How implicit bias in medicine hurts women and minorities

17 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

It’s discouraging. I’ve read (and written) far too much about how the gender gap in cardiology has resulted in women heart patients being at higher risk of being both under-diagnosed compared to our male counterparts, and then under-treated even when we’re appropriately diagnosed (here, here and here, for example). Studies even suggest that when physicians review case studies in which patients present with significant cardiac symptoms as well as a recent emotionally upsetting event (identical except for the patients’ male or female names), the doctors are significantly more likely to determine that a man’s symptoms are heart-related, but a woman’s symptoms are just due to the emotional upset.(1)

But what’s been missing in this acknowledged gender gap seems to be the most important part: why is this happening, and what can we do to actually address it? Continue reading

The shock – and ironic relief – of hearing a serious diagnosis

10 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

I vaguely recall my gurney being wheeled very quickly down a wide hospital corridor after I heard the words “heart attack” from the cardiologist who had been called to the E.R. I stared up at the ceiling lights flicking by overhead, feeling strangely calm. Here’s what I recall thinking in my strangely calm state: when I’d first come into this same E.R. two weeks earlier, scared that my symptoms of chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm might be due to a heart attack, I had been right!

These symptoms had never been because I was “in the right demographic for acid reflux” (despite what the Emergency physician who’d sent me home that first day had confidently pronounced). But now, after two weeks of increasingly horrific symptoms, popping Gaviscon like candy, I just felt relieved that all of the people around me now would know how to take care of me. The shock of hearing my new (correct) diagnosis of heart attack was subsumed in that moment by a wave of profound relief. Continue reading

A perfectly ordinary workday. Unless you’re the patient…

3 Sep

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

I’ve lived on both sides of this scenario. For many years, my workplace was a hospital where I worked in public relations on the hospice palliative care unit. I’d arrive at the hospital for work early each morning and easily navigate the maze of hospital corridors leading up to my office. I’d chat happily over coffee with my nurse and physician colleagues arriving for shift change, and then unlock my office door to prepare for that day’s busy schedule. Showing up at the hospital became as routine for me as showing up for work had been during over three decades of my PR career in corporate, government and not-for-profit sectors in many other workplaces.

Yet on some level, I always knew that my familiar hospital workplace was anything but familiar to people out there who were making their way into that same hospital – but as patients.

Continue reading

Thoughts on returning to work if you’re a heart patient

27 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

A list of five Choosing Wisely recommendations from the field of occupational medicine caught my attention the other day. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of working with a real live occupational therapist, they are under-appreciated healthcare professionals who help recuperating patients develop, recover, and improve practical skills they need for daily living. The goal of the Choosing Wisely campaign is to basically help reduce waste in the healthcare system and avoid patient risks associated with unnecessary treatment. It’s all good. But the part of this occupational medicine list from Choosing Wisely Canada that stopped me in my tracks was the first recommendation on this list:
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What’s your ‘being sick’ style?

20 Aug

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

Here at Heart Sisters World Headquarters, it has come to my attention that there seems to be a divide between two types of recuperation styles when women get sick.  I don’t mean urgent/call 911/another-freakin’-heart-attack kind of sick, but more like your garden variety feeling-like-hell when you’re knocked flat in bed with a flu, a cold, or recovering from a bad flare of chronic illness symptoms.

The two most common responses from my Heart Sisters blog readers (always a goldmine of data!) are these:
Continue reading