Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Setting Realistic Goals

I need to... lose weight, exercise more, get a new job or go back to school. Sound familiar? As we get ready to end 2013 and venture into 2014, conversation turns to goal setting. For some, goal setting is a dreaded phrase, but without it, we wouldn’t have the United States Constitution, the Hoover Dam or iPhones. “We set goals all the time,” says Carl Benedict, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor at Meritus Health’s Behavioral Health.

Whether it’s painting the exterior of your house or enrolling in a painting class, goal-setting tips can turn an often-considered ambition into a reality.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Female Support Problems

Dr. Jay Greenberg, FACOG, FACS
     As women age, urinary incontinence becomes more common. For some women, laughing, coughing, sneezing or exercising can cause an embarrassing leakage known as stress incontinence.

     “Stress incontinence is really under-reported because women just don’t want to talk about it,” says gynecologist Jay Greenberg, M.D., FACOG, FACS of Meritus Health Women’s Health Center at Professional Court.

Stress incontinence occurs when the pelvic muscles cannot prevent urine from flowing—especially when pressure is placed on the bladder.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Four Moves for a Strong Core and Fab Abs

It’s that time of year again when elastic waist pants are the preferred wardrobe item. The holidays bring extra calories, hectic schedules and less time to exercise. But fear not, with four simple exercises, you can keep your abdominal muscles in check—if not toned throughout the holidays and well into 2014.

Advantages of a strong core
     Core muscles include the abdominal muscles, back muscles and the muscles around the pelvis. Strong core muscles make it easier to do many physical activities like shift our body in any direction or control our movement.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Surviving Family Gatherings during the Holidays

     Holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but family gatherings can turn into family conflict. If the thought of spending quality time with family brings on a migraine, think preparation and preservation says Julie Kugler-Bentley, LCSW-C, CEAP, RN of Meritus Health’s Behavioral Health.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Healthy Employee Spotlight: Tim Thorpe: a Man in Motion

     Tim Thorpe knows that a man has to know his limitations, but at age 60, Tim’s boundaries are far-reaching. For the last 15 years, Tim has pumped out ten-to-50 mile rides with fellow cyclists and once a year participates in a 100-mile bike ride through Washington County—the equivalent of a runner’s marathon. In good weather, Tim commutes to work by biking 15 miles each way from Williamsport to Hagerstown. 

    This spring, Tim took a cue from Meritus Health President and CEO Joe Ross and with the help of fellow biker Pam Peitz, launched a bike club. They led a group of employees on ten to 30 mile rides through the Washington County countryside. 
The Meritus Health Bike Club

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Healthy Thanksgiving

     It comes only once a year, but a food-centric holiday like Thanksgiving often means adding 2,500 more calories to your average daily intake.

     Joe Fleischman, head chef at Meritus Medical Center, suggests scaling back on the fat, calories and sodium for a healthier Thanksgiving meal. “I use fresh ingredients such as roasted sweet potatoes instead of candied yams,” says Chef Joe. “I also favor a fresh turkey over a frozen one.” Here’s how Chef Joe replaces unhealthy fats and sodium with fresh ingredients and spices.

Monday, November 18, 2013

New Guidelines for Cholesterol Care

     Statins are drugs used to lower cholesterol. If you have too much cholesterol in your blood, it can attach to the walls of your arteries causing them to narrow, and as a result, reduce blood flow.

     In the past, cardiologists managed patients by cholesterol targets, specifically patients’ low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or bad cholesterol. New guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology remove cholesterol target levels and replace them with a formula to help physicians calculate the chances of heart attack and stroke in patients.

     “The big difference with these guidelines is getting the right people on the right medication at the right dose,” says cardiologist Michael Carlos, M.D. with Robinwood Heart in Hagerstown. The new recommendations focus on risk factors rather than just cholesterol levels.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Birth Control: an Ounce of Prevention

     If you’re a parent or teenager, here’s some good news: The number of adolescents engaging in sexual activity has declined over the past few decades. The bad news: The rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remains high for our young adults.

Abstinence is the only 100-percent effective form of birth control.

     For individuals who choose to be sexually active, here is information on some of the more popular birth control methods:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dr. Neil Roy: Fit for the Job

     When he’s not in the midst of caring for patients in the fast-paced emergency department (ED) of Meritus Medical Center, emergency medicine physician Neil Roy, M.D., gravitates to another exciting scene, Brazilian Jujitsu, a combination martial arts and combat sport that focuses on taking the fight to the ground.

      Dr. Roy’s wrestling and boxing experience in high school and college provided the motivation for him to try mixed martial arts (MMA). MMA combines standing martial arts, similar to boxing and “ground martial arts” akin to wrestling. He began training at a MMA gym during his residency and soon balanced out his training program with Brazilian Jujitsu classes. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Child Safety Seat Smarts

     As parents and caregivers we want the best for our children, but sometimes we fail to place our children in car safety seats. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that in one year, more than 618,000 children ages 0-12 rode in vehicles without the use of a child safety seat, booster seat or a seat belt at least some of the time.

     Maryland’s child passenger safety laws require children younger than eight years old to ride in an appropriate child restraint, unless the child is 4 feet 9 inches or taller. Every child from eight to 16 years old who is not secured in a child restraint must be secured using the vehicle’s seat belt.

     Child safety seats reduce the risk of death in passenger cars by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers ages one to four years, according to the CDC.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bringing Exercise Fever to the Workplace

Emily and her daughter after
completing the Meritus Health
Pumpkin Dash 5K
     Emily Radaker is passionate about her healthy lifestyle and shares that passion with those around her. A life-long runner, kickboxing instructor, yoga student and Insanity DVD junkie, Emily is no stranger to exercise. “I am constantly challenging myself to push harder,” she says.

     When Emily left public accounting to work as an internal auditor for Meritus Health’s business integrity department, the health system gained a natural fitness leader. “I’m thrilled to be working in an environment where employee health is promoted,” says Radaker. Soon after joining Meritus Health, Emily became a member of the health system’s wellness committee and suggested a running club to help employees prepare for the fall Meritus Health’s Pumpkin Dash 5K Fun Run/Walk. In late July, Emily led the Fit to 5K program where, two times a week, 25-35 employees would stretch, walk and run their way to improved endurance.

Monday, October 14, 2013

So You Need Outpatient Surgery….

     When you need knee surgery or your child needs his adenoids removed, you might feel uneasy or nervous. It could be the pre-surgical prep or the worries over anesthesia. Whatever the case, you want to feel confident that you have selected the best outpatient surgical center.

     Outpatient surgery, also known as same-day surgery or ambulatory surgery means that patients return home the same day of their procedure. According to the American Hospital Association, more than 5,000 ambulatory surgical centers (ASC) across the United States provide same-day surgical care, including diagnostic and preventative procedures. ASCs are either associated with a hospital or a free-standing facility.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Breast Cancer and Radiation Therapy

      When faced with early-stage breast cancer, many women seek breast-conserving surgery, known as a lumpectomy. But surgery must be combined with radiation therapy to lower the risk of a cancer recurrence in most cases.

     Before the year 2000, external beam radiation therapy was a breast cancer patient’s only choice for radiation treatment. External beam radiation therapy is effective at eliminating cancer cells, but it can damage normal cells and cause side effects such as fatigue, swelling and skin irritation at the tumor site.

Cutting-edge treatment
      Breast brachytherapy, also known as accelerated partial breast irradiation, is another way to deliver radiation therapy. The treatment delivers a precise, highly concentrated dose of radiation from inside the breast, instead of applying radiation to the entire breast with an external beam. The temporary insertion of a treatment device and the positioning of a radioactive seed kills breast cancer cells that may remain after surgery.

How it works
     Soon after breast surgery, a surgeon places a treatment device into the patient’s surgical site. Using computer guidance, a radioactive seed is temporarily inserted into each catheter and removed after the procedure. The treatment lasts for approximately ten minutes, after which the patient returns six hours later for an additional ten-minute therapy session. The device remains implanted in the patient for the duration of the treatment, approximately five days, and is removed shortly after therapy.

     Meritus Health’s John R. Marsh Cancer Center has been performing breast brachytherapy for more than five years. It offers breast cancer patients and oncologists the newest breast brachytherapy devices to effectively treat cancer cells that could not be treated with first generation devices.

     “Every patient and tumor is unique,” explains radiation oncologist Dan Cornell, M.D. “By using a device with multiple catheters, we can shape the radiation dose and conform the treatment to the patient’s anatomy and tumor area.”

Benefit to the patient
     Traditional external beam radiation treatment spans six weeks. Breast brachytherapy’s five-day treatment makes it an attractive alternative for breast cancer patients.

     “This therapy saves the patient time and diminishes radiation side effects,” says Dr. Cornell.

     Candidates for breast brachytherapy include women 50 and older with early-stage breast cancer whose tumor is confined to the breast and measures less than three-quarters of an inch. Meritus Health’s John R. Marsh Cancer Center offers women in the tri-state area more options in their breast treatment than ever before by using the latest generation of advanced breast treatment devices that allow doctors to steer the dose away from critical structures.

By: Anne Gill

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Help for Victims of Domestic Abuse

     Witnessing abuse between parents is a strong predictor of violent behavior from one generation to the next. Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to law enforcement. It takes six to eight times for a victim of domestic abuse to leave the abuser, if the victim ever leaves. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and these are the sobering facts behind the abuse.

     Domestic violence occurs at all income and education levels and age ranges. While most view domestic abuse as physical, it can also involve financial and sexual control and verbal intimidation. When domestic abuse results in physical injury, it’s called domestic violence.

Know the signs

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fight the Fall

     Dick Van Dyke could make a fall funny, but in reality falls can lead to severe hip fractures, broken wrists and brain injuries—and that’s no laughing matter. The second main cause of trauma injuries in patients seen at Meritus Medical Center’s emergency department stems from falls. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every three adults age 65 and older fall each year.

     Adding to the problem, 35 percent of people who fall become less active. Meritus Medical Center EMS administrative specialist Kelly Llewellyn, RN, finds that when seniors fall, even without sustaining an injury, it frightens and prevents them from living life to the fullest.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Energy Drinks: a pick-me-up or a recipe for disaster?

Dr. Rafai Bukhari
     Cup of joe, java, brew, mud—most adults enjoy the little pick-me-up called coffee. But more and more adolescents are turning to the vitality found in energy drinks such as Red Bull, Monster, Rock Star and 5-Hour Energy. According Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, energy drinks are consumed by 30 to 50 percent of adolescents and young adults.

What’s in the can?
     Energy drinks contain 70 to 80 milligrams of caffeine per eight ounces, roughly three times the amount of caffeine found in soda. In addition to the high caffeine content, additives like guarana, kola nut, yerba mate and cocoa boost the drink’s caffeinated punch even more.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Healthy Employee Feature: Jenn Shank

Her exercise routine
     Jenn Shank has always made working out a priority. She has become involved in a number of different disciplines that allow her to stay in shape, but her number one interest is swimming. Since Jenn has been swimming laps across the pool since the age of seven. The activity has become ingrained in her routine, to the point where she is willing to wake up extra early to squeeze in her morning swim before work because she enjoys the water so much. “It starts my day off with a good attitude because I have already accomplished something before work,” she said.

Jenn during Muay Thai practice

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Training for a 5K

Ethan Roberts
     Picture yourself running the National Mall in Washington, D.C. three times or jogging across roughly three-quarters of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Sound intimidating? With perseverance, patience and an end-goal in sight, you too can complete a 5K—which is 3.1 miles. If you’ve never entered a race, now is a good time to try. Mild days and colorful foliage make fall running a treat. But running for 35 to 40 minutes requires some training. Ethan Roberts, physical therapist at Total Rehab Care believes slow and steady really does win the race. Here’s Ethan’s take on transforming yourself from non-runner to 5K- ready.

Ready, set, run—or walk!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Supplements: Too Much of a Good Thing?

     An aging baby boomer population is helping to stir a health-conscious revolution. Many aging Americans are concerned with preventing disease or health complications, and, consequently, the dietary supplement and vitamin industry is thriving. According to Euromonitor International, “The share of the elderly purchasing vitamins and dietary supplements grew by 10 percent in value size in 2012.”

     However, there has been speculation that multi-vitamin supplements may not be the answer for a clean bill of health. The CDC’s second nutrition report found that less than 10 percent of the population was at risk for nutritional deficiencies in vitamins such as A and D.

Where supplements can go wrong

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lactation Consultants: Giving Mom and Baby a Great Start

Kris Ecker, RN, IBCLC
     Among the many decisions parents must make, whether to breast-feed or bottle-feed your baby is an important and personal choice. Experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, believe breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants, but breast-feeding can present a challenge for many women. Lactation consultants, members of a hospital’s maternal-child health team, visit all mothers who express interest in breast-feeding. They often transition moms from “this is too hard” to “I can do this.”

     Lactation consultants are typically registered nurses, midwives or physicians who are trained in breast-feeding management and care. Most of the Meritus Medical Center lactation consultants are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and pass a rigorous examination that allows them to promote breast-feeding and help mothers prevent and solve breast-feeding problems.

What do lactation consultants do?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Beating the Back-to-School Lunchbox Blues

     As another school year rolls around, the thought of how to keep your kids’ lunchboxes interesting and nutritious comes to mind. While schools have made leaps and bounds in delivering nutritious cafeteria lunches, it’s always good to alternate packed and school-bought lunches. For most parents, we want to strike a balance between sodium-packed Lunchables and fine cuisine.

     Good news! Your Health Matters has gleaned insights from Meritus Health’s experts and scoured the internet for lunch ideas. So, get out your shopping list, we’ve done the thinking for you.

Tips for better eating

Monday, August 5, 2013

Healthy Employee Spotlight: Joan Divinagracia

     Life always presents us with choices. One important one is our lifestyle. Joan Divinagracia, a physical therapist at Meritus Medical Center, did not always live the healthiest lifestyle. She says her big wake-up call was New Year’s 2012 when she stepped on the scale and found she was back to the same weight she was carrying during her pregnancy. She made her choice. Her lifestyle was going to change.

How to change?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Is the Low-Fat/Low-Sugar Option Really Better for You?

     All of us have been known to overindulge. All of us have wanted to make a change in our diet. Let’s say the healthy change starts today. Picture it now: You are walking down the aisle of the grocery store with a new grocery list in hand full of nutritious choices. But are they really good choices? Food labels and advertisements on packaging can be deceiving. It is vital as consumers to be savvy to food label misconceptions.

Just because the front of a package may show a healthy looking image, does not mean that the nutritional value is of worth. Brandy Baxter, RD, LN at Meritus Medical Center says, “Food labels can be deceiving because they may advertise a product as ‘low fat’or ‘trans fat free’ but these claims don’t always mean healthy. That item that is ‘low fat’ may be full of sugar or sodium. A person has to take into account the entire food label rather than relying on the manufacturer’s claims.”

When reading a food label, it is important to understand the serving size. The serving size is what the calories and other nutritional facts are based upon and can be much smaller or larger than what an individual will actually consume.

Next, the calories are important to read and understand. A good rule of thumb is limiting the nutrients from fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugar. A higher percentage of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron are beneficial for health.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Job Burnout: Are You at Your Rope’s End?

We all have our bad days: too many emails, pressing deadlines and changing priorities. But when does stress cross the line to job burnout? “When every day is a bad day—you’ve completely shut down—that’s job burnout,” says Julie Kugler-Bentley, RN, LCSW-C, CEAP, employee assistance coordinator at Meritus Health’s Behavioral Health Services.

Why do we burnout?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Exercise: A Family Affair

Khrys Thompson and family after the Color Run
      After the birth of their fourth child, Khrys Thompson and her partner wanted to lose the baby weight. They signed on with a personal trainer to create an exercise program they could do on their own time, three to four days a week. Their trainer developed a 30-40 minute cardio and strength training session that fit the couple’s work schedule. “We’d use moves like an overhead press combined with a squat to raise our heart rate and incorporate strength training. This cut down total exercise time,” explained Khrys. They also learned how to eat better and control their portion sizes.

DIY exercise
     Using the knowledge gained from their personal trainer, the couple went online and purchased health magazines to incorporate new time-saving exercise routines. Both in the field of physical therapy, Khrys and her partner asked colleagues for exercise tips and gleaned ideas from their teenage kids’ sports training regimens. “It took the thinking out of it for us,” said Khrys. Next, they devoted a workout space in their home, hooked up a DVD player and posted exercise routines on the walls.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Traveling Safety

     Summer consists of more than grilling out and poolside activities; this is the season for families and friends to plan their summer travels. A popular way to arrive at vacation spots is to drive there. Even though summer driving may seem less strenuous than winter driving, it is important to remember the risks we take when driving in nice weather too.

     Butch Rhoderick, Director of Security at Meritus Health, discussed some prominent summer traveling woes. He said, “Common summertime driving dangers include distracted driving, surprise thunderstorms, more pedestrians and bicyclists on or around roadways and younger inexperienced drivers on the road as compared to when school is in.”

Monday, July 1, 2013

Heat Wave Dangers

     Summer has finally arrived, which has brought people out of hibernation from those cool, damp, windy transitional months. Summer can make a big entrance, with cook outs, graduation parties, pool parties, and vacation plans. Of course, all of these activities sound enticing but it is important to remember summer can increase the likelihood of health risks.

     High temperatures can affect the health of a number of different age groups. Knowing how heat can affect us can help prevent heat fatalities.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Clearing Up Cancer Myths

     Everyone knows someone who has been touched by cancer. It’s a disease feared by many and understood by few. While no one is ever prepared to receive a cancer diagnosis, knowledge is power. Medical oncologist Michael McCormack, M.D., of TriState Physician Associates, reveals the fact and fiction behind cancer.

Myth: If you have a family history of cancer, you will get it too.
A tendency to develop cancer can run in families and may increase your risk of developing the disease, however Dr. McCormack puts the risk into perspective.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Picnics, Barbeques—and Food Poisoning?

     It’s summer time and the living is easy. But that juicy hamburger, creamy deviled egg or homemade ice cream you’re eating could contain bacteria, viruses or parasites. Food poisoning occurs when these harmful organisms get into food during its processing, handling, transportation, cooking or storing. According to internist Jerry Correces, M.D., food poisoning most often occurs at home due to improper cooking or handling.

     Use water as your first defense against food-borne illness. Wash your hands before prepping food and thoroughly rinse produce. Uncooked foods are particularly risky because harmful organisms have not been destroyed during the cooking process. It’s also a good idea to keep separate cutting boards for veggies and uncooked meats.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Swimming Safety

      Swimming is a popular summer activity as the temperatures and humidity rises. As school closes for the year and children venture to the cool water of a swimming pool for relief from the heat, it is important to make sure they are safe.

     According to the Centers for Disease Control, drowning ranks as the fifth cause of unintentional death in the U.S. Kids between the ages of 1-4 have the highest drowning rate, and 1 in 5 people who die from drowning are children aged 14 and younger. Here are some tips from Jenn Shank, physical therapy assistant at Total Rehab Care on keeping you and your family safe while swimming this summer:

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Dancer at Heart

     Growing up in Louisiana, music and dance were a part of Bridget Krautwurst’s Cajun heritage. Bridget, an RN with her MBA, is Meritus Health’s Director of Community Health Nursing. Since she was three, Bridget found ways to dance: tap, ballet, hip-hop or cheerleading. “I would dress up in my mom’s swirling skirts, spin around and do the two step or jitterbug,” she says. And the late 80’s movie “Dirty Dancing,” fueled her passion for dance even more.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kids Having Kids

     Generally, teen birth rates are down. But, in Washington County, it’s a different story. The county’s teen birth rate is 35% higher than Maryland’s average of 24.7%.

Medical risks
Teen pregnancies carry extra health risks to mother and baby: teenagers often don’t receive timely pre-natal care, many experience post-partum depression and run a higher risk for pregnancy induced hypertension (high blood pressure), anemia, premature birth and low-birth weight. “Whether they’re in denial or trying to hide the pregnancy from their parents, teens often see a doctor later in the pregnancy, which can cause health problems for mom and her unborn baby,” explains Laura Henderson, M.D. with Meritus Health’s School Based Wellness Center.

Social reality

Monday, May 20, 2013

Strength Training for Beginners

     You’ve heard it here before: exercise is king. While there are countless benefits to aerobic exercise, strength training sometimes gets pushed to the back of the burner. But the old adage “use it or lose it” accurately describes our body’s muscles. “We don’t lose muscles as we age, we lose muscles when we stop using them,” explains physical therapist Karla Trotta of Total Rehab Care. 

     Strength training—sometimes called resistance training or weight training—puts more than the usual load on your muscles to make them stronger. Your body, free weights, exercise bands/tubes or specialized machines can be used as a form of resistance.

Why flex your muscles?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Stroke: When Time is not on Your Side

     Stephanie Dias was 57-years old when she suffered an ischemic stroke while at work. She knew something was wrong when she took a sip of water and it ran down her front—and when she couldn't push herself up in the chair with her leg. When a co-worker spotted Stephanie and saw her blank stare, she and other co-workers decided to call 911.

     Each year, more than 600 patients arrive at Meritus Medical Center’s emergency department with signs and symptoms of stroke. Stephanie was one of the lucky patients. Her fast-thinking co-workers got her to the hospital’s emergency department quickly, and soon after, Stephanie was diagnosed with an ischemic stroke and given tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a clot-busting drug.

Brain attack

Monday, May 6, 2013

Staying Healthy on Shift Work

     While most of the world sleeps, nurses, doctors, police officers, firefighters, pilots, truck drivers, DJs and waiters, among others, work outside of the traditional “9 to 5” daytime schedule. New employees will often begin their careers on the night shift as a way to get their foot in the door. Additionally, shift work tends to pay more, and, for some parents, it allows them to spend more time with their children or avoid using childcare. “I get to eat breakfast and dinner with my kids—and when they’re at school, I sleep,” says Jim Recabo, RN, administrative nursing supervisor and team leader at Meritus Medical Center.

     On the downside, the third shift can really do a number on the body. A weakened immune system, insomnia, indigestion, heart disease, weight gain and diabetes have all been linked to shift work. Going against the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythms, can also lead to shift work disorder. Because the body’s clock is controlled by a part of the brain influenced by light, working by night and sleeping by day can throw your body out of whack.

     Meritus Health nurses Jim Recabo and Jennifer Edwards stay healthy, fit and sane despite working the third shift. Here’s how they do it:

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Organ Donation: And Life Goes On

     Meritus Medical Center takes organ donation seriously. It’s the only Maryland hospital to receive the National Organ Donation Medal of Honor from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services six years in a row. The award recognizes hospitals that achieve a 75-percent conversion rate of eligible patients donating organ and tissue. 

     Meritus Medical Center works with the Living Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit organ procurement system, to encourage family members to donate the organs of their loved ones. Organ donation includes kidneys, heart, lungs and liver, in addition to tissue donation, which includes skin, bone, cardiovascular tissue and corneas.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Reassuring Your Frightened Child in Times of Crisis

     The television images appear again and again: an explosion in Texas, people running from the finish line of a marathon or a school shooting. Even as adults we find ourselves seeking ways to cope with the violent events that occur in our world, and how to avoid seeing the disturbing images.

     As parents, you want to protect the innocence of your children. Yet there is a careful balancing act that needs to be achieved when it comes to providing basic and realistic information to ground our kids when they hear about things at school, the playground or their day care provider’s.

     “Parents need to be aware that children may react strongly to those events and should be prepared to discuss their child's thoughts and feelings,” said Julie Kugler-Bentley, coordinator of the Employee Assistance Program for Meritus Health’s Behavioral Health Services.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Child Abuse Prevention Month

Pinwheels at the entrance of
Meritus Medical Center
     It’s a topic that hits the pit of your stomach. It’s tragic, horrifying and unthinkable. But we must think about child abuse and its presence in our community. “By raising awareness of the plight of child abuse and its effects, people will have the education to know how to respond to the signs of child abuse,” says Pam Holtzinger, coordinator for the forensic nursing program at Meritus Medical Center. Pam’s job is to evaluate child maltreatment patients at the hospital and train other healthcare providers to know the signs and report suspected child abuse cases. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Babies Born Too Soon

     A routine pregnancy can become a high-risk pregnancy without notice. One out of every nine babies is born premature each year, yet the cause of pre-term labor is not fully understood. “There are many known factors related to preterm labor, but it’s sometimes difficult to identify the exact cause of it,” said obstetrician/gynecologist Gary Smith, MD of Women’s Health Center at Robinwood. 

     Babies are considered preterm when born at 37 weeks or earlier. The less time a baby spends in the mother’s womb, the greater the chances of the baby having severe health problems—like lung, liver, digestive, brain and immune system complications. While many women never dream they will have a baby born too early, preterm births can occur in women who have no known risk factors.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Performance Enhancing Drugs: What Parents Need to Know

Special guest post by Dr. Daniel Warner of Robinwood Orthopaedic Specialty Center.

Dr. Daniel Warner

     In a frequently referenced 1997 Sports Illustrated article, aspiring Olympians were asked two questions; “If you were offered a banned performance-enhancing substance that guaranteed that you would win an Olympic medal and you could not be caught, would you take it?” Remarkably, 195 of 198 athletes said yes. The second question was: “Would you take banned performance-enhancing drugs with a guarantee that you will not be caught, you will win every competition for the next five years, but then will die from adverse effects of the substance?” More than 50 percent of the athletes said yes to this question as well.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Diabetes Alert Day

     It’s not as festive as St. Patrick’s Day and it’s not a paid holiday, but many healthcare experts will argue that Diabetes Alert Day is one of the most important days of the year.

     Diabetes affects 25.8 million people in the U.S. and is a major cause of heart disease and stroke. Experts predict that by 2050, one in three U.S. adults could develop diabetes.*

     Type 2 diabetes develops over time. “You don’t wake up one day with a blood sugar level of 300,” says Laurie Sandberg, RN, B.S.N., certified diabetes educator. With type 2 diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin or the pancreas stops producing insulin. Yet very often people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms. That’s why the American Diabetes Association promotes a one-day “wake up call” to help people understand their risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Nurse Certification Promotes Excellence

     Some of us may admire nurses for their ability to stand and move around for 12-hour shifts or their capacity to listen and assess a patient’s status. Others might appreciate how nurses can translate diagnoses, test results and life-style changes in a way that patients can understand.

     Any way you slice it, nurses spend the most time with patients and have an enormous affect on patient care. That’s why more and more nurses are receiving nursing certification in specific clinical areas. “Certification is where the healthcare industry is going,” explains Jody Bishop, M.S.N., RN and Magnet Program Director. “Healthcare needs are becoming more complex, and as a result, require nurses to become more specialized.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

When a Knock to the Noggin is not Okay

     A physician once said to me, “I can fix broken bones, but I cannot fix broken heads.” As parents, we do everything in our power to protect our children from harm. Yet despite our best efforts, last year Meritus Medical Center treated 217 patients under the age of 16 with concussions, and another 457 patients who were over the age of 16.

     Concussions are not uncommon. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim that 1.7 million people in the U.S. suffer from a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Traumatic brain injury happens when a bump, blow, jolt or other head injury causes damage to the brain. As the number of concussion cases and awareness continues to grow, a local group is making sure that high school athletes with concussions get the right assessment at the right time.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Heart Patients’ Reason to Celebrate

     A Johns Hopkins cardiologist believed in something that many Meritus Medical Center cardiologists and cardiac nurses knew first hand: caring for heart attack patients in our community makes sense for patients and their families. The Hopkins cardiologist led a study that proved that regional hospitals, without on-site cardiac surgery, could provide care to heart attack patients instead of transferring patients to a specialty care hospital.

     Five years ago, the Maryland Healthcare Commission confirmed Meritus Medical Center’s ability to perform emergency percutaneous cardiac intervention (PCI) on patients with ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). That’s a mouthful, but STEMIs are heart attack patients and PCI is an intervention in which a tiny balloon is inflated to reopen a blocked artery and restore blood flow to the heart. The faster blood flow is re-established, the better the patient’s chances of a good recovery.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Helping You Get Healthier During National Nutrition Month

     March is National Nutrition Month! This month, there are a few changes happening in Meritus Health’s Robin’s Nest and Cove. The first change is the removal of all deep fryers. The fryers will be replaced with TurboChefs, which mimic the effect of deep frying without all of the extra calories. The second big change is the addition of the Go, Slow, Whoa program. Go, Slow, Whoa is a visual embodiment of the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans that educates and reminds us what foods we should be eating and how frequently.

Why has Meritus Health decided to implement these changes? 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pacemakers and the Pope

     Sadly, the human body wears out over time. But, Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation at age 85 shocked many. After all, he was the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The exact reasons for the Pope’s resignation remain unclear, but he says his declining strength is holding him back.

     Ten years ago, the Pope underwent a pacemaker implantation. Three months before calling it quits, he received a replacement. Could heart health be the cause of his early retirement? According to cardiologist Joseph Reilly, MD of Hagerstown Heart, a slow heartbeat is commonly related to age and one of the reasons for a pacemaker. “Bradycardia [slow heart rate] can be a progressive condition related to the heart’s aging electrical system,” explains Dr. Reilly.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How Food Comes to Your Emotional Rescue

     While surfing the internet or watching your favorite TV show, you munch on caramel popcorn, and soon you’ve consumed 250 calories with not much thought. “People eat on the go or mindlessly and sometimes eat when they are not physically hungry,” says Diane Sullivan, licensed certified social worker (LCSW-C) with Meritus Health’s Behavioral Health Services. Emotional eating is eating driven by an emotion or feelings rather than hunger.

     Diane explains that people must tell the difference between emotional hunger and physical hunger. Here’s how you can separate the two: 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Prescription Drugs: What You Eat, Drink and Pop Matters

Jennifer Reinke, Pharm.D., RPh.
     My husband has an iron gut. Spicy chicken wings and a beer pose no problem for him. Me—I can’t handle a donut and a drive home in the back seat of a car. So, if anyone would experience a drug interaction, it would be me, right?

     “Everyone has the potential to have an adverse drug reaction and no medicine is risk free,” warns Jennifer R. Reinke, Pharm.D., RPh., of Home Care Pharmacy. The National Institute of Health defines an adverse drug reaction as a harmful or unpleasant reaction related to the use of medicine.

     According to Dr. Reinke, adverse reactions fall into two main categories: side effects like nausea or a reduction in the drug’s desired effect—like combining certain antibiotics with milk and diluting the drug’s wallop. Everyone should pay close attention to the prescriptions, beverages and herbal supplements they take.

Monday, February 4, 2013

“Growing Pains” ­­– are they real?

     “Mommy, my legs hurt.” It’s a common complaint in children, but why do spry, energy-filled kids experience leg pain? Inaccurately labeled as “growing pains,” leg pain can be attributed to your child’s physically strenuous day. “This type of pain isn’t related to growth, but rather to your child’s level of activity,” explains physician assistant Jennifer Nunnelee, PA-C at Smithsburg Family Medical Center.

Who gets them?
      According to Jennifer, about 10-20% of children experience “growing pains.” Pain typically crops up between the ages of three to five, and reappears from age eight to twelve, with girls reporting more growing pains than boys.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Stuck on Zumba

Valerie Pensinger, RN
     Dancing with the Stars fans know there’s nothing better than watching a couple tango through a competition. As the new year unfolds, wouldn’t it be nice to transition from dance observer to dance participant? I’m not suggesting a gig on Dancing with the Stars, but consider taking a Zumba class.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Women: Wear Red and Take Note

Twinkies have an infinite shelf life. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow started the Great Chicago Fire. Old men have heart attacks. Misconceptions are everywhere. Every year, the American Heart Association designates a day in February to wear red and remind us that woman too get heart disease. In fact, it is the number one killer of women.

And here’s another misconception. Women’s heart attack symptoms are the same as men’s symptoms. Wrong. Women often don’t know they’re having a heart attack, so they don’t show up in the emergency department until well into the attack, and then the outlook doesn't look good.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Meet TG3

     He completed 20 touchdowns and threw for 3,200 yards in his NFL debut season. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III, also known as RG3, reinvigorated the Washington Redskins and helped them post a 10-6 season record.

      He’s board certified in emergency and undersea and hyperbaric medicine, and passed rigorous evaluations to be named a fellow in three American boards of medical specialties. The Wound Center’s medical director, Thomas Gilbert III, D.O., FACEP, FAPWCA, FACHM, also known as TG3, built Meritus Medical Center’s Wound Center and redefined wound care in the tri-state area.

Anne Gill (AG): How have you created a buzz in wound care?
Dr. Gilbert (TG3): It’s really about our strong patient outcomes and word of mouth. We have a wound care team that’s dedicated to exceptional patient care. Many of our patients come to us with multiple chronic wounds or wounds that won’t heal. We look at these situations as challenges.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

     Old man winter hasn’t hit hard yet, but when the wind howls at 30 mph and the thermometer dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, frostbite can occur. Depending upon how long you’ve been outside, frostbite, or frozen body tissue, can cause a loss of feeling and color in the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes. Redness or pain in any skin area could be a sign that you have frostbite.

     Hypothermia, another outdoor hazard, happens when your normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees falls below 95 degrees due to being outside for too long or becoming wet and cold. Signs of hypothermia include lots of shivering, feeling very tired, confused and sleepy. Both frostbite and hypothermia can happen before you know it, and the young and elderly are especially vulnerable. With both conditions, it’s important to seek medical help right away.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Meritus Health Flu Advisory

In response to the surge in active flu cases in our community, Meritus Health is encouraging all visitors to refrain from visiting Meritus Medical Center at this time, especially individuals who are most vulnerable to acquiring the flu. Those at a greater risk include, infants and children, senior citizens, and individuals with asthma, COPD, a history of heart failure or respiratory failure, or otherwise have a compromised immune system. Children 17 and under are restricted at this time from visiting patients at the hospital. 

Anyone experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms should not come to the hospital as a visitor. Flu symptoms include fever, feeling feverish, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue/tiredness. Some individuals may also experience vomiting or diarrhea. It is important to note that individuals with the flu may not have a fever.

If you have mild flu-like symptoms you are encouraged to treat at home with rest, fluids, ibuprofen, and steam. You should also wash your hands regularly and avoid exposing others. Call your physician’s office if you have questions about your symptoms. If your symptoms worsen, it’s important to call your physician’s office as soon as possible.

Meritus Health’s medical practices are taking extra measures to accommodate sick patients. If you do not have a primary care physician, you may contact any of the following Meritus Health medical practices to make an appointment:

North Pointe Internal Medicine - 240-313-9850
White Oak Pediatric and Adult Medicine - 240-313-9890
Potomac Family Medicine - 301-791-7900
Smithsburg Family Medical Center - 301-824-3343
Robinwood Family Practice - 301-714-4400
Williamsport Family Practice - 301-582-1150
J. Correces, MD - 301-665-4593
Robinwood Internal Medicine - 301-665-4825
WillowWood Adult Medicine - 301-714-4175

For life-threatening symptoms, individuals should call 911 or go to the Meritus Medical Center emergency department. Urgent Care centers at Robinwood Professional Center and the Sylvania Centre are also available for non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries. Due to the large volume of flu cases, wait times are longer than usual in our Urgent Care centers and the emergency department. 
Meritus Medical Center may also reschedule elective surgery cases for individuals who are more vulnerable to the flu and to reallocate those resources to the high number of inpatients with the flu.

The most effective ways to reduce your risk of acquiring the flu are to get vaccinated, to regularly wash your hands, and to avoid individuals with flu-like symptoms. The flu typically peaks in January and again in March. It is not too late to get a flu shot. The flu shot is recommended for people over six months of age. Individuals should call their primary care physician to see if the flu shot is available or stop by a Home Care Pharmacy location. All Home Care Pharmacy locations have the flu shot available. The flu shot helps prevent or lesson the severity of many strains of flu.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Safety on the Hills

      Spring is a mere ten weeks away and January and February can be the snowiest months in the mid-Atlantic. You can either remain indoors for the long haul or embrace what nature offers. Downhill skiing and snowboarding let you take in the winter wonderland and get much-need winter exercise. But if you’re new to snow sports, you’ll want to take a lesson to learn how to put on the gear, move around, slide downhill and stop—all skills needed to avoid potential accidents.