Top 10 Dream Cities for Travel Nurses

Top 10 Dream Cities for Travel Nurses

Travel nurses are privy to many exciting benefits and opportunities, one of which is an incredible flexibility of work location. If you love being a nurse and you want to experience the field from one coast of the USA to another, travel nursing affords premium opportunities, fantastic salaries, and the ability to change scenery often.

While every nurse has his or her opinion on where they enjoy working the most, there are some cities that continually make the lists of favorites. Whether your dream is to work in the big city or beachside, the nation offers incredible opportunities and competitive pay, benefits, and locations to make it happen for travel nurses.

Following are some of the hottest dream cities for travel nurses that make repeat appearances on those “Top Cities” lists:

1. Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas is a high-ranking city on many lists for travel nurses, and it’s for a good reason! Not only is the city beautiful and loaded with plenty of sights to see and things to do at any given time, but it is also home to the number one cancer hospital in the country, according to U.S. News’ report of best hospitals: The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is a highly sought-after facility for nurses, with an average annual nursing salary of $70,000. Add to that a cost of living in Houston that is lower than the national average and you’ve got a city that is a dream come true for many travel nurses.

2. Denver, Colorado

Denver is a city that boasts delicious craft brews, the Rocky Mountains, historic mountain towns and miles of hiking and biking trails – not to mention some of the most scenic drives in the nation. As home to the University of Colorado Health System and Children’s Hospital of Colorado, Denver offers its nurses on average a rate of $30 per hour – and that’s not all. The icing on the cake is that Colorado is a compact state, which means if your initial nursing license is compact, there is no need for you to apply for licensure again here.

3. Rochester, Minnesota

No list of dream cities for travel nurses would be complete without Rochester. The city is home to the world-famous Mayo Clinic, which is ranked in the top five in all major categories in the nation for the past two years: cancer, orthopedics, and cardiology. With three other states within short driving distance, the opportunity for adventure is boundless. Any nurse looking for adventure within the field and outside of it will love Rochester.

4. New York, New York

The city that never sleeps offers something for every travel nurse, regardless of what he or she is searching for. There is never a lack of things to do in the city, and thanks to the many public transportation options, getting to and from any major hospital or medical center is a breeze. New York City is home to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Hospital for Special Surgery, and New York-Presbyterian, among many others. Navigating the city is easy with all the transportation options, and the opportunities for travel nurses are plentiful.

5. Salem, Oregon

Salem hospital has seven – that’s right, seven high-performing specialties for travel nurses to explore. Nurses are in high demand in this city – in fact, the number of nursing jobs available has increased by 32% recently in the city over the past five years! Salaries for travel nurses in Salem are higher than the national average salary, which is just another reason it makes our list of top cities for travel nurses.

6. Ann Arbor, Michigan

The state of Michigan offers some of the fastest-growing and impressive medical networks in the nation, and Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health centers. This network has made lists of the country’s top hospitals frequently in the past two years, and there is a growth in demand for nurses here. The city of Ann Arbor also boasts an eighth-best location quotient of 1.96, which speaks of the demand for nurses within the area.

7. Philadelphia, PA

If pediatric nursing is your bag, you’ll find that pediatric nursing jobs are never in short supply in Philadelphia. It’s a city with a higher-than-average cost of living, but the opportunities for travel nurses make up for it. There are two prestigious hospitals in the city: Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the University of Pennsylvania Hospital (U Penn). Philadelphia is also home to one of the most recognized and largest children’s hospitals in the United States.

8. Boston, Massachusetts

Rounding out our list of the top 8 dream cities for travel nurses is the historic city of Boston. With plenty of culture, fun activities, rich American history and so much more, the city offers a lot to do for travel nurses. There are several medical and research facilities in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area, most of which are affiliated with universities. The top-rated hospitals in the city are the Data Farber Cancer Institute and Boston General, both of which provide ample opportunity and life-changing experiences for travel nurses.

9. Durham, North Carolina

In the past five years, nursing jobs in North Carolina have increased by almost 20%, making it prime territory for travel nurses. Durham is home to Duke University Hospital, listed by U.S. News as one of the best hospitals in 2017-2018, along with Duke Regional Hospital and Select Specialty Hospital. Wake Forest Medical Center and the University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill also provide incredible opportunities for travel nurses looking to enjoy a lower-than-average cost of living coupled with some of the most prestigious places to work in the nation.

10. Baltimore, Maryland

As home to one of the most famous hospitals in the world – Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore ranks among the top destinations for travel nurses. Ranked #1 in the state and #3 in that nation in U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best hospitals for 2018-2019, Johns Hopkins continues to set the bar in healthcare standards and revolutionary care. Travel nurses will find that Baltimore offers access to Atlantic City, Philadelphia, New York City, and Ocean City in three hours or less. Hourly rates for nurses in Maryland are $20-$30 per hour, and the state, like Colorado, is a compact state.

While there are hundreds of additional cities across the country that offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for healthcare professionals, it’s important to remember that every location, every facility, and every travel nurse has so many unique gifts to offer the world. Aligning the talents, skills, and personalities of travel nurses with the unique opportunities each place in the country offers is a thrilling experience that only ends when the travel nurse decides that perhaps, once and for all, he or she has found a “home” in which to settle for good.

Police Take Teen with Cancer into Custody After Mother Forces Her to Skip Treatment

Police Take Teen with Cancer into Custody After Mother Forces Her to Skip Treatment

The Las Vegas Police Department took thirteen-year-old Kylee Dixon into protective custody on Thursday, June 13th. Dixon has been battling cancer and, with the help of her mother, Christina Dixon, traveled from Oregon to Las Vegas, NV after skipping a crucial cancer surgery.

Christina Dixon ignored a court order that her daughter be placed in the care of Oregon’s Department of Human Services, choosing instead to treat her daughter’s cancer with CBD and other holistic treatment methods. Now that Kaylee is under protective custody, she may finally undergo surgery and finish her cancer treatment as advised by her doctors.

Learn more about this unique story and why Christina Dixon decided to skip her daughter’s treatment and go on the run with her daughter.

Treating Kaylee’s Cancer

Kaylee Dixon has been battling cancer for some time. She received chemotherapy for six months, but she didn’t see much progress, according to Erin Purchase, a friend of the family. Purchase helped Christina and her daughter connect with local doctors and healthcare providers to compare different treatment options. After Kaylee tried chemotherapy, Christina decided to pursue alternative treatment methods and took her daughter to a naturopathic physician. Christina gave her daughter CBD and she started feeling better. As Purchase comments, “Instantly she just started getting better, so her mom and Kylee, they were just happy.”

But Kaylee’s doctors still recommended surgery, so they could remove the remaining portion of the tumor in Kaylee’s liver. But her mother wanted a second opinion. Christina took her daughter to another doctor, but she couldn’t get a definitive answer in terms of Kaylee’s chances of surviving the surgery. Continuing with alternative treatment methods, Christina took Kaylee on the road, forcing her daughter to skip the surgery, which had been originally scheduled for June 6th.

Running from Medical Treatment (and the Authorities)

When Kaylee missed her surgery, a judge issued a court order for Kaylee to be placed under the care of Oregon’s Department of Human Services. Christina Dixon appears to have intentionally ignored the court order, traveling all the way from the Oregon coast to Las Vegas. It remains unclear how Christina and her daughter made the trip or whether Kaylee received any form of treatment along the way.

Working with the FBI, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office received a tip that Christina and her daughter were headed for Las Vegas and alerted the Las Vegas Police Department. Just before 8 AM on Thursday morning, Las Vegas authorities went to the Longhorn Casino and Hotel where they took Kaylee into protective custody. They neglected to take Christina into custody, although an official investigation into Christina is underway.

Public Information Officer Sgt. Marcus Mendoza for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office announced, “I do know that they contacted the mother, Christina. Spoke with her. At this point, this is under investigation. Our investigators are looking at the totality of the circumstances, compiling the evidence from this case, and when they finish, they will forward the information to the DA’s office to make a determination.”

Advocates for the family posted online that Kaylee flew back to Oregon where she will remain in protective custody under Oregon’s Department of Human Services. Christy Sinatra, a representative for DHS said in a statement, “We are thankful the child was found safe. DHS takes the safety and well-being of children very seriously. DHS is obligated to comply with court orders and any actions DHS may take in regard to this child will be focused on the child’s safety and well-being.”

Regarding the child’s current condition and whether she will receive the delayed surgery, Sinatra continued, “While we appreciate the help of the media and public in locating this child, we are not able to share any additional information about the family beyond the details law enforcement provided.”

As a way of defending her actions, Christina Dixon released a plea statement, writing, “I’ve always been a strong soul, independent and self-sufficient, so this is extremely hard for me to even do. It’s taken me months to write this and the only reason I am is because I’m cornered and have been threatened by my daughter, by DHS and the Evil Doctor that’s pissed off that my Daughter didn’t die!!!”

Christina Dixon’s mental state and her reasons for leaving the state of Oregon with her daughter remain unknown. Depending on the evidence and circumstances of the case, Christina Dixon may face charges for ignoring the court order.

While every parent should have a say when treating their children, refusing medical care can be a dangerous decision that often puts the child at risk. Hopefully, Kaylee Dixon will soon receive the treatment she needs to beat her cancer.

Nurses on the front lines: When patients attack

Image Stocksy |

Miquel Llonch

All nurses have stories to tell about “problem” patients. Usually, these stories are funny rather than scary. There’s one patient who finds ridiculous things to complain about. Another wanders the halls singing show tunes.

But some patients pose a danger to themselves, other patients and the nurses charged with caring for them. Here, we look at some of these tales from brave nurses who have met the challenges posed by violent patients and answered the question “What is it like to be attacked by a patient?”

Which Patients Are Most Likely to Attack?
In our informal survey, the patients most frequently reported as violent were also among the most vulnerable. Almost all were suffering from dementia, psychosis, PTSD or traumatic brain injury.

Elderly dementia patients are especially likely to lash out. Nurse Kathleen David-Cote’s story is a common example of how quickly things can go wrong: “I had a dementia patient grab my name badge lanyard and try to strangle me with it. When I ducked my head out of the necklace, she took her fingernails and scratched my arm, making it bleed. Very frightening. Her eyes were so scary.”

Bonnie Holman Erwin says she has been attacked many times. “I worked in an Alzheimer’s unit in a geriatric facility…don’t ever believe that feeble old people aren’t strong! You definitely need to be alert, quick and, most important, understanding of their condition.”

Psychiatric instability can also make patients, even young children, act out aggressively. Sometimes, nurses endure many non-life-threatening acts of anger in a single shift. Nurse Kim Ostrander Crum gives this account of what it’s like for her: “I work in a children’s psychiatric facility. I’m attacked routinely—trash can thrown at my head, punched, kicked, bitten, spit on and (my particular favorite) breasts pinched. That was all in one day.”

PTSD is another condition that can make an otherwise peaceful patient suddenly dangerous. Gina VaVerka tells this story about a patient who was a veteran: “I am an army nurse and I was working on a telemetry unit in an army hospital in Texas. My patient started screaming in the middle of the night and thrashing around the bed. I went to see what was going on. As I leaned over the bed, he grabbed onto my stethoscope and scrub top and started choking me with it. My coworkers had to pry us apart. Turned out he was having a full-blown PTSD attack from the war in Iraq. It looked like he was wide awake and looking at me. Apparently he saw me as someone completely different.”

Next: How Should You Respond to an Attack?

Turning to Suicide: Long Term Care

When Larry Anders moved into the Bay at Burlington nursing home in late 2017, he wasn’t supposed to be there long. At 77, the stoic Wisconsin machinist had just endured the death of his wife of 51 years and a grim new diagnosis: throat cancer, stage 4.

His son and daughter expected him to stay two weeks, tops, before going home to begin chemotherapy. From the start, they were alarmed by the lack of care at the center, where, they said, staff seemed indifferent, if not incompetent — failing to check on him promptly, handing pills to a man who couldn’t swallow.

Anders never mentioned suicide to his children, who camped out day and night by his bedside to monitor his care.

But two days after Christmas, alone in his nursing home room, Anders killed himself. He didn’t leave a note.

The act stunned his family. His daughter, Lorie Juno, 50, was so distressed that, a year later, she still refused to learn the details of her father’s death. The official cause was asphyxiation.

“It’s sad he was feeling in such a desperate place in the end,” Juno said.

In a nation where suicide continues to climb, claiming more than 47,000 lives in 2017, such deaths among older adults — including the 2.2 million who live in long-term care settings — are often overlooked. A six-month investigation by Kaiser Health News and PBS NewsHour finds that older Americans are quietly killing themselves in nursing homes, assisted living centers and adult care homes.

If You Need Help

If you or someone you know has talked about contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat, both available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

People 60 and older can call the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour, toll-free Friendship Line at 800-971-0016. IOA also makes ongoing outreach calls to lonely older adults.

Poor documentation makes it difficult to tell exactly how often such deaths occur. But a KHN analysis of new data from the University of Michigan suggests that hundreds of suicides by older adults each year — nearly one per day — are related to long-term care. Thousands more people may be at risk in those settings, where up to a third of residents report suicidal thoughts, research shows.

Each suicide results from a unique blend of factors, of course. But the fact that frail older Americans are managing to kill themselves in what are supposed to be safe, supervised havens raises questions about whether these facilities pay enough attention to risk factors like mental health, physical decline and disconnectedness — and events such as losing a spouse or leaving one’s home. More controversial is whether older adults in those settings should be able to take their lives through what some fiercely defend as “rational suicide.”

Tracking suicides in long-term care is difficult. No federal regulations require reporting of such deaths and most states either don’t count — or won’t divulge — how many people end their own lives in those settings.

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Briana Mezuk, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, found in 2015 that the rate of suicide in older adults in nursing homes in Virginia was nearly the same as the rate in the general population, despite the greater supervision the facilities provide.

In research they presented at the 2018 Gerontological Society of America annual meeting, Mezuk’s team looked at nearly 50,000 suicides among people 55 and older in the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) from 2003 to 2015 in 27 states. They found that 2.2% of those suicides were related to long-term care. The people who died were either people living in or transitioning to long-term care, or caregivers of people in those circumstances.

Briana Mezuk

KHN extrapolated the finding to the entire U.S., where 16,500 suicides were reported among people 55 and older in 2017, according to federal figures. That suggests that at least 364 suicides a year occur among people living in or moving to long-term care settings, or among their caregivers. The numbers are likely higher, Mezuk said, since the NVDRS data did not include such states as California and Florida, which have large populations of elders living in long-term care sites.

But representatives of the long-term care industry point out that by any measure, such suicides are rare.

The deaths are “horrifically tragic” when they occur, said Dr. David Gifford, of the American Health Care Association. But, he added, the facilities offer “a very supervised environment,” and settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding are required to assess and monitor patients for suicidal behavior.

“I think the industry is pretty attuned to it and paying attention to it,” Gifford said, noting that mental health issues among older adults in general must be addressed. “I don’t see this data as pointing to a problem in the facilities.”

KHN examined over 500 attempted and completed suicides in long-term care settings from 2012 to 2017 by analyzing thousands of death records, medical examiner reports, state inspections, court cases and incident reports.

Even in supervised settings, records show, older people find ways to end their own lives. Many used guns, sometimes in places where firearms weren’t allowed or should have been securely stored. Others hanged themselves, jumped from windows, overdosed on pills or suffocated themselves with plastic bags. (The analysis did not examine medical aid-in-dying, a rare and restricted method by which people who are terminally ill and mentally competent can get a doctor’s prescription for lethal drugs. That is legal only in seven states and the District of Columbia.)

Descriptions KHN unearthed in public records shed light on residents’ despair: Some told nursing home staff they were depressed or lonely; some felt that their families had abandoned them or that they had nothing to live for. Others said they had just lived long enough: “I am too old to still be living,” one patient told staff. In some cases, state inspectors found nursing homes to blame for failing to heed suicidal warning signs or evicting patients who tried to kill themselves.

A better understanding is crucial: Experts agree that late-life suicide is an under-recognized problem that is poised to grow.

By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than 65 and 1 in 5 U.S. residents will be of retirement age, according to census data. Of those who reach 65, two-thirds can expect to need some type of long-term care. And, for poorly understood reasons, that generation has had higher rates of suicide at every stage, said Dr. Yeates Conwell, director of the Office for Aging Research and Health Services at the University of Rochester.

“The rise in rates in people in middle age is going to be carried with them into older adulthood,” he said.

Long-term care settings could be a critical place to intervene to avert suicide — and to help people find meaning, purpose and quality of life, Mezuk argued: “There’s so much more that can be done. It would be hard for us to be doing less.”

‘In A Desperate Place’

In Wisconsin, Larry Anders’ children chose to speak publicly because they felt the nursing home failed their father.

Anders, a taciturn Army veteran, lived a low-key retirement in Waukesha, outside of Milwaukee. He grew asparagus, watched “Wheel of Fortune” with his wife, Lorna, in matching blue recliners and played the slot machines at a Chinese restaurant.

Following the November 2017 death of his wife, and his throat cancer diagnosis, he initially refused treatment, but then agreed to give it a try.

Anders landed at the Bay at Burlington, 40 minutes from his home, the closest facility his Medicare Advantage plan would cover. The first day, Lorie Juno grew worried when no one came to greet her father after the ambulance crew wheeled him to his room. The room had no hand sanitizer and the sink had no hot water.

In his week in the Burlington, Wis., center, Anders wrestled with anxiety and insomnia. Anders, who rarely complained, called his daughter in a panic around 2 a.m. one day, saying that he couldn’t sleep and that “they don’t know what the hell they’re doing here,” according to Juno. When she called, staff assured her that Anders had just had a “snack,” which she knew wasn’t true because he ate only through a feeding tube.

His children scrambled to transfer him elsewhere, but they ran out of time. On Dec. 27, Mike Anders, 48, woke up in an armchair next to his father’s bed after spending the night. He left for his job as a machinist between 5 and 6 a.m. At 6:40 a.m., Larry Anders was found dead in his room.

“I firmly believe that had he had better care, it would’ve been a different ending,” Mike Anders said.

Research shows events like losing a spouse and a new cancer diagnosis put people at higher risk of suicide, but close monitoring requires resources that many facilities don’t have.

“It’s sad he was feeling in such a desperate place in the end,” says Lorie Juno of her father, Larry Anders. [khn_two_photos photo-first=”927878″ photo-second=”927874″]

Nursing homes already struggle to provide enough staffing for basic care. Assisted living centers that promote independence and autonomy can miss warning signs of suicide risk, experts warn.

In the weeks before and after Anders’ death, state inspectors found a litany of problems at the facility, including staffing shortages. When inspectors found a patient lying on the floor, they couldn’t locate any staff in the unit to help.

Champion Care, the New York firm that runs the Bay at Burlington and other Wisconsin nursing homes, noted that neither police nor state health officials found staff at fault in Anders’ death.

Merely having a suicide on-site does not mean a nursing home broke federal rules. But in some suicides KHN reviewed, nursing homes were penalized for failing to meet requirements for federally funded facilities, such as maintaining residents’ well-being, preventing avoidable accidents and telling a patient’s doctor and family if they are at risk of harm.

For example:

An 81-year-old architect fatally shot himself while his roommate was nearby in their shared room in a Massachusetts nursing home in 2016. The facility was fined $66,705.
A 95-year-old World War II pilot hanged himself in an Ohio nursing home in 2016, six months after a previous attempt in the same location. The facility was fined $42,575.
An 82-year-old former aircraft mechanic, who had a history of suicidal ideation, suffocated himself with a plastic bag in a Connecticut nursing home in 2015. The facility was fined $1,020.

Prevention needs to start long before these deaths occur, with thorough screenings upon entry to the facilities and ongoing monitoring, Conwell said. The main risk factors for senior suicide are what he calls “the four D’s”: depression, debility, access to deadly means and disconnectedness.

“Pretty much all of the factors that we associate with completed suicide risk are going to be concentrated in long-term care,” Conwell said.

Most seniors who choose to end their lives don’t talk about it in advance, and they often die on the first attempt, he said.

‘I Choose This “Shortcut”’

That was the case for the Rev. Milton P. Andrews Jr., a former Seattle pastor, who “gave no hint” he wanted to end his life six years ago at a Wesley Homes retirement center in nearby Des Moines, Wash. Neither his son, Paul Andrews, nor the staff at the center had any suspicions, they said.

“My father was an infinitely deliberate person,” said Paul Andrews, 69, a retired Seattle journalist. “There’s no way once he decided his own fate that he was going to give a clue about it, since that would have defeated the whole plan.”

At 90, the Methodist minister and human rights activist had a long history of making what he saw as unpopular but morally necessary decisions. He drew controversy in the pulpit in the 1950s for inviting African Americans into his Seattle sanctuary. He opposed the Vietnam War and was arrested for protesting nuclear armament. His daughter was once called a “pinko” because Andrews demanded equal time on a local radio station to rebut a conservative broadcaster.

In 2013, facing a possible second bout of congestive heart failure and the decline of his beloved wife, Ruth, who had dementia, Andrews made his final decision. On Valentine’s Day, he took a handful of sleeping pills, pulled a plastic bag over his head and died.

Milton Andrews wrote a goodbye note on the cover of his laptop computer in bold, black marker.

“Fare-well! I am ready to die! I choose this ‘shortcut,’” it read in part. “I love you all, and do not wish a long, protracted death — with my loved ones waiting for me to die.”

Retired Seattle minister Milt Andrews, 90, ended his life on Valentine’s Day 2013 at his assisted living center, leaving behind a note written in black marker on the cover of his laptop computer.

Christine Tremain, a spokeswoman for Wesley Homes, said Andrews’ death has been the only suicide reported in her 18 years at the center.

“Elder suicide is an issue that we take seriously and work to prevent through the formal and informal support systems that we have in place,” she said.

At first, Paul Andrews said he was shocked, devastated and even angry about his dad’s death. Now, he just misses him.

“I always feel like he was gone too soon, even though I don’t think he felt like that at all,” he said.

Andrews has come to believe that elderly people should be able to decide when they’re ready to die.

“I think it’s a human right,” he said. “If you go out when you’re still functioning and still have the ability to choose, that may be the best way to do it and not leave it to other people to decide.”

Paul Andrews was shocked when his father, the Rev. Milton P. Andrews Jr., died by suicide at a Seattle-area assisted living center in 2013. He has since come to believe that elderly people should be able to decide when they’re ready to die.

That’s a view shared by Dena Davis, 72, a bioethics professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Suicide “could be a rational choice for anyone of any age if they feel that the benefits of their continued life are no longer worth it,” she said.

“The older you get, the more of your life you’ve already lived — hopefully, enjoyed — the less of it there is to look forward to,” said Davis, who has publicly discussed her desire to end her own life rather than die of dementia, as her mother did.

But Conwell, a leading geriatric psychiatrist, finds the idea of rational suicide by older Americans “really troublesome.” “We have this ageist society, and it’s awfully easy to hand over the message that they’re all doing us a favor,” he said.

‘So Preventable’

When older adults struggle with mental illness, families often turn to long-term care to keep them safe.

A jovial social worker who loved to dance, Ellen Karpas fell into a catatonic depression after losing her job at age 74 and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Concerned that she was “dwindling away” at home, losing weight and skipping medications, her children persuaded her to move to an assisted living facility in Minneapolis in 2017.

Karpas enjoyed watching the sunset from the large, fourth-story window of her room at Ebenezer Loren on Park. But she had trouble adjusting to the sterile environment, according to son Timothy Schultz, 52.

“I do not want to live here for the rest of my life,” she told him.

Ellen Karpas (second from left) and four of her five children attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade in 2016. The following year, the 79-year-old died by suicide at an assisted living facility in Minneapolis.

On Oct. 4, 2017, less than a month after she moved in, Karpas was unusually irritable during a visit, her daughter, Sandy Pahlen, 54, recalled. Pahlen and her husband left the room briefly. When they returned, Karpas was gone. Pahlen looked out an open window and saw her mother on the ground below.

Karpas, 79, was declared dead at the scene.

Schultz said he thinks the death was premeditated, because his mother took off her eyeglasses and pulled a stool next to the window. Escaping was easy: She just had to retract a screen that rolled up like a roller blind and open the window with a hand crank.

Pahlen said she believes medication mismanagement — the staff’s failure to give Karpas her regular mood stabilizer pills — contributed to her suicide. But a state health department investigation found staffers were not at fault in the death. Eric Schubert, a spokesman for Fairview Health Services, which owns the facility, called Karpas’ death “very tragic” but said he could not comment further because the family has hired a lawyer. Their lawyer, Joel Smith, said the family plans to sue the facility and may pursue state legislation to make windows suicide-proof at similar places.

“Where do I even begin to heal from something that is so painful, because it was so preventable?” said Raven Baker, Karpas’ 26-year-old granddaughter.

Nationwide, about half of people who die by suicide had a known mental health condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mental health is a significant concern in U.S. nursing homes: Nearly half of residents are diagnosed with depression, according to a 2013 CDC report.

That often leads caregivers, families and patients themselves to believe that depression is inevitable, so they dismiss or ignore signs of suicide risk, said Conwell.

“Older adulthood is not a time when it’s normal to feel depressed. It’s not a time when it’s normal to feel as if your life has no meaning,” he said. “If those things are coming across, that should send up a red flag.”

SolutionsRoland K. Tiedemann was 89 when he took his life on Jan. 22, 2018, at a Wenatchee, Wash., assisted living center. The action shocked his daughter, Jane Davis, and left a void in the life of her daughter, Jayna, shown here at age 7½ in December 2014.

Still, not everyone with depression is suicidal, and some who are suicidal don’t appear depressed, said Julie Rickard, a psychologist in Wenatchee, Wash., who founded a regional suicide prevention coalition in 2012. She’s launching one of the nation’s few pilot projects to train staff and engage fellow residents to address suicides in long-term care.

In the past 18 months, three suicides occurred at assisted living centers in the rural central Washington community of 50,000 people. That included Roland K. Tiedemann, 89, who jumped from the fourth-story window of a local center on Jan. 22, 2018.

“He was very methodical. He had it planned out,” Rickard said. “Had the staff been trained, they would have been able to prevent it. Because none of them had been trained, they missed all the signs.”

Tiedemann, known as “Dutch,” lived there with his wife, Mary, who has dementia. The couple had nearly exhausted resources to pay for their care and faced moving to a new center, said their daughter, Jane Davis, 45, of Steamboat Springs, Colo. Transitions into or out of long-term care can be a key time for suicide risk, data shows.

After Tiedemann’s death, Davis moved her mother to a different facility in a nearby city.  Mary Tiedemann, whose dementia is worse, doesn’t understand that her husband died, Davis said. “At first I would tell her.  And I was telling her over and over,” she said.  “Now I just tell her he’s hiking.”

At the facility where Tiedemann died, Rickard met with the residents, including many who reported thoughts of suicide.

Julie Rickard

“The room was filled with people who wanted to die,” she said. “These people came to me to say: ‘Tell me why I should still live.’”

Most suicide prevention funding targets young or middle-aged people, in part because those groups have so many years ahead of them. But it’s also because of ageist attitudes that suggest such investments and interventions are not as necessary for older adults, said Jerry Reed, a nationally recognized suicide expert with the nonprofit Education Development Center.

“Life at 80 is just as possible as life at 18,” Reed said. “Our suicide prevention strategies need to evolve. If they don’t, we’re going to be losing people we don’t need to lose.”

Even when there are clear indications of risk, there’s no consensus on the most effective way to respond. The most common responses — checking patients every 15 minutes, close observation, referring patients to psychiatric hospitals — may not be effective and may even be harmful, research shows.

But intervening can make a difference, said Eleanor Feldman Barbera, a New York psychologist who works in long-term care settings.

She recalled a 98-year-old woman who entered a local nursing home last year after suffering several falls. The transition from the home she shared with her elderly brother was difficult. When the woman developed a urinary tract infection, her condition worsened. Anxious and depressed, she told an aide she wanted to hurt herself with a knife. She was referred for psychological services and improved. Weeks later, after a transfer to a new unit, she was found in her room with the cord of a call bell around her neck.

After a brief hospitalization, she returned to the nursing home and was surrounded by increased care: a referral to a psychiatrist, extra oversight by aides and social workers, regular calls from her brother. During weekly counseling sessions, the woman now reports she feels better. Barbera considers it a victory.

“She enjoys the music. She hangs out with peers. She watches what’s going on,” Barbera said. “She’s 99 now — and she’s looking toward 100.”

If you or someone you know has talked about contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat, both available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

People 60 and older can call the Institute on Aging’s 24-hour, toll-free Friendship Line at 800-971-0016. IOA also makes ongoing outreach calls to lonely older adults.

How to Keep Your Pets Safe During the Latest Heat Wave

How to Keep Your Pets Safe During the Latest Heat Wave

Parts of California, Nevada, and Arizona are experiencing a brutal heat wave with temperatures rising above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in cities like San Francisco (100), Las Vegas (102), Sacramento (103), and Phoenix (109). If you live in one of these areas, you’re probably cranking up your air conditioner, but remember to stay hydrated, limit your time outdoors and in the sun, and be on the lookout for signs of heatstroke, such as intense headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, a sudden lack of sweating even in extreme heat, muscle cramps, and a rapid heartbeat.

But your pets and those of your neighbors and loved ones will also feel the effects of the latest heat wave. Learn how to keep your pets safe when dealing with extreme heat.

Keeping Pets Safe in Hot Weather

Any time the temperature surpasses 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you should take precautions when traveling with your pet or taking them outside. Follow these rules to keep your pets safe in extreme heat:

  • Limit outdoor activity, including walks, to the coolest parts of the day, such as mornings and evenings.
  • Leave your pet at home whenever possible and give them plenty of water.
  • Never leave your pet in a locked car, even if the air conditioner is on. The temperature inside a locked car can easily skyrocket to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes, even if the temperature outside is just 80 degrees.
  • When walking your pet, avoid asphalt and other paved surfaces. Walk your pet on the grass whenever possible or in the shade. Bring plenty of water on your walk to keep your pet hydrated. Add a few cubes of ice to the water to further cool them down.
  • Be mindful with white-eared pets, which can be susceptible to skin cancer, and short-nosed pets, which can have trouble breathing.
  • Never rely solely on fans when cooling down your pet. Fans do have the same cooling effect on pets as they do on humans.
  • Avoid obstructing the pet’s airflow by locking them in tight spaces, such as a doghouse, even if they’re out of the sun.
  • Feed your pet cold treats such as frozen peanut butter or some other nutritious food.
  • Give your pet a cool bath indoors to help them stay cool at home.

Signs Your Pet Suffering from Heatstroke

Younger, older, overweight pets and those not used to regular exercise are particularly susceptible to heat stroke. Be on the lookout for these signs your pet is having a heatstroke:

  • Heavy panting
  • Glazed eyes
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Profuse saliva
  • Vomiting
  • Deep red or purple tongue
  • Seizure
  • And unconsciousness

Dogs and other animals pant to evaporate the moisture from their lungs, which removes heat from their body. But if the temperature or humidity gets too high, animals can’t pant fast enough to cool themselves down, which rapidly increases their internal temperature.

A dog’s internal temperature should never get above 102 degrees, according to The Humane Society.  If you suspect your pet is suffering from heatstroke, take their internal temperature with a thermometer to double check.

Treating Your Pet’s Heatstroke

If your pet’s internal temperature is quickly rising or gets above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, quickly bring your pet indoors to a cool, preferably air-conditioned environment.

Once inside, put ice packs or cold towels on their head, neck and chest. You can also run cool water over them in the bath, but make sure the water isn’t cold. Give them small amounts of cool water or let them lick ice cubes. Once you’ve completed these steps, take them to the closest veterinarian for immediate medical attention.

Keep these tips in mind as you and your pet grapple with the effects of the latest heat wave. Spread the word to your family, friends and colleagues to make sure everyone keeps their pets safe.

New Trump Rule Reverses Health Care Protections for LGBTQ Patients

A new Trump administration proposal would change the civil rights rules dictating whether providers must care for patients who are transgender or have had an abortion. Supporters of the approach say it protects the freedom of conscience, but opponents say it encourages discrimination.

The sweeping proposal has implications for all Americans, though, because the Department of Health and Human Services seeks to change how far civil rights protections extend and how those protections are enforced.

Roger Severino, the director of the HHS Office for Civil Rights, has been candid about his intentions to overturn an Obama-era rule that prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and termination of a pregnancy. In 2016, while at the conservative Heritage Foundation, he co-authored a paper arguing the restrictions threaten the independence of physicians to follow their religious or moral beliefs.

His office unveiled the proposed rule on May 24, when many people were focused on the start of the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The rule is the latest Trump administration proposal to strip protections for transgender Americans, coming the same week another directive was proposed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development that would allow homeless shelters to turn away people based on their gender identity.

The public was given 60 days to comment on the HHS proposal. Here’s a rundown of what you need to know about it.

What would this proposal do?

Fundamentally, the proposed rule would overturn a previous rule that forbids health care providers who receive federal funding from discriminating against patients on the basis of their gender identity or whether they have terminated a pregnancy.

The Trump administration proposal would eliminate those protections, enabling providers to deny these groups care or insurance coverage without having to pay a fine or suffer other federal consequences.

That may mean refusing a transgender patient mental health care or gender-confirming surgery. But it may also mean denying patients care that has nothing to do with gender identity, such as a regular office visit for a bad cold or ongoing treatment for chronic conditions like diabetes.

“What it does, from a very practical point of view, is that it empowers bad actors to be bad actors,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told reporters.

The proposal would also eliminate protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity from several other health care regulations, like non-discrimination guidelines for the health care insurance marketplaces.

Does it affect only LGBTQ people?

The proposal goes beyond removing protections for the LGBTQ community and those who have had an abortion.

It appears to weaken other protections, such as those based on race or age, by limiting who must abide by the rules. The Trump proposal would scrap the Obama-era rule’s broad definition of which providers can be punished by federal health officials for discrimination, a complicated change critics have said could ease requirements for insurance companies, for instance, as well as the agency itself.

And the proposal erases many of the enforcement procedures outlined in the earlier rule, including its explicit ban on intimidation or retaliation. It also delegates to Severino, as the office’s director, full enforcement authority when it comes to things like opening investigations into complaints lodged under the non-discrimination rule.

Why did HHS decide to change the rule?

The Obama and Trump administrations have different opinions about whether a health care provider should be able to refuse service to patients because they are transgender or have had an abortion.

It all goes back to a section in the Affordable Care Act barring discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability or sex. President Barack Obama’s health officials said it is discrimination to treat someone differently based on gender identity or stereotypes.

It was the first time Americans who are transgender were protected from discrimination in health care.

But President Donald Trump’s health officials said that definition of sex discrimination misinterprets civil rights laws, particularly a religious freedom law used to shield providers who object to performing certain procedures, such as abortions, or treating certain patients because they conflict with their religious convictions.

“When Congress prohibited sex discrimination, it did so according to the plain meaning of the term, and we are making our regulations conform,” Severino said in a statement. “The American people want vigorous protection of civil rights and faithfulness to the text of the laws passed by their representatives.”

Much of what the Office for Civil Rights has done under Severino’s leadership is to emphasize and strengthen so-called conscience protections for health care providers, many of which existed well before Trump was sworn in. Last year, Severino unveiled a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, and his office recently finalized another rule detailing those protections and their enforcement.

The office also said the proposed rule would save about $3.6 billion over five years. Most of that would come from eliminating requirements for providers to post notices about discrimination, as well as other measures that cater to those with disabilities and limited English proficiency.

The rule would also save providers money that might instead be spent handling grievances from those no longer protected.

The office “considers this a benefit of the rule,” said Katie Keith, co-founder of Out2Enroll, an organization that helps the LGBTQ community obtain health insurance. “Organizations will have lower labor costs and lower litigation costs because they will no longer have to process grievances or defend against lawsuits brought by transgender people.”

Why does this matter?

Research shows the LGBTQ community faces greater health challenges and higher rates of illness than other groups, making access to equitable treatment in health care all the more important.

Discrimination, from the misuse of pronouns to denials of care, is “commonplace” for transgender patients, according to a 2011 report by advocacy groups. The report found that 28% of the 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people interviewed said they had experienced verbal harassment in a health care setting, while 19% said they had been refused care due to their gender identity.

The report said 28% had postponed seeking medical attention when they were sick or injured because of discrimination.

Critics fear the rule would muddy the waters, giving patients less clarity on what is and is not permissible and how to get help when they have been the victims of discrimination.

Jocelyn Samuels, the Obama administration official who oversaw the implementation of the Obama-era rule, said that for now, even though the Trump administration’s HHS will not pursue complaints against those providers, Americans still have the right to challenge this treatment in court. Multiple courts have said the prohibition on sex discrimination includes gender identity.

“The administration should be in the business of expanding access to health care and health coverage,” Samuels told reporters on a conference call after the rule’s release. “And my fear is that this rule does just the opposite.”

 

My Personal Journey from Pro-Life to Pro-Choice

My Personal Journey from Pro-Life to Pro-Choice

How decades of life experience, and a few dozen memes, convinced me that abortion laws actually do more harm than good.

Despite my Catholic upbringing, I was a teenager before I realized what abortion actually was,

“Why is this even a controversy?” I wondered. To my 13-year-old self, it seemed obvious. Abortion was wrong.

At that age, though, I also couldn’t understand why people had sex if they didn’t want to have a kid, and I thankfully had no experience with rape or incest.

As I got older, realized life was complicated, why people desired intimacy, and that rape (especially date rape) was more common than I thought. I had a friend who’d got pregnant, and her boyfriend denied he was the father. My first boss, expecting twins, was confined to bed rest for four months. It sounded awful. She ended up losing one of the babies, which was unimaginable.

Though I still felt abortion was wrong, I became reluctantly pro-choice in my 20s. I considered it a necessary evil in a sometimes evil world. And I was fully aware how privileged I was, and how it likely informed my views. Under different circumstances — if I were desperate, poor, the victim of sexual abuse — my stance might be different.

In my 30s, I needed surgery that would render me infertile. I was given the option of freezing my eggs, so they could later be fertilized and frozen, and the embryos implanted into a surrogate. I declined, but several of my friends went through IVF. Now that was science I could stand behind — a chance for infertile couples to have their “miracle child.” Like “Karina,” my college roommate’s 12-year old IVF daughter, whose impish face smiles at me from the holiday photo card on my fridge.

Entering my 40s, I gave less and less thought to the debate. When news of the first abortion ban hit, I thought “meh.” Maybe in a different era, when opinions weren’t shared so openly, I wouldn’t have reason to challenge my long-held views on abortion. But every time I opened a browser window, I did. I’ve never been one to live in an echo chamber. And these are the arguments which helped change my mind.

So life begins at conception, fine. But the baby’s life is 100% dependent on the mother. Where are her rights in all this? You can’t use organs from a dead person without their prior consent, yet a living woman’s consent doesn’t matter. It’s the biological version of Eminent Domain, but without fair compensation. In California, surrogate mothers get $60,000 to $80,000 to carry a child, with extra fees if something goes wrong. And in America, it often does.

The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. Forcing mothers to bring pregnancies to term will mean a death sentence for some, on top of the death penalty already proposed in certain states for women who have abortions.

What about the father? If life begins at conception, shouldn’t it mean the the start of child support? Perhaps he should also pay his share of the “rent” for the incubation period of a child neither of them wanted.

Some have even proposed that fertile men have prophylactic vasectomies until they’re ready for fatherhood. It’s reversible, after all, much less traumatic than pregnancy, and unlike childbirth, deaths are so rare they can’t be measured.

What if the man doesn’t want a vasectomy? Can’t we still make him have it? When it comes to preventing pregnancy on a large scale, it would be much more efficient. A woman is only fertile a few days a month, and can only handle one pregnancy at a time, while a man could theoretically impregnate dozens of women every day. One man could be responsible for thousands of abortions over his lifetime, yet the laws leave his body alone.

Body autonomy is one of our fundamental rights. We extend it to corpses, but not human beings. This law is not about protecting children in the embryo stage. If it were, the same laws would apply to frozen embryos conceived in vitro. We’re not hiring surrogate mothers to protect those lives. If they’re not wanted, they’re discarded, like the healthy organs from a non-consenting donor. All of it legal. Which finally convinced me that these abortion laws were rigged.

Life can begin in a lab. An IVF kid like Karina is indistinguishable from any other. But life is only considered human if it begins in a woman.

These laws aren’t about protecting children. They’re about controlling us. Making women bear the burden of unwanted pregnancy while taking no measure to hold the fathers accountable, before or after insemination. As far as rape or incest, I’m not even going to go there. This piece is long enough.

Sometimes I feel these abortion bans are a liberal conspiracy. Propose a law so draconian, so harmful that it serves to turn off the majority of conservatives who’d otherwise support it.

Other times, I wonder if it’s a conservative conspiracy. If we can overturn legal abortion, what’s stopping us from restricting a woman’s’ right to vote, own property, keep their job after getting pregnant? Conservatives all opposed these hard-won rights, and many of those who voted against them are still around today.

Abortion doesn’t have to be a controversial issue. Let’s work toward making birth control and pregnancy prevention education available to all. Let’s improve the infrastructure to better support pregnant women during and after birth. Let’s take measures to make fathers accountable and liable for the human and financial costs. And let’s expect more personal responsibility from everyone involved.

If we could accomplish these things, we could reduce the need for abortions to such a degree they would be virtually unheard of. Like the death rate for vasectomies.

I still don’t like abortion, but I don’t like forced pregnancy, either. The decision to carry a baby should be a religious or moral one, not a ban forced on us by government officials who may not have our best interests at heart.

Long-Time Nurse Donates Multiple Organs After Suffering Fatal Medical Incident

Long-Time Nurse Donates Multiple Organs After Suffering Fatal Medical Incident

Mary Desin worked at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Hamot in Erie, Pennsylvania for over 30 years before suffering a fatal medical incident while on the job. She ultimately gave her life to the field of nursing, but she had one more gift to bestow upon her patients. After Desin lost her life, she donated multiple organs to the patients of UPMC Hamot. Learn more about this heartbreaking, yet inspirational story and what made Desin’s actions so extraordinary.

Honoring Mary Desin

Mary Desin truly understood what it meant to be a nurse. She gave over 30 years of her life to helping and saving countless patients at UPMC Hamot. After suffering a fatal medical incident one week prior, Mary Desin lost her life. But in her death, she did one last thing for her patients. She donated numerous organs to patients in need at the hospital.

As doctors wheeled her into the operating room to remove the organs on Friday, June 7th, over 100 hospital employees stood in the halls of the facility to say their final goodbyes. It was a heartwarming event that captured the essence of what Mary Desin was able to achieve during her time as a nurse at UMPC Hamot. Her colleagues commented on the fact that Desin always went above and beyond for her patients, and in her death, she gave everything she had to those in need.

As Senior Professional Staff Nurse Donny McDowell, Desin’s long-time co-worker, said in a statement, “It’s not about yourself; it’s about the people who are around you. It’s become a very ‘me’ world, but Mary was a nurse and she put other people before herself and even in her death she put others before herself.”

The UPMC Hamot building lights up with blue and green lights after every organ transplant. The hospital agreed to turn on the lights for 24 hours in honor of Mary Desin.

Donating Organs as a Nurse

Mary Desin understood the crucial need for organ donations in the U.S. According to the Health Resources & Services Administration, there were over 113,000 men, women and children on the national transplant waiting list as of January 2019. Last year, there were 17,553 organ donors, including 10,722 deceased donors and 6,831 living donors.

36,528 transplants were performed in 2018 alone, but there’s more work to be done. The Administration reports that the number of people on the organ transplant waiting list continues to be much larger than both the number of donors and transplants. In fact, 20 people die waiting for transplant organs every single day.

One organ donor can save up to eight lives by donating their heart, two lungs, two kidneys, intestines, liver and pancreas, assuming the donor’s organs are healthy.

Among those waiting for transplant organs:

  • 84.3% are waiting for kidney
  • 11.8% are waiting for a liver
  • 3.3% are waiting for a heart
  • 1.2% are waiting for a lung
  • And 2.2% are waiting for other types of organs

If you’re a nurse that’s interested in becoming an organ donor, you can register with the HRSA here. You can also tell your friends and family about your desire to donate your organs, so they can honor your wishes. To encourage others to register as organ donors, you can spread the word about the importance of donating organs on social media and among your colleagues.

Here at Scrubs Mag, we proudly salute the late Mary Desin for all she did for her patients while she was alive and after her death.

Ohio Doctor Charged with 25 Counts of Murder After Overprescribing Opioids

Ohio Doctor Charged with 25 Counts of Murder After Overprescribing Opioids

William Husel, 43, has been charged with 25 counts of murder after allegedly ordering fatal doses of opioids for over two dozen patients. Husel worked for the Mount Carmel Health System, one of the largest in Ohio, from 2015 to 2018. Dozens of hospital employees and nurses were also named in the court filing, revealing widespread medical malpractice. As the case unfolds in court, prosecutors are still trying to figure out why Husel essentially euthanized his patients.

Learn more about this shocking story and Husel’s alleged crimes.

A Pattern of Overprescribing

Husel has been employed with the Mount Carmel Health System in Central Ohio since 2015. He was first suspended on November 21st, 2018 and then fired two weeks later.

During his time at the hospital, Husel had a habit of ordering large doses of opioids for near-death or elderly patients. Many patients were given doses of fentanyl exceeding 500 micrograms. But lawyers on the case say up to 100 micrograms of fentanyl would have been standard for these patients, depending on their condition and size of their bodies. Thus, Husel was prescribing up to five times the normal amount.

In many cases, Husel’s actions appear to have been fatal. Beverlee Schirtzinger, 63, went to the hospital for a liver biopsy in 2017. She died just 11 hours after arriving at the hospital. But her daughter’s lawyers say Husel ordered 500 micrograms of fentanyl for Beverlee right before she died.

In another case, Melissa Penix, 82, went to Mount Carmel West for stomach pains in November of 2018. Her family said she was given 2,000 micrograms of fentanyl just five minutes before she died.

Bringing Husel to Justice

During a six-month investigation, the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office investigated the deaths of at least 29 patients who may have died as a result of Husel’s actions. Prosecutors interviewed dozens of witnesses and reviewed patient medical records during the investigation. In the end, prosecutors believe Husel was responsible for 25 patient deaths and charged him with 25 counts of murder.

The case also mentions several nurses and pharmacists at the hospital, yet Husel remains the target of the investigation. It remains unclear how Husel managed to order and administer these drugs to his patients for so long without raising concerns from his colleagues. Typically, the doctor would order medications through an in-house pharmacy team who would then review the prescriptions. The doctor would also have to convince a nurse to administer the drug.

Hospital officials confirmed that 30 employees, including pharmacists and nurses, were placed on leave earlier this year. 18 employees tied to the case are no longer with the hospital, with many of them having left years earlier.

Following Husel’s arrest, Mount Carmel Health System released a statement, saying it “will continue to implement meaningful changes throughout our system to ensure events like these never happen again.”

Husel’s Motive Remains Unclear

Prosecutors are still having trouble attributing a motive to Husel’s actions. It remains unclear whether Husel intentionally overprescribed opioids to his patients and what he hoped to gain from the situation.

Many of Husel’s patients were unconscious at the time they were given opioids. If the patient was unconscious, they could not feel pain, thus there was no reason to administer such a large dose of opioids.

Husel pleaded not guilty to the charges. His lawyer, Richard Blake, told a local news outlet, “This is not a murder case. I can assure you there was never any attempt to euthanize anyone by Dr. Husel. At no time did he ever have the intent to euthanize anyone.”

It appears Husel wants the chance to clear his name. Stay tuned to see how these charges play out in court.

5 Trailblazers Making Waves in LGBTQ Healthcare

5 Healthcare Providers Trailblazing the Way for the LGBTQ Community

It’s Pride month, and we’re taking some time to honor some of the most influential people at the intersection of the LGBTQ community and healthcare. Accessing life-saving medicine and medical care can be difficult for many LGBTQ individuals across the U.S. and abroad. Learn more about what these trailblazers are doing to increase access to healthcare for the community.

Gilead Sciences

HIV has long been a cause for concern for members of the LGBTQ community. Gay and bisexual men remain the most affected by HIV in the United States. According to the CDC, gay and bisexual men accounted for 67% (26,844) of all HIV diagnoses in 2016, and 82% of HIV diagnoses among males aged 13 and older.

Gilead Sciences, a biotechnology company that researches, develops and commercializes new drugs, has revolutionized efforts to combat the HIV epidemic in the U.S. The company released a new drug called Truvada for PrEP® (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) in 2012, which uses anti-HIV medications to keep HIV-negative people from becoming infected with the virus. Since Truvada for PrEP® hit the market, HIV exposure rates have fallen considerably in the U.S. According to recent studies, daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. And among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70%.

But there’s still more work to be done. Just 200,000 of the estimated 1.1 million Americans who are at risk for HIV currently receive Truvada for PrEP. Many Americans who are at risk for HIV can’t access the drug due to certain social and structural barriers, such as HIV stigma, homophobia, lack of PrEP awareness, high costs, lack of insurance, and limited access to healthcare.

To further help combat the HIV epidemic, Gilead just announced that it will be donating up to 2.4 million bottles of Truvada® to the CDC for uninsured Americans at risk for HIV. The agreement lasts until 2030 and may transition to a new drug called Descovy® if it is approved by the FDA for PrEP. With this donation, eligible uninsured patients at risk for HIV will be able to access the drug at no cost.

Scrubs Mag proudly salutes Gilead Sciences for developing and donating life-saving drugs for those most at risk for HIV, including members of the LGBTQ community.

Mark T. Bertolini (Chairman and CEO of Aetna)

Bertolini has had a major impact on the healthcare market during his time at Aetna, one of the largest insurance companies in the industry. He stepped into the role of CEO back in 2010 and since then, he’s been instrumental in bringing about lasting changes to the company and the healthcare industry overall. He helped organize and facilitate the company’s $69 billion sale to CVS Health. With pharmacies and consumer-facing outlets all over the country, CVS Health will work with Aetna to lower the cost of care and increase patient access to healthcare services. In the coming years, patients will be able to access certain healthcare services at their local CVS pharmacy, making it easier for patients, particularly those in rural areas, to get the care they need instead of having to trek to the nearest doctor’s office.

In addition to his work for Aetna, Bertolini became the first straight ally board member of the National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce. The organization supports and advocates for the inclusion of LGBTQ business owners, promotes broad-based economic advancement and empowerment of the global LGBTQ community, and works to ensure the implementation of pro-business, LGBTQ-inclusive policies at the federal, state, and local levels of government. With a background in healthcare, Bertolini can approach these issues from a unique perspective, shining a light on health-related concerns facing the LGBTQ community.

Jane Powers, MSW, LICSW (Acting CEO of Fenway Health)

Located in Boston, MA, Fenway Health is one of the largest LGBTQ-friendly healthcare organizations in the country. Since 1971, the organization has been working to ensure the health of the LGBTQ community, people living with HIV/AIDS, and the broader population. Fenway Health provides a variety of services in addition to comprehensive healthcare, including research, education, and advocacy for the LGBTQ community.

The organization launched The Fenway Institute back in 2001, an interdisciplinary center for research, training, education and policy development focusing on national and international health issues, particularly as they relate to LGBTQ communities. As part of The Fenway Institute, the organization also launched the LGBTQ Aging Project in 2001, a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to ensuring LGBTQ older adults have equal access to life-prolonging benefits, protections, and healthcare services.

Jane Powers has been serving as Acting CEO of Fenway Health since late 2018. She served on the year-long ECHO online learning community known as Transforming LGBTQ Health in Primary Care from 2016 to 2017. She has also presented at several national conferences on the behavioral health needs of LGBTQ people. In addition, she serves on the LGBTQ Task Force of the National Association of Community Health Centers, helping members of the LGBTQ community access the care they need at local health centers all over the country.

Ryan Thoreson (Researcher for the LGBTQ Rights Program, Human Rights Watch)

As a global organization, Human Rights Watch investigates and reports on human rights abuses happening all over the world. The organization released a 34-page report titled “You Don’t Want Second Best” back in 2018 that examines LGBTQ discrimination in healthcare. The report shows many LGBTQ people struggle when it comes to finding healthcare providers who are knowledgeable about their needs. LGBTQ people also tend to encounter discrimination from insurers or providers, and delay or forego care because of concerns about how they will be treated.

The report also highlights the need for healthcare anti-discrimination policies at the federal level to protect members of the LGBTQ community. Healthcare discrimination heightens the risk for a range of health issues for the LGBTQ community, including depression, addiction, cancer and chronic conditions.

Ryan Thoreson authored the “You Don’t Want Second Best” report based on his research from August 2017 to July 2018. To complete his work, Thoreson conducted outreach through a range of national and state LGBTQ groups, including legal advocates and service providers who circulated information about the project to their networks. Thoreson conducted a total of 81 interviews specifically related to healthcare discrimination, including 33 with individuals who said they had been discriminated against in medical settings and 48 with advocates and providers working with affected individuals.

The report has led to increased awareness regarding LGBTQ discrimination in healthcare, helping advocates focus their efforts on relevant issues.

Michael Adams (CEO of SAGE: Advocacy and Services for LGBTQ Elders)

Since 1978, SAGE has been working to ensure the rights of older LGBTQ adults. The organization advocates for the rights of LGBTQ elders, educates the public, care providers and policymakers on LGBTQ aging issues, and has established LGBTQ-friendly senior care centers across the NYC area, offering free or low-cost meals, health and financial services, social events and support groups. The organization fights against all forms of discrimination against LGBTQ elders, including in areas of housing, healthcare, and disabilities.

CEO Michael Adams has increased the scope of SAGE’s work on behalf of LGBTQ older people over the past several years, turning SAGE into the country’s go-to organization when it comes to LGBTQ aging issues. During his time with the organization, Adams has used his experience to improve opportunities and the overall quality of life for millions of LGBTQ elders across the country, helping them access vital services such as affordable housing, healthcare services, and disability services.

Over the course of his career, Adams has authored publications on a range of pressing LGBTQ issues, including what it means to age successfully as a LGBTQ elder. He has also taught numerous law school courses on sexual orientation and gender identity. He has discussed and debated LGBTQ issues on hundreds of media programs and has twice been named one of Out magazine’s Out 100, a list of the most influential out professionals in the country.

At Scrubs Mag, we proudly pledge our support to these vital LGBTQ healthcare and advocacy organizations for all they do to support the LGBTQ community. Healthcare is a human right, not a privilege. Everyone should be able to access health-related services regardless of their sexual orientation, HIV status, or gender identity.