Emergency departments response to Sickle cell patients

May 7, 2011

Research, sickle cell

Clinician attitudes toward patients are associated with variability in the quality of heath care…Negative attitudes toward adults with sickle cell disease have been identified as an important barrier to the receipt of appropriate pain management for this patient population.

Carlton Haywood, Jr PhD et al. A video-intervention to improve clinician attitudes toward patients with sickle cell disease: The results of a randomized experiment. Published online December 2010. Haywood and his colleagues conducted a study which actually changed emergency department attitudes toward sickle cell patients albeit temporary.

Sickle cell patients and their advocates have complained for decades about emergency departments staff’s lack of empathy and concern when it comes to treating sickle cell patients. Negative attitudes in emergency rooms across the US are prevalent among white staff. This subject has basically gone un-noticed or unreported until recently. Patients have gone to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites to give blow-by-blow accounts of their experiences as they occur. This bought undesirable  attention to hospitals and staff and prompted a look into the behavior which will hopefully bring about change.

I have seen the momentum for sickle cell awareness and advocacy grow. All over the country there are sickle cell conferences, walks/runs and advocacy groups getting together to talk about what to do the change the current situation. The Haywood study goes on to say, there was evidence of negative attitudes in the emergency department staff that seemed to change over the course of the study. They also acknowledge that these changes maybe temporary. “Attitudes are typically considered difficult to change, and few interventions have attempted to do so.” (Haywood) Even though there have been few studies to monitor and report emergency department staff attitudes, I’m happy to see we are headed in the right direction. Please take a look at this articles posted in the NYTimes. Patients are more concerned about the way they are treated than about the pain they experience with the disease.

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8 Comments on “Emergency departments response to Sickle cell patients”

  1. NinaG Says:

    I think more action on the part of the advocacy groups is necessary. i think the walk/runs are great and its always good to come together to talk about the issues but we need to be planning on how to change things.


    • Rena Says:

      Educate. Advocate. Research. Cure. is our motto. The more people know about sickle cell the better our chances of changing things. I’d love to hear some of your ideas.


      • NinaG Says:

        I think patient advocates in the hospitals would be helpful. Patient advocates for sickle cell could work in a method similar to rape crisis counselors/advocates (diffusing conflict between patient and staff; reporting unruly staff to supervisors, etc.).

      • Rena Says:

        That is a great idea!!! Hospitals are reluctant to approve though. Do you think the bereavement/rape/cancer advocates or counselors could also serve in this capacity? Or should the person’s priority be to sickle cell patients alone? Because, I think what you’re saying is absolutely true, but who would do it.? It’s hard to find volunteers who would be willing to be there no matter what time of day or night to speak up for these patients.

  2. NinaG Says:

    I think volunteers would be willing be on call to help patients at different times (I’m basing this on my experience volunteering as a rape crisis counselor – we had volunteers who’d been personally affected, those who were interested in pursuing a healthcare profession, etc.).
    Instead of going through hospitals, different advocacy organizations could do all the volunteer management and the only responsibility of hospital staff would be to call whichever volunteer is on duty at the time an SC patient requests an advocate. I’m sure others may have ideas on how to actually implement this idea in hospitals in their area.


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