Archives     Advertise     Editorial Calendar     Subscribe     Contact Us    


Op Ed: Patients First, No Matter what Hat You Wear


 
NITA W. SHUMAKER, MD is Chattanooga Pediatrician & Tennessee Medical Association President

When asked how I manage wearing the different hats of pediatrician and president of the Tennessee Medical Association, the state's largest professional organization for doctors, my answer is always the same. It's all about the patients.

As physicians, we endured years of education and training to earn the right to become a physician because we want to help people. We are healers by nature and view the medical profession as not a job, but a calling. That inherent passion is still what drives me on a daily basis, whether I am interacting with my patients and their families, or working with my peers in TMA to advocate for our profession and our patients.

Of course I become frustrated when parents make poor choices that adversely affect their children. I can see the long view of what medical and psychological problems those choices will yield. However, that frustration leads me to understand that I have information that the parents don't have. And they have challenges that I can't always see. It's a partnership, and my job is to love, to educate, to support, to encourage, and to anticipate consequences of the choices made.

That role for me is as consultative as it is medical. We have a responsibility as physicians not just to diagnose and treat, but also to actively engage our patients in conversations around important healthcare topics and good decision-making. I work hard to develop a rapport of trust with my patients and their families who look to me for advice and answers to their questions. It's an incredible responsibility, and one that I do not take lightly.

The pediatric community has a responsibility to challenge parents and their children to make the lifestyle changes they need to improve their health status - changes that our society needs to ease the financial burden on our healthcare system. We must encourage families to eat healthier, more nutritious meals. We must teach patients who are less educated and living in lower socioeconomic strata how to overcome food deserts. We must be a resource to support parents in moving away from sugar and fast food to fruits and vegetables. We must help them understand that nutrition is not just about weight and appearance; it directly affects a child's sleep, energy level, alertness, performance in school, and emotional well-being.

We must also counsel our patients and families to get more physically active. Physical education is all but gone in public schools, making it even more important for parents to promote physical activity at home. My generation and those before me played outside. More recent generations are inside in front of a screen - TV, computer, smartphones - obstructing their sleep, and their intellectual and physical development. Electronics and smart phones didn't come with instructions, and we are just now seeing the aftereffects of the electronic invasion into our families.

Switching hats as TMA president, my primary focus is still on patients and finding more effective ways to fight the biggest public health crisis affecting our state and nation - the opioid crisis.

Tennessee for years has been ranked among the worst states for prescription drug abuse, overdose deaths and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Physicians have contributed to the supply of what we initially thought were helpful drugs. Now that we know the risks of addiction, we have worked hard to change the prescribing culture within the medical community. Data shows a drop in the total amount of opioid prescriptions for pain in the past five years, and a report last year National Safety Council listed Tennessee as one in just four states "making progress" in the fight against prescription drug abuse.
TMA and other concerned stakeholders in and outside of the healthcare community have helped create rules requiring pain management education for prescribers, issued state-sanctioned opioid prescribing guidelines, and strengthened laws regulating pain clinics or pain management services. The Controlled Substance Monitoring Database (CSMD) has reduced the incidence of doctor shopping by 50 percent since 2011. It's much harder now for addicted patients to fraudulently obtain prescriptions from a legitimate healthcare provider in Tennessee.

We have made progress and can point to some measurable results, but we still have a lot of critically important work to do. The number of overdose deaths continues to rise even though prescriptions are going down. We have to continue identifying, educating and penalizing healthcare providers who are overprescribing, inadvertently or otherwise, and weed "pill mills" out of operation. The CSMD, along with stronger regulations for pain clinics and pain management services, has helped, but we must do a better job educating doctors, nurses and physician assistants on safe and proper prescribing habits by incorporating screening based on diagnosis and patient scenarios.

Options and funding for addiction treatment are limited across the state. We will continue to advocate for more funding to treat addition. We have to decrease the stigma associated with opioid addiction and treat it as a chronic disease, routinely requiring more than 24 months of medical intervention.

Finally, we have a responsibility to continue educating our patients and the general public at every turn about the dangers of opioids and how to safely and properly dispose of unused drugs.

As the Tennessee Medical Association continues to support physicians in navigating patients through this complex world of medicine, our focus will always be patients first.

WEB:
TMA
National Safety Council Prescription Nation
TDH Controlled Substance Monitoring Program

 
Share:

Related Articles:


Recent Articles

Study Challenges Idea That Lower BMI Shields Smokers from Fat-associated Health Risk

A lower body mass index (BMI) does not protect smokers from fat-associated health risks, according to a Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) study published in PLOS Medicine.

Read More

Nearly One-Third of Tennessee Parents are Worried Their Child has an Undiagnosed Mental Health Condition, New Poll Finds

One-third of Tennessee parents with children ages 6-17 are worried their child has an undiagnosed mental health condition, a new poll from the Vanderbilt Center for Child Health Policy found.

Read More

COVID-19 - Where We Stand

As the city moves deeper into reopening, leaders address the need for ongoing precautions and realities of vaccine development.

Read More

AMA Issues New Privacy Principles

From a fitness tracker to healthy eating app, data is everywhere ... but it isn't all protected by HIPAA. The AMA has created a set of privacy principles that put patients in charge of their information.

Read More

Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act

Deadlines and information on PPP and provider relief fund.

Read More

"What's Up Doc?" Dealing with a Delayed Patient Volume Bounce

Read More

Financing the Deal

The Nashville Health Care Council's annual "Financing the Deal" panel discussion is always highly anticipated. This year's virtual event was as popular as ever with a focus on deal-making trends and strategies.

Read More

Lending a Hand

Mentorship, wisdom offered to start-ups through Nashville Entrepreneur Center.

Read More

Health Care Council Explores the Road to Economic Recovery

Read More

Nashville-Based Startups Launch New Charity Initiatives

Charity-tech brands GeekCause, Generous, Givful and Kindful have jointly announced a range of new initiatives to support the important work of nonprofits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read More

Email Print
 
 

 

 


Tags:
Controlled Substance Monitoring Database, Food Deserts, Lifestyle Changes, NAS, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, Nita Shumaker, Nutrition, Opioid Addiction, Pediatrics, Screen Time, Tennessee Medical Association, TMA
Powered by Bondware
News Publishing Software

The browser you are using is outdated!

You may not be getting all you can out of your browsing experience
and may be open to security risks!

Consider upgrading to the latest version of your browser or choose on below: