Saturday, March 13, 2010

U.S. Federal Court Denies Vaccine/Autism Claim

In a blow to those who still believe that childhood vaccines cause autism, the United States Court of Federal Claims has ruled against claims from three families that childhood vaccines that contained mercury-based preservative thimerosal contributed to autism that affects their children.

The thing is, even the researchers who did the flawed research have recanted, saying that they had made a mistake in their judgment that the vaccines contributed to the development of autism. And yet, the idea still persists.

Learning your child has autism is devastating. We don't want our children to have disabilities, to not be "perfect." Autism is a long road and the more severely your child is affected, the hard a road it is to navigate. And, it is normal, natural, to want someone or something to blame - but we need to find the right thing to blame.

The argument is that people have seeming normal children until they have their first vaccine injections. Within days, some say, their child becomes different as autistic symptoms begin to develop. But what doesn't come across is that autism has been around for generations. It was just often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all, in children with mild cases. And, the argument that we have more autism now could be explained with we have better understanding and diagnosis of the condition, and are therefore recognizing and diagnosing it more often. As well, the symptoms of autism often show up just at the same age/time that the vaccines fall so it isn't unnatural to want to blame the vaccines.

This post isn't going to change anyone's mind. Many who read it will nod their head in agreement, some will be outraged at my thoughts, and others won't really care either way or don't know what to think. All I do know is that we don't want to see our children struggle or suffer and most of us will do anything we can to keep that from happening. Too bad we can't always prevent the bad things from happening. As a mother, I do know that.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

According to b5, I'm an "aggregator"

Harrumph. Years of blogging for b5media and now I'm an aggregator?

Blisstree is a re-launch of an existing b5 property that was essentially an aggregator.

The definition of "aggregator" is someone who gathers things. Excuse me, my CV does NOT say I'm an aggregator. I'm a writer - and a good one. I enjoyed working for b5media and I'm proud of the work I did. I'm trying to be a good sport about the whole thing. After all, business is business and part of business is making changes, which may include laying off staff that they feel they no longer need. But they don't need to belittle the work that was done by the many bloggers who worked for them. They don't need to insult us, do they?

Healthcare Workers Helping Haitians Help Themselves

The horrendous events of Haiti's earthquake earlier this year are fading from the news. We do see images from time to time and hear reminders about the devastation that occurred as a result of the tremors. The Haitian disaster was compared to the Chilean earthquake that happened just a couple of weeks ago - and the comparisons were not favorable.

For those of us who work in health care, we're reminded of our role in helping others. And many of us think about our own mortality, particularly when we think about the deaths of several Haitian doctors, nurses, and other people who work in the field.

As with most natural disasters around the world, the international community responded in a wonderful way. Countries and private companies and citizens provided money, supplies and their own workers. Sadly though, this isn't enough to help rebuild a country that needed rebuilding before the earthquake.

One of the problems that seems to hit Haiti the hardest, but also affects other so-called developing countries, is that many of the international groups, be they non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or governments, tend to rush in and try to take over. They want to do things their way and feel that if they could just teach the Haitians how to do the work and function the way the helpers think they should, all will be well.

But a country isn't that different from a business. A well-run business usually pulls information and resources from its employees and its supporters. Outside people who try to tell the business owner how to run their company are generally not well received. Their suggestions may be worth incorporating into the business structure, but outsiders don't usually come in, set up camp, and then tell the president of the company how to run it. Countries are no different.

In order for the Haitian people to get on their feet and stay there, they need to run their own country. They may need us to provide them with the skills and the know-how, but they also need to take responsibility and learn how to use those skills and know-how to be their own bosses. Just a we need to let our families grow up and learn on their own, developing countries must as well.

There's an excellent article in the March issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Recovering from Disaster — Partners in Health and the Haitian Earthquake, written by Tracy Kidder. Although the whole article makes excellent point, the last two paragraphs are particularly important, to me. If you have a minute, I suggest you take the time to read the piece. Even better, perhaps you can come back here and comment, letting us know what you think and how you feel.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Good Health Equal Good Sex, Researchers Say

According to an article published today on, if you're in good health, you are twice as likely to be interested in sex, compared with people who are in poor health.

To determine how good health affects sexual activity and if they could predict how long a healthy sex life could be expected, researchers surveyed 3,032 people (1,561 women) between the ages of 25 and 74 and another group of 3,005 people (1,550 women) between 57 and 85 years of age.

The researchers asked the participants about their relationship status, the quality of their sex lives, the frequency of sexual activity, and their general health status (rated between poor and excellent). What they found was that men at the age of 30 years could look forward to about 35 years of sexual activity and women at the age of 30, almost 31 years. Interestingly, if the men and women were married or in an intimate relationship, the gender difference between the two went down.

The results reveal that men are more likely to be sexually active, report a good sex life and be interested in sex than women. This difference was most stark among the 75 to 85 year old group, where almost four out of ten (40%) males compared to less than two out of ten (17%) women were sexually active.

When looking at the health aspect, men lost more years of sexual activity due to ill health than men.

Some may ask what the importance of such a study is. Being sexual is a part of human nature and it can help people feel better about themselves both physically and emotionally. The thing is, do we feel healthier and happier if we have more sex or do we have more sex because we are healthy and happier?

More interesting news:

Allow Your Body to Adjust to Time Change

Virus can attack prostate cancer

In paying for sex changes, Cuba breaks from past

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Life After b5media

Many of my writer friends have asked me what I'm going to do next with the most recent cleaning out of the b5media studios. They know I blogged for three of their blogs and hope that I'm going to land on my feet. I won't trash the company - they did keep me busy for a few years. I just wish things had been done differently.

Am I going to land on my feet? Of course I am! :) Seriously. Although I do blog on health issues, both here and now at, I am primarily a writer for other media, online and in print. I write for companies that hire me to write patient education material; edit, rewrite, or write material for professionals, such as other nurses or paramedics; and a host of other things.

I won't deny that blogging for b5media was good to me. It gave me enough of an income that I could pick and choose which writing jobs I wanted to take. That is a freedom that not enough people have. So, what am I going to do?

I'm going to ramp up my marketing strategy, send out more queries - something that I tend not to do too often - and LOIs (letters of introduction). Scanning the job listings is a given. Although there's a lot of garbage out there, there are some diamonds. You just have to dig hard enough and long enough to find them. And network. I'm contacting clients of days gone by, talking to fellow writers, and following leads. You just never know who knows what company is hiring.

So, back to the drawing board. And if you hear of anything, I'm listening!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Q&A About Nurses Becoming Writers

I get emails from nurses who would love to get into writing. Some like the idea of being a writer, others can no longer do the physical work of a nurse and feel that writing may help them continue to earn a living while still using their nursing knowledge.

Here are some of the most common questions I get and the answers I usually give:

How did you get into writing?

I always enjoyed writing and language itself. It is a gift that comes to me and always has. I studied nursing because I felt I had to be practical and choose a career where there would always be work. But, writing and the need to write never left my soul.

As a result, when the Internet became more available to the everyday person, I began reading more and reaching out, trying to write when I could. The rest just happened.

What was the first thing you had published?

My first piece of writing that was published in a print magazine was an article for nurses about using the Internet. It was published in the mid-90s in the journal The Canadian Nurse. My first on-line piece was an article on Alzheimer's disease, some time before the Canadian Nurse article.

Should I take a writing course?

Taking courses is rarely a bad idea. We can always learn how to do things better. The first writing course I ever took was a mandatory one on how to write a paper, a first semester university course that I took when I went back to school around 1994 or so.

The course was incredibly helpful. Although I thought I knew a lot about how to write, there were a few consistent errors I was making and my prof cured me of those. I took a few more writing and editing courses later on and I learned something from each course I took.

How do I start?

This is the big question. How you start writing depends on how serious you are and what your goals are.

  • Can you write? Many people believe that writing is easy. While the actual action of putting the words to paper (or on the screen) is easy, finding the right words and putting them in the right order, using the right tone and feel, isn't. Not everyone can write well. You need to be honest with yourself as to whether you do have that ability. Technically, do you know the difference between paraphrasing and copying? Do you understand the seriousness of plagiarism? It's sad how many people don't know this. Can you credit sources properly?

  • How are your research skills? Writing rarely comes without research. You need to be able to look for information and to be able to judge if the information is credible and usable.

  • Do you like to blog? A blog is a good way to commit to writing something on a regular basis, learning what people like to read about and how to promote yourself.

  • Do you have a niche? Is there something specific that you are passionate and knowledgeable about? Can you zero in on something that isn't as well-known or that needs more expertise?

  • Are you able to commit? Can you follow through on a project, providing the clients with what they have hired your for?

  • Can you handle having your writing edited? Some people go into writing thinking that if they write something, it will be published as-is. While I am lucky enough to have this happen to me many times, there are times when my writing is edited so much, I barely recognize it. Sometimes, this happens because the client didn't like how I approached the topic, other times, there are several editors working on one piece ("editing by committee") and this results in a multitude of changes. And some other times, it's because the client feels that they can write it better than you did. Having your work edited can be a bit painful sometimes - particularly if you don't agree with the changes. So you have to know if you can live with that, but also be self-confident enough to speak up if you feel that the editor is introducing aspects to your piece that you know shouldn't be there. Editors are great to have on your side, but they're human too. Sometimes, things happen.

  • Can you deal with the financial up and downs of freelancing? New writers may be stunned to know that sometimes we wait for months to be paid for a piece we wrote on a rush deadline. A rush deadline for writing doesn't usually translate into a rush deadline for payment. I have to say, I've been very fortunate. The vast majority of my clients have paid me on time or within reasonable delays. There have a been a few that pushed the limits, one I had to chase down, and one who refused to pay me full payment. But, as I say, for me, this is unusual. For other writers, it happens more often.

So, where do I start?

  • Write up a resume of your skills and any experience you have in writing. If you have contacts in the field, you may want to let them know that you are looking for work.

  • Start your blog if you want to follow that route. This gives you a presence on the Internet. It's this blog that made me the number one Google hit if you type in "Nurse writer."

  • Read writing books and writing magazines. There are many great writing sites online as well. Read, read, and then read some more. You can't write if you don't read. You have to understand the differences in different types of writing, such as the big difference between writing for online and writing for print. Read what other nurses are writing about.

  • Decide what you want your focus to be. Although I write for all types of audiences, from professional to general public, my passion is writing for the every day person. I love taking complicated medical health information and writing it up in an understandable and, if possible, fun way.

  • Ask questions but, and this is important, be judicious about what you ask and who you ask. Freelance writers are among one of the most giving and sharing groups of people I have ever worked with. But, they are also very busy trying to make a living of their own. While most don't mind helping new writers, it is frustrating to take the time to answer questions and make suggestions, never to get a "thank you" in return. Also, watch the type of questions you ask. Many can be answered if you look them up and it is a bit frustrating to be asked basic questions that can be found with a bit of effort.

  • Join writing groups, either in person or online. Other writers are a great resource and sometimes, they ask questions you didn't even know you had.

  • Don't give up. If this is what you want to do, stick to it.

Good luck!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Breast Feeding the Wrong Child

Moms - if you breastfed your baby(ies) and you found out that a mix up in the hospital caused you to nurse another woman's infant, how would you react? Is it gross? Is it more concerning about the mix up than anything else? Is it something worth suing about?

Baby mix ups have happened from time to time. We like to think that we've got fool-proof methods in place, but mix ups still occur. According to this article, such an incident is sue-worthy: Breast-Feeding the Wrong Baby.

The article explains how a nurse brought the wrong baby to a mother who went on to breast feed the child. Well over a year later, the mother who did the nursing has filed a 30,000 dollar lawsuit against the hospital. Did you get that first part? *Over* a year later.

Here are my thoughts:

1- I nursed three children and I could identify all three from the day they were born. I find it highly unlikely I would not recognize my own child.

2- If the situation was so traumatizing for the mother, why wait a whole year (actually, more) before launching a lawsuit?

3- Is it really that terrible that one child receive another (healthy) mother's breast milk? We used to have wet nurses, women still do nurse others' babies for a variety of reasons, and we have breast milk banks for premature babies.

and finally, the biggie for me:

4- Should the mother of the mistakenly nursed baby be the one who is freaked out and suing?

It's the last point that really makes me wonder.

What do you think?


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