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October 16, 2007

Robotic Docs

Robotic Docs

When William Sneller had a heart attack, the emergency treatment came with some additional bad news: William, an 89-year-old man in Sioux Center, Iowa, would have to travel to a hospital in another state for his critical care.

Nationwide, there is a shortage of "intensivists" - doctors who specialize in caring for critically ill patients in the ICU. The problem is especially acute in rural areas like Sioux Center - and on the night shift. To meet the need, some hospitals are turning to technology, what they call "E-ICU's." Using video cameras and monitors, teams in one location can care for patients in multiple locations at once.

Dick talks with Laurie Vanderweide, a nurse at Sioux Center Community Hospital, about how the technology is working for her and her patients - including William. With the help of the E-ICU, William has been able to stay near home and family members until he is ready to travel for surgery.

Dick also talks with a doctor and nurse who have been using the system for several years. Chip Veal heads the program at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. Jane Woodson is a nurse there. They say there are both challenges and benefits to having medical staff "in the box," far from the patients' rooms.

Listener Follow-Up - Attending to Birth

Carrie Klein and Al Heebsh heard Dick's conversation with Ruth Lubic, a pioneer in the movement to re-introduce midwives into the birthing process. They had very different reactions.

Carrie Klein was born in the 50s, at a time when using a midwife during childbirth was - to say the least - an unpopular practice. When she was born, the nurse attending her birth was told to push Carrie back in until the doctor could arrive, and the nurse tried to do just that. When Carrie's own children were born, she used a midwife in a midewifery wing of a hospital, and she found that experience to be in stark contrast to what her mother went through. 

Al Heebsh, on the other hand, says giving birth - though not a medical emergency - should not be too separated from the medical system. The birth of his first daughter required some extra help from doctors and nurses. Because of his experience, Al believes women should give birth only in hospitals.

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