her tech assistant told me that the dog’s temperature was 95 degrees. We talked about various solutions to hypothermia, and I noticed something odd.

The dog was on top of a warm air blanket, which was on top of a towel, which was on top of a warm circulating water pad.  This didn’t make sense for a couple of reasons.

First, the warm air blanket can only blow air if is inflated. So wherever it is flattened by the dog, it will not blow air.

Second, the warm water pad serves no purpose at all since it is “hidden” under a towel and the warm air blanket.

The techs were rather surprised by my explanation. “That’s the way we’re supposed to do it.”

I explained why it didn’t make sense and suggested that they place the warm water pad under the patient, and that it should be covered by a towel to prevent skin burns. The warm air blanket should then go over the patient, and in turn it should be covered by a towel to prevent the surgical drape from “levitating” throughout surgery.

They thought this system actually made more sense, in spite of what they had been told for years. I then suggested that they bring up the idea at the next staff meeting, a weekly occurrence at this progressive, well-managed clinic.

They didn’t like the idea too much. “X will never accept to change, she hates change,” said one nurse. “The owner is pretty open-minded, but I’m afraid to bring it up,” said the other.

I later shared this “new” concept with he owner. He immediately recognized that it was a more logical system and that they had to change their ways to improve patient care.

What’s the moral of the story? The point is that we all do things out of habit. “We’ve always done it that way.”  “That’s how I was told to do it.”

Yet there is almost always a better system, a smarter solution, a more effective way to do things. Only a critical approach and an open mind can help you look at virtually any system or procedure throughout your hospital, from the front desk to the treatment area, from the kennel to the operating room, and question the logic.

Ask yourself. Ask your employees or colleagues individually. Ask your staff collectively, for example during a staff meeting, if they know of a better system, perhaps used at a previous clinic they worked at.

Many people hate change. Change may rock your boat, but when the goal is to improve client service or patient care, isn’t it worth it?

Dinosaurs never changed, and look at what happened to them.


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