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February 18, 2016

Officials Share Tips, Updates at Public Safety Town Hall Meeting

public saftey

Every day when employees walk around campus, they see Public Safety officers and police officers on patrol. But do you know who exactly these officers are and what they do? On January 27, representatives from Boston Medical Center, the Boston University School of Medicine, Boston University Police, and the Boston Police Department held a forum, hosted by Connie Packard, Executive Director of Support Services, to provide an overview of their roles on the medical center campus and answer questions about safety.

Throughout the presentation, speakers emphasized a common refrain: be aware of your surroundings. Some common ways people are distracted from their surroundings, according to the speakers, are wearing headphones or looking at cell phones; these distractions keep you from being able to see and/or hear who and what is around you, which makes you an easy target. Knowing your surroundings is just as important even if you are inside a hospital building. A common theme among the speakers was that whether you are inside your office or outside on campus, everyone should have a safety plan to escape a potentially dangerous situation.

The first speaker was William Gibbons, Director of Public Safety. Gibbons gave an overview of Public Safety on the medical center campus, which includes 115 uniformed officers and supervisors. Between officers with fixed posts and patrol officers, they have a presence in all buildings and garages on campus and can respond to any call within two minutes. At any time, there are 15-20 officers on duty and a 24/7 dispatch center routes calls and monitors panic buttons. Public Safety also provides escorts for employees if they feel unsafe walking, and an evening shuttle that will take you within a 1.5 mile radius of the 710 garage.

"You can call Public Safety for many things," said Gibbons. "If you have a flat tire or other car issues, if you need an escort, if there's a medical emergency, you see someone where they shouldn't be, if there's a fight, something gets stolen, or a patient is making you uncomfortable or threatens you. Calling Public Safety is the fastest way to get help with your problem. Everyone should have our number, 4-4444, in their phone."

The second speaker was Sargent Lucas Taxter, a community service officer with the Boston Police Department. These officers work with specific communities and community agencies to ensure the safety of the area they're responsible for, including holding community meetings, offering RAD self-defense classes, installing car seats, and conducting security assessments. Taxter works in District 4, which includes the South End.

"The South End is a very diverse area, and that can be challenging," said Taxter. "In addition, the neighborhood is home to an abundance of social services, which can lead to quality of life issues. But the crime rate is different than the crime perception, and the crime rate has dropped overall in the District 4 over the last year."

The next speaker was Sargent Dan Healy, of the Boston University Police Department. The BU police patrol on both the Charles River and medical school campuses, and work closely with Public Safety on the medical campus – they train, plan, respond to incidents, and debrief together, and can be reached in the same way. There are 80 members of the BU Police Department, all of whom trained at police academies and are armed. In addition, they are the first campus police officers to carry narcan, a medication that reverses opioid overdoses.

"There are unique challenges at BMC, but we know that employees are very proud of the services the hospital provides, and we're proud to be a part of that," said Healy. "While we can't make people move from public spaces if they're not breaking the law, our goal is high visibility, to prevent people from breaking the law. Being aware of your surroundings is the most important thing, and you should call immediately if you see an issue."

The speakers also noted that in an emergency, you should call Public Safety directly, not 911. Public Safety will help your call get to the right place and send a first responder before an ambulance arrives, as well as send someone to meet the ambulance and guide them to the incident. This is true for any BU or BMC space, including buildings such as the Solomon Carter Fuller Building, which are not fully owned by the hospital or school.

Packard then discussed some of the factors that have led to a perceived increase in crime around BMC, particularly on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Albany Street. There were many "dominoes" that led to the current situation, according to Packard, such as the opioid crisis, the closure of the Long Island homeless shelter, and building of a new shelter near BMC, in addition to the sidewalk closures from BMC's campus redesign project. She reiterated that crime is not actually up around BMC, and most crime in the area is targeted, rather than against random people.

The fourth speaker was Daniel Lawlor, an emergency management specialist in the Office of Emergency Preparedness. The office works with Public Safety, the police, public health officials, and others to facilitate and coordinate responses to incidents that affect hospital operations, such as blizzards, terrorist attacks, shooters, and other manmade or natural disasters. They also train staff members for potential incidents - for example, they have trained 1,000 BMC employees on what to do if there is an active shooter, and hope to train 3,000. Employees can receive updates from the Office of Emergency Preparedness with the Send Word Now phone application.

The next speaker was Sargent Christopher Morgan, the supervisor of the seven officer Boston Police Department bicycle unit that has patrolled the BMC area since mid-2015. The unit was deployed to BMC in response to concerns about the corner of Mass. Ave. and Albany St., as well as Melnea Cass Boulevard, and can immediately respond to hot spots of activity.

"The area was overwhelming at first, but we learned to start at the corner of Mass and Albany and work our way out," said Morgan. "We've made 120 arrests since June, but the crime is largely contained among the people hanging out on the corner and has slowed down in recent months. However, homelessness is a large problem in this area, and the police unfortunately can't solve that."

The final speaker was Steve Morash, Director of Emergency Management on the medical center campus. Each year, the office focuses on three or four potential incidents, comes up with plans to respond to them, runs drills, and generally prepares in case these incidents do happen.

"The relationship between BU and BMC really makes our team great," said Morash. "We're all in this together - all employees included - to make sure everyone is safe, and we all get out of any incident together."

For more information on the services offered by Public Safety, visit the Public Safety website.

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Five Things to Know About Patient Experience at BMC

Patient experience is a top priority and we can all help ensure that patients at Boston Medical Center have a positive experience whenever they are here. Getting medical care can be frightening and taking care of patients' emotional needs along with their clinical needs is important. By focusing on communication and putting patients first, we can enhance patient engagement, improve outcomes, and help BMC achieve its goals. Here are the top five things you should know about patient experience:

patient experience

  1. Patient experience is a priority at BMC. In 2016, BMC is focusing on three main priorities within the QUEST goals framework. One of these focus areas is patient experience. Key measures have been established to track progress on our patient experience goal. In the inpatient area, BMC's goal is for at least 70 percent of patients to give BMC an overall rating of 9 or 10. For outpatient areas, BMC hopes that 90 percent of patients "would recommend BMC."To help us achieve our goals, BMC is changing the way we communicate and think about patient experience. This includes improving wait time communication, initiating bedside shift report, decreasing ED throughput time, and sharing patient experience data with staff and physicians so they understand where we are and where we need to go. BMC has partnered with the Studer Group to help implement changes proven to have a positive impact on patient experience.
  2. Everyone impacts a patient's experience on campus. Patient experience isn't just about how patients are treated in the exam room. From Environmental Services staff to physicians, everyone who works at BMC plays a role in shaping how a patient feels about their experience and any employee can take simple actions to help BMC meet its patient experience goals. For example, helping visitors or patients to navigate our campus, or holding the door for someone, can demonstrate your care and concern.People never forget how you make them feel, and this is the core of positive patient experience. We can all help make a patient's day a little easier or brighter.
  3. Patients who are more engaged in their care have better health outcomes. The more patients trust their providers and care teams, the more likely they are to follow treatment plans and have better outcomes. The best way to get patients to trust you is to show them that you have their best interests in mind not just from a medical perspective, but also in terms of how they feel emotionally.When patients feel that they are able to voice their opinion and be involved in their own care, they will be more likely to understand exactly what is being asked of them and why, and thus follow the treatment plan.
  4. Communication is key to improving patient experience. It's a cliche, but communication is a two-way street. Just as you expect patients and visitors to listen to you if you tell them where to go and how to take their medication, patients want their voice to be acknowledged and to have a role in conversations about their care. Take the time to understand your patients' preferences, questions, and concerns and try to honor them as best you can when choosing a treatment plan.In addition, make sure that you communicate clearly. Explain things in a way that they can understand and make it clear that we will do everything we can for them while they are here at BMC. Lastly, validate that they heard and understood you. Everyone from front desk staff to providers can and should take the time to communicate effectively to patients.
  5. Put patients first.Patient experience is increasingly important for outcomes, growth, and payment, but most importantly, it is the right thing to do. Most of us work in health care because we care about helping others - that should always be evident in the work we do and the way we treat people.Accessing care can be scary, even if it is just a routine visit. The health care system can be very complex and patients often need help navigating through it. This might mean helping patients navigate through campus and the health care system with clear directions, but it also means helping to decrease patients' anxiety through compassion and empathy. For tips, click here.

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What do you do, Robert Sokolove?

Name: Robert Sokolove, PhD
Title: Director of Behavioral Medicine; adult health psychologist in Neurology, Medicine, and Psychiatry
Time at BMC: 20 years

Robert Sokolove

What brought you to BMC?
Before I came to BMC, I was a professor in the clinical psychology program on the main campus at BU. In the middle of that career, I became interested in psychoneuroimmunology, which is the relationship of endocrine and immune variables to disease states, and how psychological variables, such as emotions and cognitions, influence the immune system and the endocrine system to create either medical illness or to help heal medical issues. That is why I wanted to come to a medical center - so I could explore my interest in terms of both research and clinical work.

I came to BMC in particular because issues of health disparities and social justice have always been important to me, since adolescence. Working at a safety net hospital was what I was comfortable with.

What do you do here?
I run classes and programs to change participants' thoughts, emotions, and behaviors to improve medical symptoms and wellness in general. I run behavioral management of hypertension classes, behavioral management of chronic pain classes, behavioral management of insomnia, and I oversee the smoking cessation program. The hypertension and smoking cessation classes are both nine-week programs, and the chronic pain classes are ongoing.

I also do short-term interventions for anxiety, depression, and acute trauma, such as people who have been raped or in motor vehicle accidents. This happens in the Department of Medicine.

For employees who are patients of BMC, I try to have special classes. They can also see me for hypertension or stress-related medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or gastroesophageal reflux, with a referral from their primary care doctor.

February is Heart Month. What tips can you give for staff members to reduce hypertension and take care of their hearts?
First, take your medicine exactly the way that it's been prescribed and learn how to take your blood pressure to monitor it. I usually don't recommend taking it more often than once a month, because people can become obsessed and anxious about their blood pressure, which makes their blood pressure go up. Similarly, if you're trying to lose weight, I don't recommend weighing yourself more than once a month, unless instructed to do so by your health care provider.

Also, get into some daily practice that allows you to totally relax, for at least 15-30 minutes. There is a relaxation training audio file, in both English and Spanish, on the Adult Primary Care website, and employees can download that anytime they like.

You should also increase your cardio exercise to 200 minutes a week. That could be four sessions of 50 minutes, five sessions of 40 minutes, or daily sessions of 30 minutes – whatever works best. Cardio exercise is exercise where your heart beats steadily, and your heartbeat is above 150 beats per minute for at least ten minutes. If you're new to cardio exercise, you should build up to 200 over a few months. If you have major cardiac problems, you should talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

Finally, you should change your diet. Americans in general eat way too much animal fat, salt, and sugar. Diets that are low in animal fat, salt, and sugar, and rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium appear to be the diets that really help lower blood pressure. This means a diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables, very little sweets - maybe once a month, and low amounts of animal fat - maybe beef once a month, chicken, lean pork, and fish more often, and one or two meatless meals a week. If you eat this diet, exercise, use relaxation techniques, and take your medicine the way the doctor told you to, you can almost always lower your blood pressure.

What do you like most about working at BMC?
The thing I like most is the patients. I feel very in awe of how resilient they can be in the face of enormous amounts of stress. I am very humbled and pleased that I can help facilitate a process that helps relieve some of their stress.

What do you do for fun outside of work?
I walk our dog, Tassie. I go to a lot of plays and movies. My dad was a Hollywood screenwriter, and I'm a big movie buff. My favorite of 2015 was Spotlight, and I was really upset that they didn't get any Golden Globe awards! Everyone should go see it.

Do you know a staff member who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to [email protected] .

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Making a Caring Heart Strong Again for Connie

Connie Mohamed

Constance ("Connie") Mohammed's mission and job are to help others in the community. For more than 30 years, she has worked for the city of Boston as a community service advocate and currently serves senior citizens in the Mattapan and Hyde Park neighborhoods. A self-described "jack of all trades, master of all," Connie has a comprehensive knowledge of the programs and services in each neighborhood, and works hard and passionately to ensure the needs-from health to housing-of those she cares for are met. "I do it all," Connie explains. "If someone is returning home from a hospital stay, I will coordinate all of the components, like meals and a home aide, to make sure that the person can continue to get better."

Read more on the Development website.

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BMC Community Reflects on Identity at MLK Celebration

On January 20, Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine employees gathered to reflect on identity and what it means to be connected to others at the annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.'s life and work. This year's featured speaker was Winston E. Langley, PhD, UMass Boston Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Langley, whose expertise is in international affairs, discussed the similarities between Kazi Nazrul Islam, the national poet of Bangladesh, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Langley, considered the first Westerner to study Nazrul Islam, began with the ways that the biographies of the two men overlap - both were moral leaders, jailed for their work, and opposed discrimination in their respective countries. Both men, says Langley, were of the type who "have an appetite for the meat and bones of things."

He then moved to a discussion of the ways in which people divide each other into groups, a feature of schools of thought from world religions to Marxism. These divisions are deeply entrenched to the point where people form their identities on the basis of their group, says Langley, but they have also begun to break down in recent years in the wake of events such as the Syrian refugee crisis and the financial crisis.

The works of both King and Nazrul Islam teach us that we must get rid of the categories that define us, as we all have several overlapping identities, and should be allowed to express them all. This interrelatedness, says Langley, was a key feature of King's philosophy, and makes us all part of the general moral universe. Similarly, Nazrul Islam spoke of belonging to the world and all human beings, as opposed to a particular group.

Identities are fiercely held, and Langley acknowledged that it is difficult to move past our ideas of the groups both we and others belong to. However, too much loyalty to these groups can lead to many issues, ranging from everyday exclusion to genocide and war. Because we are attached to our groups, we overlook the fact that "a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," as King said, or that "the humiliation of one is the humiliation of everyone," as Nazrul Islam said.

According to Langley, we all have a deep need to seek a larger connection, to find a sense of oneness. We need to use that to "reconstruct ourselves and the national and global order in which we find ourselves." We must try to ignore our sense of self that stems from belonging to a group, so that we can "see humans as a single moral community." By doing this, we can help ensure that every human gets the rights that they are entitled to both from the United National Universal Declaration of Human Rights and from a simple sense of morality.

"We have something inside of us - the heart, or soul - that's a universal temple," concluded Langley. "This is an unfinished temple to which we must attend. The reconstruction of the self is about finding completion, and a more comprehensive condition of being."

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News of Note

BMC Awarded $2 Million NIH Grant for Study of Ambulance Diversion
Boston Medical Center has been awarded a $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to study the impact of ambulance diversion on the outcomes of low-income patient populations across the United States. It is the first study of its kind to be funded by the NIH. The co-principal investigators will be Amresh Hanchate, PhD, of the department of general internal medicine and assistant professor of general internal medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, and James Feldman, MD, MPH, of the department of emergency medicine at BMC and professor emergency medicine at BUSM.>

Ambulance diversions are the practice in which emergency departments are temporarily closed to patients transported by ambulance. Massachusetts is the only state that has banned them. Using the ban in Massachusetts as a natural experiment, the study aims to examine the impact on timeliness and quality of care for ED patients transported and not transported by ambulance.

2016 Patient Safety Grant Winners
This past summer, BMC and the Captive solicited grant applications for annual projects designed to improve patient safety. Selected projects are exemplify BMC priorities to measurably improve patient safety, improve performance on publicly reported or pay for performance national quality, safety or patient experience measures, and measurably improve clinical care or patient experience for substantive number of patients.

The Selection Committee awarded 9 grants, for a total of $149,470. The grants for FY16 are:

  • CCRN Communication Pilot. Katherine Scanlon, RN.
  • Increasing Adoption and Ensuring Sustainment of the I-PASS Handoff Format across BMC Training Programs. Aravind Ajakumar Menon, MBBS.
  • Development and Implementation of a Best Practice Training Program to Reduce Complications of Tube Thoracostomy by Emergency Medicine and General Surgery Residents. Morsal Tahouni, MD.
  • Improving end of life care in the Hematology/Oncology Population at Boston Medical Center (BMC). Sandhya Rao, MD.
  • Step Up to Stop Falls at BMC. Nicole Lincoln, MS, RN, APRN-BC.
  • Prescription refill monitoring in the Department of Ophthalmology. Avni Badami, MD.
  • Administration of glaucoma medications at the Yawkey Eye Clinic. Avni Badami, MD.
  • Obstetric Hemorrhage Safety Bundle. Mary Jo Pedulla, RN.
  • Creating a Safe and Healthy Work Environment. Carol Schneider, RN, MSN, CCRN.

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Awards and Accolades

Daniel Alford, MD, Named ASAM's First Educator of the Year
Daniel Alford, MD, a primary care provider at BMC and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, has been named the American Society of Addiction Medicine's first Educator of the Year winner. The award recognizes an educator who has made outstanding contributions to ASAM's addiction medicine educational program.

Awards and Accolades

Six BMC Nurses Selected for Excellence in Nursing Awards from NERBNA
Six BMC nurses have received 2016 Excellence in Nursing Awards from the New England Regional Black Nurses Association. The nurses are

  • Robert Brayboy, RN, charge nurse in the Cardiac Electrophysiology Lab
  • Monica Smith, RN, staff nurse on the Menino 6W medical unit
  • Colby Bowden, RN, care manager
  • Joann DeGraff, RN, staff nurse in the Intensive Care Unit

Gregory Grillone, MD, Honored with Triological Society Award for Research
Gregory Grillone, MD, Professor and Vice Chair in the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, received the Edmund Prince Fowler Award for the thesis he submitted for membership in the Triological Society, a society for those working in laryngology, rhinology, and otology. The award honors the candidate who has done the best basic science research. Grillone's thesis is entitled The Color of Cancer: Margin guidance for oral cancer resection using elastic scattering spectroscopy (ESS).

Christine Gunn, PhD, MA, Named to New Investigator Small Grant Program Cohort
Christine Gunn, PhD, MA, a research assistant professor in the Women's Health Unit, was selected for the 2016 cohort of the AcademyHealth New Investigator Small Grant Program, presented in association with the Association for Community Affiliated Health Plans and the March of Dimes. The program supports innovative, timely, and relevant research and translation activities that advance AcademyHealth's vision of improving health and the performance of the health care system by generating evidence and moving evidence into policy and practice. Gunn's research is entitled Perceptions of Breast Density Notifications Among a Low-Literacy Population: An Opportunity for Patient-Centered Communication.