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1.  Keeping the culture alive: the laboratory technician in mid-twentieth-century British medical research 
This paper reports results from a detailed study of the careers of laboratory technicians in British medical research. Technicians and their contributions are very frequently missing from accounts of modern medicine, and this project is an attempt to correct that absence. The present paper focuses almost entirely on the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research in North London, from the first proposal of such a body in 1913 until the mid 1960s. The principal sources of information have been technical staff themselves, largely as recorded in an extensive series of oral history interviews. These have covered a wide range of issues and provide valuable perspectives about technicians' backgrounds and working lives.
PMCID: PMC2628576  PMID: 18548906
medical laboratory technicians; medical laboratories; medical history
2.  Human Resource and Funding Constraints for Essential Surgery in District Hospitals in Africa: A Retrospective Cross-Sectional Survey 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(3):e1000242.
In the second of two papers investigating surgical provision in eight district hospitals in Saharan African countries, Margaret Kruk and colleagues describe the range of providers of surgical care and anesthesia and estimate the related costs.
There is a growing recognition that the provision of surgical services in low-income countries is inadequate to the need. While constrained health budgets and health worker shortages have been blamed for the low rates of surgery, there has been little empirical data on the providers of surgery and cost of surgical services in Africa. This study described the range of providers of surgical care and anesthesia and estimated the resources dedicated to surgery at district hospitals in three African countries.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional survey of data from eight district hospitals in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda. There were no specialist surgeons or anesthetists in any of the hospitals. Most of the health workers were nurses (77.5%), followed by mid-level providers (MLPs) not trained to provide surgical care (7.8%), and MLPs trained to perform surgical procedures (3.8%). There were one to six medical doctors per hospital (4.2% of clinical staff). Most major surgical procedures were performed by doctors (54.6%), however over one-third (35.9%) were done by MLPs. Anesthesia was mainly provided by nurses (39.4%). Most of the hospital expenditure was related to staffing. Of the total operating costs, only 7% to 14% was allocated to surgical care, the majority of which was for obstetric surgery. These costs represent a per capita expenditure on surgery ranging from US$0.05 to US$0.14 between the eight hospitals.
African countries have adopted different policies to ensure the provision of surgical care in their respective district hospitals. Overall, the surgical output per capita was very low, reflecting low staffing ratios and limited expenditures for surgery. We found that most surgical and anesthesia services in the three countries in the study were provided by generalist doctors, MLPs, and nurses. Although more information is needed to estimate unmet need for surgery, increasing the funds allocated to surgery, and, in the absence of trained doctors and surgeons, formalizing the training of MLPs appears to be a pragmatic and cost-effective way to make basic surgical services available in underserved areas.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Infectious diseases remain the major killers in developing countries, but traumatic injuries, complications of childbirth, and other conditions that need surgery are important contributors to the overall burden of disease in these countries. Unfortunately, the provision of surgical services in low- and middle-income countries is often insufficient. There are many fewer operations per a head of population in developing countries than in developed countries, essential operations such as cesarean sections for complicated deliveries are not always available, and elective operations such as male and female sterilization can be difficult to obtain. Lack of funding for surgical procedures and shortages of trained health workers have often been blamed for the low rates of surgery in developing countries. For example, anesthesiologists (doctors who are trained to give anesthetics and other pain-relieving agents) and trained anesthetists (usually nurses and technicians) are rare in many African countries, as are surgeons and obstetricians (doctors who look after women during pregnancy and childbirth). To make matters worse, these specialists often work in tertiary referral hospitals in large cities. In district hospitals, which provide most of the primary health care needs of rural populations, basic surgical care is usually provided by “mid-level health care providers” (MLPs)—individuals with a level of training between that of nurses and physicians.
Why Was This Study Done?
Various organizations are currently working to improve emergency and essential surgical care in developing countries. For example, the Bellagio Essential Surgery Group (BESG) seeks to define, quantify, and address the problem of unmet surgical needs in sub-Saharan Africa. Importantly, however, before any programs can be introduced to improve access to surgical services in developing countries, better baseline data on existing surgical services needs to be collected—most of the available information on these services is anecdotal. In this study, the researchers (most of whom are members of the BESG) investigate the provision of surgical procedures and anesthesia in district hospitals in three sub-Saharan African countries and estimate the costs of surgery performed in the same hospitals.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected recent data on the number of doctors, MLPs, and nurses in two district hospitals in Tanzania and in Mozambique, and from four district hospitals in Uganda and information on each hospital's expenditure. Most of the health workers in these hospitals (which care for 3 million people between them) were nurses (77.5%), followed by MLPs not trained to provide surgical care (7.8%), and MLPs trained to provide surgical care (3.8%). The hospitals had between one and six medical doctors each (28 across all the hospitals), but there were no trained surgeons or anesthesiologists posted at any of the hospitals. About half of the major surgical procedures undertaken at these hospitals were performed by doctors but more than a third were done by MLPs although the exact pattern of personnel involved in surgery varied among the three countries. Anesthesia was mostly provided by nurses and doctors; again the pattern of anesthesia provision varied among countries and hospitals. Only 7%–14% of overall hospital expenditure was allocated to surgical care and most of this allocation was used for obstetric services. Finally, the researchers estimate that, on the basis of district populations, the district hospitals spent between US$0.05 and US$0.14 per head on surgical services.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in the district hospitals investigated in this study, physicians, MLPs, and nurses provide most of the surgical care. Furthermore, although all the hospitals in the study provide some surgical care, it accounts for a small part of the hospitals' overall operating costs. These findings may not be generalizable to other district hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa and provide no information about the unmet needs for surgical care. Nevertheless, these findings and those of a separate paper that investigates the range and volume of surgical procedures undertaken in the same district hospitals provide a valuable baseline for planning the expansion of health care services in Africa. They also suggest that increasing the funds allocated to surgery and formalizing the training of MLPs might be a cost-effective way of increasing access to surgical care in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The range and volume of surgery in the same hospitals is investigated in a PLoS Medicine Research Article by Moses Galukande et al.
Information on the Bellagio Essential Surgery Group is available
WHO's Global initiative for Emergency and Essential Surgical Care plans to take essential emergency, basic surgery and anesthesia skills to health care staff in low- and middle-income countries around the world; WHO also has a page describing the importance of emergency and essential surgery in primary health care
PMCID: PMC2834706  PMID: 20231869
3.  Resuscitation from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: is survival dependent on who is available at the scene? 
Heart  1999;81(1):47-52.
Objective—To determine whether survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is influenced by the on-scene availability of different grades of ambulance personnel and other health professionals.
Design—Population based, retrospective, observational study.
Setting—County of Nottinghamshire with a population of one million.
Subjects—All 2094 patients who had resuscitation attempted by Nottinghamshire Ambulance Service crew from 1991 to 1994; study of 1547 patients whose arrest were of cardiac aetiology.
Main outcome measures—Survival to hospital admission and survival to hospital discharge.
Results—Overall survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest remains poor: 221 patients (14.3%) survived to reach hospital alive and only 94 (6.1%) survived to be discharged from hospital. Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that the chances of those resuscitated by technician crew reaching hospital alive were poor but were greater when paramedic crew were either called to assist technicians or dealt with the arrest themselves (odds ratio 6.9 (95% confidence interval 3.92 to 26.61)). Compared to technician crew, survival to hospital discharge was only significantly improved with paramedic crew (3.55 (1.62 to 7.79)) and further improved when paramedics were assisted by either a health professional (9.91 (3.12 to 26.61)) or a medical practitioner (20.88 (6.72 to 64.94)).
Conclusions—Survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest remains poor despite attendance at the scene of the arrest by ambulance crew and other health professionals. Patients resuscitated by a paramedic from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest caused by cardiac disease were more likely to survive to hospital discharge than when resuscitation was provided by an ambulance technician. Resuscitation by a paramedic assisted by a medical practitioner offers a patient the best chances of surviving the event.

 Keywords: out-of-hospital;  cardiac arrest;  paramedic;  technician
PMCID: PMC1728906  PMID: 10220544
4.  Respiratory morbidity in a population of French dental technicians 
Aims: To compare wage earner dental technicians with non-exposed salaried subjects for the prevalence of respiratory symptoms and function, and chest x ray abnormalities.
Methods: A total of 134 dental technicians and 131 non-exposed subjects participated. A medical and an occupational questionnaire were filled in to evaluate the prevalence of respiratory symptoms and occupational exposures. Subjects underwent respiratory tests and chest x ray examination.
Results: Mean age of the dental technicians was 36.6 years with a mean duration of dental work of 16.5 years. There was a significant risk of cough (day and night) and usual phlegm in dental technicians. Respiratory function parameters were lower in dental technicians with a significant difference between exposed and non-exposed groups for % FVC (forced vital capacity), % FEF25 (forced mid expiratory flow), and % FEF50. The prevalence of small opacities increased with age. Small opacities were significantly related to an exposure to asbestos in the past.
Conclusions: Our young population of dental technicians is at risk of respiratory morbidity. They should benefit from adequate technical prevention measures.
PMCID: PMC1740304  PMID: 12040116
5.  Interactions between Non-Physician Clinicians and Industry: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001561.
In a systematic review of studies of interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry, Quinn Grundy and colleagues found that many of the issues identified for physicians' industry interactions exist for non-physician clinicians.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
With increasing restrictions placed on physician–industry interactions, industry marketing may target other health professionals. Recent health policy developments confer even greater importance on the decision making of non-physician clinicians. The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the types and implications of non-physician clinician–industry interactions in clinical practice.
Methods and Findings
We searched MEDLINE and Web of Science from January 1, 1946, through June 24, 2013, according to PRISMA guidelines. Non-physician clinicians eligible for inclusion were: Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, Physician Assistants, pharmacists, dieticians, and physical or occupational therapists; trainee samples were excluded. Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria. Data were synthesized qualitatively into eight outcome domains: nature and frequency of industry interactions; attitudes toward industry; perceived ethical acceptability of interactions; perceived marketing influence; perceived reliability of industry information; preparation for industry interactions; reactions to industry relations policy; and management of industry interactions. Non-physician clinicians reported interacting with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Clinicians across disciplines met with pharmaceutical representatives regularly and relied on them for practice information. Clinicians frequently received industry “information,” attended sponsored “education,” and acted as distributors for similar materials targeted at patients. Clinicians generally regarded this as an ethical use of industry resources, and felt they could detect “promotion” while benefiting from industry “information.” Free samples were among the most approved and common ways that clinicians interacted with industry. Included studies were observational and of varying methodological rigor; thus, these findings may not be generalizable. This review is, however, the first to our knowledge to provide a descriptive analysis of this literature.
Non-physician clinicians' generally positive attitudes toward industry interactions, despite their recognition of issues related to bias, suggest that industry interactions are normalized in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. Industry relations policy should address all disciplines and be implemented consistently in order to mitigate conflicts of interest and address such interactions' potential to affect patient care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Making and selling health care goods (including drugs and devices) and services is big business. To maximize the profits they make for their shareholders, companies involved in health care build relationships with physicians by providing information on new drugs, organizing educational meetings, providing samples of their products, giving gifts, and holding sponsored events. These relationships help to keep physicians informed about new developments in health care but also create the potential for causing harm to patients and health care systems. These relationships may, for example, result in increased prescription rates of new, heavily marketed medications, which are often more expensive than their generic counterparts (similar unbranded drugs) and that are more likely to be recalled for safety reasons than long-established drugs. They may also affect the provision of health care services. Industry is providing an increasingly large proportion of routine health care services in many countries, so relationships built up with physicians have the potential to influence the commissioning of the services that are central to the treatment and well-being of patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
As a result of concerns about the tension between industry's need to make profits and the ethics underlying professional practice, restrictions are increasingly being placed on physician–industry interactions. In the US, for example, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act now requires US manufacturers of drugs, devices, and medical supplies that participate in federal health care programs to disclose all payments and gifts made to physicians and teaching hospitals. However, other health professionals, including those with authority to prescribe drugs such as pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and nurse practitioners are not covered by this legislation or by similar legislation in other settings, even though the restructuring of health care to prioritize primary care and multidisciplinary care models means that “non-physician clinicians” are becoming more numerous and more involved in decision-making and medication management. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers examine the nature and implications of the interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 15 published studies that examined interactions between non-physician clinicians (Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, midwives, pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and dieticians) and industry (corporations that produce health care goods and services). They extracted the data from 16 publications (representing 15 different studies) and synthesized them qualitatively (combined the data and reached word-based, rather than numerical, conclusions) into eight outcome domains, including the nature and frequency of interactions, non-physician clinicians' attitudes toward industry, and the perceived ethical acceptability of interactions. In the research the authors identified, non-physician clinicians reported frequent interactions with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Most non-physician clinicians met industry representatives regularly, received gifts and samples, and attended educational events or received educational materials (some of which they distributed to patients). In these studies, non-physician clinicians generally regarded these interactions positively and felt they were an ethical and appropriate use of industry resources. Only a minority of non-physician clinicians felt that marketing influenced their own practice, although a larger percentage felt that their colleagues would be influenced. A sizeable proportion of non-physician clinicians questioned the reliability of industry information, but most were confident that they could detect biased information and therefore rated this information as reliable, valuable, or useful.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings suggest that non-physician clinicians generally have positive attitudes toward industry interactions but recognize issues related to bias and conflict of interest. Because these findings are based on a small number of studies, most of which were undertaken in the US, they may not be generalizable to other countries. Moreover, they provide no quantitative assessment of the interaction between non-physician clinicians and industry and no information about whether industry interactions affect patient care outcomes. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that industry interactions are normalized (seen as standard) in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. This normalization creates the potential for serious risks to patients and health care systems. The researchers suggest that it may be unrealistic to expect that non-physician clinicians can be taught individually how to interact with industry ethically or how to detect and avert bias, particularly given the ubiquitous nature of marketing and promotional materials. Instead, they suggest, the environment in which non-physician clinicians practice should be structured to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of interactions with industry.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by James S. Yeh and Aaron S. Kesselheim
The American Medical Association provides guidance for physicians on interactions with pharmaceutical industry representatives, information about the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, and a toolkit for preparing Physician Payments Sunshine Act reports
The International Council of Nurses provides some guidance on industry interactions in its position statement on nurse-industry relations
The UK General Medical Council provides guidance on financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest as part of its good medical practice website, which describes what is required of all registered doctors in the UK
Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide is a manual prepared by Health Action International and the World Health Organization that schools of medicine and pharmacy can use to train students how to recognize and respond to pharmaceutical promotion.
The Institute of Medicine's Report on Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice recommends steps to identify, limit, and manage conflicts of interest
The University of California, San Francisco, Office of Continuing Medical Education offers a course called Marketing of Medicines
PMCID: PMC3841103  PMID: 24302892
6.  Modifying the Medical Research Council grading system through Rasch analyses 
Brain  2011;135(5):1639-1649.
The Medical Research Council grading system has served through decades for the evaluation of muscle strength and has been recognized as a cardinal feature of daily neurological, rehabilitation and general medicine examination of patients, despite being respectfully criticized due to the unequal width of its response options. No study has systematically examined, through modern psychometric approach, whether physicians are able to properly use the Medical Research Council grades. The objectives of this study were: (i) to investigate physicians’ ability to discriminate among the Medical Research Council categories in patients with different neuromuscular disorders and with various degrees of weakness through thresholds examination using Rasch analysis as a modern psychometric method; (ii) to examine possible factors influencing physicians’ ability to apply the Medical Research Council categories through differential item function analyses; and (iii) to examine whether the widely used Medical Research Council 12 muscles sum score in patients with Guillain–Barré syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy would meet Rasch model's expectations. A total of 1065 patients were included from nine cohorts with the following diseases: Guillain–Barré syndrome (n = 480); myotonic dystrophy type-1 (n = 169); chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (n = 139); limb-girdle muscular dystrophy (n = 105); multifocal motor neuropathy (n = 102); Pompe's disease (n = 62) and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined related polyneuropathy (n = 8). Medical Research Council data of 72 muscles were collected. Rasch analyses were performed on Medical Research Council data for each cohort separately and after pooling data at the muscle level to increase category frequencies, and on the Medical Research Council sum score in patients with Guillain–Barré syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy. Disordered thresholds were demonstrated in 74–79% of the muscles examined, indicating physicians’ inability to discriminate between most Medical Research Council categories. Factors such as physicians’ experience or illness type did not influence these findings. Thresholds were restored after rescoring the Medical Research Council grades from six to four options (0, paralysis; 1, severe weakness; 2, slight weakness; 3, normal strength). The Medical Research Council sum score acceptably fulfilled Rasch model expectations after rescoring the response options and creating subsets to resolve local dependency and item bias on diagnosis. In conclusion, a modified, Rasch-built four response category Medical Research Council grading system is proposed, resolving clinicians’ inability to differentiate among its original response categories and improving clinical applicability. A modified Medical Research Council sum score at the interval level is presented and is recommended for future studies in Guillain–Barré syndrome and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy.
PMCID: PMC3338921  PMID: 22189568
MRC; manual muscle testing; Rasch; neuromuscular disorders
7.  Open access intrapartum CTG database 
Cardiotocography (CTG) is a monitoring of fetal heart rate and uterine contractions. Since 1960 it is routinely used by obstetricians to assess fetal well-being. Many attempts to introduce methods of automatic signal processing and evaluation have appeared during the last 20 years, however still no significant progress similar to that in the domain of adult heart rate variability, where open access databases are available (e.g. MIT-BIH), is visible. Based on a thorough review of the relevant publications, presented in this paper, the shortcomings of the current state are obvious. A lack of common ground for clinicians and technicians in the field hinders clinically usable progress. Our open access database of digital intrapartum cardiotocographic recordings aims to change that.
The intrapartum CTG database consists in total of 552 intrapartum recordings, which were acquired between April 2010 and August 2012 at the obstetrics ward of the University Hospital in Brno, Czech Republic. All recordings were stored in electronic form in the OB TraceVue®;system. The recordings were selected from 9164 intrapartum recordings with clinical as well as technical considerations in mind. All recordings are at most 90 minutes long and start a maximum of 90 minutes before delivery. The time relation of CTG to delivery is known as well as the length of the second stage of labor which does not exceed 30 minutes. The majority of recordings (all but 46 cesarean sections) is – on purpose – from vaginal deliveries. All recordings have available biochemical markers as well as some more general clinical features. Full description of the database and reasoning behind selection of the parameters is presented in the paper.
A new open-access CTG database is introduced which should give the research community common ground for comparison of results on reasonably large database. We anticipate that after reading the paper, the reader will understand the context of the field from clinical and technical perspectives which will enable him/her to use the database and also understand its limitations.
PMCID: PMC3898997  PMID: 24418387
Cardiotocography; Intrapartum; CTG; Database; Signal processing; Fetal heart rate
8.  The 2009 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: Martin Chalfie, Chemistry 2008 
American Biologist Martin Chalfie shared the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Roger Tsien and Osamu Shimomura for their discovery and development of the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP).
Martin Chalfie was born in Chicago in 1947 and grew up in Skokie Illinois. Although he had an interest in science from a young age-- learning the names of the planets and reading books about dinosaurs-- his journey to a career in biological science was circuitous. In high school, Chalfie enjoyed his AP Chemistry course, but his other science courses did not make much of an impression on him, and he began his undergraduate studies at Harvard uncertain of what he wanted to study. Eventually he did choose to major in Biochemistry, and during the summer between his sophomore and junior years, he joined Klaus Weber's lab and began his first real research project, studying the active site of the enzyme aspartate transcarbamylase. Unfortunately, none of the experiments he performed in Weber's lab worked, and Chalfie came to the conclusion that research was not for him.
Following graduation in 1969, he was hired as a teacher Hamden Hall Country Day School in Connecticut where he taught high school chemistry, algebra, and social sciences for 2 years. After his first year of teaching, he decided to give research another try. He took a summer job in Jose Zadunaisky's lab at Yale, studying chloride transport in the frog retina. Chalfie enjoyed this experience a great deal, and having gained confidence in his own scientific abilities, he applied to graduate school at Harvard, where he joined the Physiology department in 1972 and studied norepinephrine synthesis and secretion under Bob Pearlman. His interest in working on C. elegans led him to post doc with Sydney Brenner, at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. In 1982 he was offered position at Columbia University.
When Chalfie first heard about GFP at a research seminar given by Paul Brehm in 1989, his lab was studying genes involved in the development and function of touch-sensitive cells in C. elegans. He immediately became very excited about the idea of expressing the fluorescent protein in the nematode, hoping to figure out where the genes were expressed in the live organism. At the time, all methods of examining localization, such as antibody staining or in situ hybridization, required fixation of the tissue or cells, revealing the location of proteins only at fixed points in time.
In September 1992, after obtaining GFP DNA from Douglas Prasher, Chalfie asked his rotation student, Ghia Euskirchen to express GFP in E. coli, unaware that several other labs were also trying to express the protein, without success. Chalfie and Euskirchen used PCR to amplify only the coding sequence of GFP, which they placed in an expression vector and expressed in E.coli. Because of her engineering background, Euskirchen knew that the microscope in the Chalfie lab was not good enough to use for this type of experiment, so she captured images of green bacteria using the microscope from her former engineering lab. This work demonstrated that GFP fluorescence requires no component other than GFP itself. In fact, the difficulty that other labs had encountered stemmed from their use of restriction enzyme digestions for subcloning, which brought along an extra sequence that prevented GFP's fluorescent expression. Following Euskirchen's successful expression in E. coli, Chalfie's technician Yuan Tu went on to express GFP in C. elegans, and Chalfie published the findings in Science in 1994.
Through the study of C. elegans and GFP, Chalfie feels there is an important lesson to be learned about the importance basic research. Though there has been a recent push for clinically-relevant or patent-producing (translational) research, Chalfie warns that taking this approach alone is a mistake, given how "woefully little" we know about biology. He points out the vast expanse of the unknowns in biology, noting that important discoveries such as GFP are very frequently made through basic research using a diverse set of model organisms. Indeed, the study of GFP bioluminescence did not originally have a direct application to human health. Our understanding of it, however, has led to a wide array of clinically-relevant discoveries and developments. Chalfie believes we should not limit ourselves: "We should be a little freer and investigate things in different directions, and be a little bit awed by what we're going to find."
PMCID: PMC3152221  PMID: 20147885
9.  The Research Council System and the Politics of Medical and Agricultural Research for the British Colonial Empire, 1940–52 
Medical History  2013;57(3):338-358.
Historical accounts of colonial science and medicine have failed to engage with the Colonial Office’s shift in focus towards the support of research after 1940. A large new fund was created in 1940 to expand activities in the colonies described as fundamental research. With this new funding came a qualitative shift in the type of personnel and activity sought for colonial development and, as a result, a diverse group of medical and technical officers existed in Britain’s colonies by the 1950s. The fact that such variety existed amongst British officers in terms of their qualifications, institutional locations and also their relationships with colonial and metropolitan governments makes the use of the term ‘expert’ in much existing historical scholarship on scientific and medical aspects of empire problematic. This article will consider how the Colonial Office achieved this expansion of research activities and personnel after 1940. Specifically, it will focus on the reasons officials sought to engage individuals drawn from the British research councils to administer this work and the consequences of their involvement for the new apparatus established for colonial research after 1940. An understanding of the implications of the application of the research council system to the Colonial Empire requires engagement with the ideology promoted by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and Medical Research Council (MRC) which placed emphasis on the distinct and higher status of fundamental research and which privileged freedom for researchers.
PMCID: PMC3865944  PMID: 24069883
Medical Research Council; Agricultural Research Council; Colonial Office; 1940 CDW Act; Colonial Medical Research Council; East Africa
10.  Incidence of tuberculosis, hepatitis, brucellosis, and shigellosis in British medical laboratory workers. 
British Medical Journal  1976;1(6012):759-762.
A retrospective postal survey of 21 000 medical laboratory workers in England and Wales showed 18 new cases of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1971, a five-times increased risk of acquiring the disease compared with the general population. Technicians were at greatest risk, especially if they worked in morbid anatomy departments. Of the 35 cases of hepatitis, the technicians were again the occupational group most likely to acquire the disease. Microbiology staff were twice as likely to report shigellosis as those in other pathology divisions but only one case of brucellosis was reported in the whole laboratory population. A similar survey carried out in 1973 of 3000 Scottish medical laboratory workers corroborates the results from England and Wales. Medical laboratory workers continue to experience a considerable risk of developing an occupationally acquired infection. Improvements in staff safety and health care seem to be necessary.
PMCID: PMC1639170  PMID: 1260318
11.  Tuberculosis among Health-Care Workers in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e494.
The risk of transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from patients to health-care workers (HCWs) is a neglected problem in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Most health-care facilities in these countries lack resources to prevent nosocomial transmission of tuberculosis (TB).
Methods and Findings
We conducted a systematic review to summarize the evidence on the incidence and prevalence of latent TB infection (LTBI) and disease among HCWs in LMICs, and to evaluate the impact of various preventive strategies that have been attempted. To identify relevant studies, we searched electronic databases and journals, and contacted experts in the field. We identified 42 articles, consisting of 51 studies, and extracted data on incidence, prevalence, and risk factors for LTBI and disease among HCWs. The prevalence of LTBI among HCWs was, on average, 54% (range 33% to 79%). Estimates of the annual risk of LTBI ranged from 0.5% to 14.3%, and the annual incidence of TB disease in HCWs ranged from 69 to 5,780 per 100,000. The attributable risk for TB disease in HCWs, compared to the risk in the general population, ranged from 25 to 5,361 per 100,000 per year. A higher risk of acquiring TB disease was associated with certain work locations (inpatient TB facility, laboratory, internal medicine, and emergency facilities) and occupational categories (radiology technicians, patient attendants, nurses, ward attendants, paramedics, and clinical officers).
In summary, our review demonstrates that TB is a significant occupational problem among HCWs in LMICs. Available evidence reinforces the need to design and implement simple, effective, and affordable TB infection-control programs in health-care facilities in these countries.
A systematic review demonstrates that tuberculosis is an important occupational problem among health care workers in low and middle-income countries.
Editors' Summary
One third of the world's population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). In many people, the bug causes no health problems—it remains latent. But about 10% of infected people develop active, potentially fatal TB, often in their lungs. People with active pulmonary TB readily spread the infection to other people, including health-care workers (HCWs), in small airborne droplets produced when they cough or sneeze. In high-income countries such as the US, guidelines are in place to minimize the transmission of TB in health-care facilities. Administrative controls (for example, standard treatment plans for people with suspected or confirmed TB) aim to reduce the exposure of HCWs to people with TB. Environmental controls (for example, the use of special isolation rooms) aim to prevent the spread and to reduce the concentration of infectious droplets in the air. Finally, respiratory-protection controls (for example, personal respirators for nursing staff) aim to reduce the risk of infection when exposure to M. tuberculosis is unavoidably high. Together, these three layers of control have reduced the incidence of TB in HCWs (the number who catch TB annually) in high-income countries.
Why Was This Study Done?
But what about low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where more than 90% of the world's cases of TB occur? Here, there is little money available to implement even low-cost strategies to reduce TB transmission in health-care facilities—so how important an occupational disease is TB in HCWs in these countries? In this study, the researchers have systematically reviewed published papers to find out the incidence and prevalence (how many people in a population have a specific disease) of active TB and latent TB infections (LTBIs) in HCWs in LMICs. They have also investigated whether any of the preventative strategies used in high-income countries have been shown to reduce the TB burden in HCWs in poorer countries.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To identify studies on TB transmission to HCWs in LMICs, the researchers searched electronic databases and journals, and also contacted experts on TB transmission. They then extracted and analyzed the relevant data on TB incidence, prevalence, risk factors, and control measures. Averaged-out over the 51 identified studies, 54% of HCWs had LTBI. In most of the studies, increasing age and duration of employment in health-care facilities, indicating a longer cumulative exposure to infection, was associated with a higher prevalence of LTBI. The same trend was seen in a subgroup of medical and nursing students. After accounting for the incidence of TB in the relevant general population, the excess incidence of TB in the different studies that was attributable to being a HCW ranged from 25 to 5,361 cases per 100, 000 people per year. In addition, a higher risk of acquiring TB was associated with working in specific locations (for example, inpatient TB facilities or diagnostic laboratories) and with specific occupations, including nurses and radiology attendants; most of the health-care facilities examined in the published studies had no specific TB infection-control programs in place.
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all systematic reviews, the accuracy of these findings may be limited by some aspects of the original studies, such as how the incidence of LTBI was measured. In addition, the possibility that the researchers missed some relevant published studies, or that only studies where there was a high incidence of TB in HCWs were published, may also affect the findings of this study. Nevertheless, they suggest that TB is an important occupational disease in HCWs in LMICs and that the HCWs most at risk of TB are those exposed to the most patients with TB. Reduction of that risk should be a high priority because occupational TB leads to the loss of essential, skilled HCWs. Unfortunately, there are few data available to indicate how this should be done. Thus, the researchers conclude, well-designed field studies are urgently needed to evaluate whether the TB-control measures that have reduced TB transmission to HCWs in high-income countries will work and be affordable in LMICs.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases patient fact sheet on tuberculosis
• US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information for patients and professionals on tuberculosis
• MedlinePlus encyclopedia entry on tuberculosis
• NHS Direct Online, from the UK National Health Service, patient information on tuberculosis
• US National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, information about tuberculosis for health-care workers
• American Lung Association information on tuberculosis and health-care workers
PMCID: PMC1716189  PMID: 17194191
12.  Assessment of the technical quality of electrocardiograms. 
The technical quality of 600 electrocardiograms (ECG's) was assessed for missing leads and clipping, and graded from 1 to 5 for each of noise, lead drift and beat-to-beat drift. Three subgroups of 200 ECGs each were studied: group A, those obtained by emergency department staff (non-technicians); group B, records obtained by ECG technicians; and group C, telephone-transmitted records obtained by technicians performing all the laboratory work at a smaller, outlying hospital. Records with missing leads, clipping, grade 4 or 5 noise, grade 5 lead drift or grade 5 beat-to-beat drift were classified as unsatisfactory or rejected. With these stringent criteria the rejection rate was 71.0% for group A records, 58.5% for group B and 44.5% for group C. The proportions of records with peak quality (no missing leads or clipping, and grade 1 noise, lead drift or beat-to-beat drift) were 4.5% for group A, 5.5% for group B and 23.0% for group C. Suggested revisions in the grading of technical quality of ECGs are presented.
PMCID: PMC1818330  PMID: 688125
13.  Stabbing and safeguarding in children and young people: a Pan-London service evaluation and audit 
JRSM Short Reports  2013;4(7):1-7.
To characterize paediatric presentations of stabbing to emergency departments across London and to audit existing referral rates to the police and social services against the new standard set by the General Medical Council.
Retrospective multi-centre service evaluation/audit.
All emergency departments within London.
Patients under 18 years of age presenting to emergency departments with non-accidental stabbing between 1 April 2007 and 30 April 2009.
Main outcome measures
Patient age, nature of assault, assailant, injuries and management. Rates of documented referral to police and social services, as mandated by GMC guidance.
A total of 381 presentations were identified from 20 out of the 32 hospitals in London, 160 of whom were less than 16 years old. The majority were seen only by emergency department staff and only a minority (28%) were admitted. Three died in the departments. A knife was the commonest weapon and the limbs the most common site of injury. Referrals to police were documented in only 30% of patients (43% if <16 years old) and to social services in 16% (31% if <16 years old) of those discharged. In the majority, there was no documentation (police 64%, social services 79%).
A significant number of paediatric stabbings present to emergency departments across London. The majority of these are discharged directly from departments. Of those discharged, documentation regarding referral rates to Police and Social Services was poor, and documented referral rates low. This study covered a period prior to the introduction of new General Medical Council guidance and a repeat audit to assess subsequent documented referrals is required.
PMCID: PMC3704062  PMID: 23885300
14.  British Contributions to Medical Libraries Overseas 
Since the Second World War, Britain has established or rehabilitated medical schools in eight territories for which she has some responsibility, and, through the British Council, she is making medical library services available in many other countries. Official organizations and professional bodies provide abstract and review journals which enable medical men overseas to keep abreast of modern knowledge, while the Library Association Medical Section and the British National Book Centre have established flourishing exchange services, whose facilities are offered to medical libraries abroad. The most pressing need in developing countries at the present time is for professional medical librarians. Opportunities for training in Britain are open to librarians through at least six official sources besides the British Council and World Health Organization, but so far only two trainees have presented themselves on such grants. Less experienced librarians in the developing countries also need the continuing support of their senior colleagues overseas.
PMCID: PMC198226  PMID: 14223737
15.  Mapping the use of simulation in prehospital care – a literature review 
High energy trauma is rare and, as a result, training of prehospital care providers often takes place during the real situation, with the patient as the object for the learning process. Such training could instead be carried out in the context of simulation, out of danger for both patients and personnel. The aim of this study was to provide an overview of the development and foci of research on simulation in prehospital care practice.
An integrative literature review were used. Articles based on quantitative as well as qualitative research methods were included, resulting in a comprehensive overview of existing published research. For published articles to be included in the review, the focus of the article had to be prehospital care providers, in prehospital settings. Furthermore, included articles must target interventions that were carried out in a simulation context.
The volume of published research is distributed between 1984- 2012 and across the regions North America, Europe, Oceania, Asia and Middle East. The simulation methods used were manikins, films, images or paper, live actors, animals and virtual reality. The staff categories focused upon were paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), medical doctors (MDs), nurse and fire fighters. The main topics of published research on simulation with prehospital care providers included: Intubation, Trauma care, Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), Ventilation and Triage.
Simulation were described as a positive training and education method for prehospital medical staff. It provides opportunities to train assessment, treatment and implementation of procedures and devices under realistic conditions. It is crucial that the staff are familiar with and trained on the identified topics, i.e., intubation, trauma care, CPR, ventilation and triage, which all, to a very large degree, constitute prehospital care. Simulation plays an integral role in this. The current state of prehospital care, which this review reveals, includes inadequate skills of prehospital staff regarding ventilation and CPR, on both children and adults, the lack of skills in paediatric resuscitation and the lack of knowledge in assessing and managing burns victims. These circumstances suggest critical areas for further training and research, at both local and global levels.
PMCID: PMC3997227  PMID: 24678868
Simulation; Prehospital; Systematic literature review
16.  AB 103. Respiratory pathology in genetic era 
Journal of Thoracic Disease  2012;4(Suppl 1):AB103.
Department of Pathology was founded in 1960. With the establishment of the Institute for Pulmonary Diseases. Laboratories for histology, cytology, immunohistochemistry and autopsy unit are integral part of this department.
Patients and methods
In histopathologic laboratory over 10,000 endoscopical and surgical biopsies, with ex tempore analyzes annually, are technically prepared and processed by using standard as well as special stainings. Over 6000 samples per year obtained by exfoliative cytology: sputum, pleural, pericardial and abdominal effusions, aspiration cytology: transthoracic fine needle aspiration (FNA), and samples obtained during bronchoscopy: lavage, brushes and transbronchial fine needle aspiration biopsy (obtained during endobronchial ultrasound guided (EBUS) FNA) and bronchoalveolar lavages are processed in the laboratory for cytology. May Grunwald Giemsa and Papanicolaou stainings are used for all cytological specimens and in many cases cell blocks are prepared too for ancillary technics. Laboratory for immunohistochemistry disposes of 43 tumor markers for the diagnosis and differentiation of primary and secondary lung tumors, malignant mesothelioma, lymphoma and thymoma and annually performs over 300 analyzes. Over 200 autopsies per year are performed in the autopsy unit. Predominant field of work is thoracic pathology, but we are also dealing with cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, hepatobiliary and gynecological pathology.
Today The Department of Pathology employs 1 biologist, 6 laboratory technicians and 3 autopsy assistants as well as 2 pathologists, 3 cytopathologists and 1 resident. As the Institute for Pulmonary Diseases is university hospital all doctors, 4 PhD and 2 postgraduate students are engaged in the educational work. Teachers participate in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching at Medical Faculty in Novi Sad, Banja Luka and Foca (Serbian Republic). The Department of Pathology from the very beginning enforced specialization in Pathology and sub-specialization in Medical Cytology. In the cooperation with the Center for Continuing Education, several educational seminars in the field of pathology and cytology have been organized.
The future of this department is the automatization and standardization of working processes, control improvement, continuing education of all employees and greater engagement in the field of research. Introducing of genetic and molecular techniques for better diagnosis and individualized therapy is our task in the next few years.
PMCID: PMC3537378
17.  Consolidated Academic and Research Exposition: A Pilot Study of an Innovative Education Method to Increase Residents' Research Involvement 
The Ochsner Journal  2012;12(4):367-372.
Internal medicine residents at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation stay engaged with clinical work and have difficulty initiating and completing research and publishing their scholarly activities. Commonly cited barriers include lack of knowledge about institutional research programs, lack of confidence regarding medical writing skills, lack of time, and failure to understand the value of research. The residency directors at Ochsner initiated the Consolidated Academic and Research Exposition (CARE) program to teach basic research skills and encourage residents' interest and productivity in research.
The CARE program includes 4 core components: house staff mentoring and the Resident Career Development Program, a journal club, medical writing instruction, and research engagement. Particular emphasis is given to projects that could be completed within a 1-month period and result in publication, enabling residents to use a 1-month elective rotation during their first postgraduate year. The sessions are mandatory for residents, except for those on specified rotations, including the critical care service and the night float rotation and those who are postcall.
In 2010-2011, 6 residents submitted abstracts to the Louisiana Chapter of the American College of Physicians Associates meeting; 2 abstracts were accepted for presentation. In 2011-2012, there were 14 submissions, 4 of which were accepted for presentation. In 2010-2011, there were 4 submissions to the Southern Hospitalist Conference, which increased to 7 submissions in 2011-2012. The second best presentation award at the Southern Hospitalist Conference was also earned by a resident of this institution. The program saw a 110% total increase in scholarly activity from 2010-2011 to 2011-2012.
The CARE program has been in existence for approximately 1 year. Preliminary results were tabulated based on research proposals, posters, abstracts, case reports, and presentations submitted and/or accepted at leading medical conferences over the past year as compared to the same period 1 year ago. Residents, based on the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Resident Survey responses, were more satisfied with the opportunities provided to them to participate in research or scholarly activities. Our preliminary results suggest that an organized, structured research curriculum in internal medicine residency programs is critical to promoting, initiating, and completing scholarly activity during a residency program.
Ochsner's CARE program has appreciably enhanced internal medicine residents' interest in research-related activity, resulting in a significant increase in resident-authored research papers, abstracts, posters, and case reports being accepted at leading national medical conferences.
PMCID: PMC3527867  PMID: 23267266
ACGME requirements; resident research; scholarly activity
18.  Innovative Practices to Sustain and Renew Service and Patient-centered Outcomes 
Global Advances in Health and Medicine  2014;3(Suppl 1):BPA02.
Background and Objectives:
In integrating HeartMath into our culture at Gundersen Health System, we have a shared focus on delivering workshops and sustaining our HeartMath practices through a variety of innovative approaches. This presentation provides examples of our success in keeping the HeartMath practices alive for our staff.
Gundersen is a fully integrated delivery system of 6500 employees. More than 700 medical, dental, and associate employees are distributed throughout 41 clinic locations, a 325-bed tertiary medical center, a Level II Trauma Center, Gundersen Medical Foundation, residency and medical education programs, and a clinical research program. Our service area covers 19 counties in three states, Western Wisconsin, Southeast Minnesota and Northeast Iowa. We are a physician-led organization embracing a strong administrative/medical partnership.
Three parts of the 2012–2016 strategic plan apply to this initiative: Innovate to achieve service and patient-centered experience outcomes that are best in class (Outstanding Patient Experience); create a culture that embraces a passion for caring and spirit of improvement (Great Place to Work); and engage our staff to create a safe, injury-free, and healing environment for themselves, our patients, and visitors (Great Place to Work).
Rollout Method:
Between February 2011 and February 2013, more than 1200 employees completed HeartMath training. This initiative started with two staff members becoming HeartMathcertified trainers in January 2011. To promote leadership support for the program, the department chair MDs received HeartMath education in May 2011. Several units were identified to be the first to receive the training. As positive reviews circulated, requests for trainings were received from other departments. These included requests to customize the HeartMath offerings for leadership summits, manager meetings, new leader on-boarding, and physician and associate staff and to offer HeartMath appetizers. The reception from both senior leaders and staff warranted two additional trainers becoming certified in August 2011. The administrative leaders completed HeartMath education in March 2012 through our Leadership Academy.
Sustainability Method:
The importance of sustainability of this type of training and project cannot be overemphasized. Therefore, we adopted a wide-ranging strategy. A HeartMath website was incorporated into our GundU Renewal Center. We set up organization-wide user groups that met regularly and organization-wide self-care events. The participants were made aware of sustainability resources and daily visual reminders (HeartQuotes). Monthly articles and participants' stories were placed in the Gundersen newsletter. Recognition posters were awarded to departments showing the percentage of their employees that have attended the trainings. When Jean Watson was adopted as the nursing theorist, an executive decision was made to strategically align her Caring Theory with the HeartMath program.
Using a 1-to-10 scale (1 = not recommend, 10 = highly recommend), 86% rated 7–10 they would recommend this program to colleagues. A post-workshop research survey pilot consisting of 20 questions sent to 122 participants 3 to 6 months after completion received a 54% response rate, with 86% indicating regular use of techniques.
The following Figure illustrates the results of sustainability and impact research.
Sustainability and impact research.
PMCID: PMC3923279
Patient-centered outcomes; biofeedback; stress reduction; HeartMath
19.  Implementing the 2009 Institute of Medicine recommendations on resident physician work hours, supervision, and safety 
Long working hours and sleep deprivation have been a facet of physician training in the US since the advent of the modern residency system. However, the scientific evidence linking fatigue with deficits in human performance, accidents and errors in industries from aeronautics to medicine, nuclear power, and transportation has mounted over the last 40 years. This evidence has also spawned regulations to help ensure public safety across safety-sensitive industries, with the notable exception of medicine.
In late 2007, at the behest of the US Congress, the Institute of Medicine embarked on a year-long examination of the scientific evidence linking resident physician sleep deprivation with clinical performance deficits and medical errors. The Institute of Medicine’s report, entitled “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety”, published in January 2009, recommended new limits on resident physician work hours and workload, increased supervision, a heightened focus on resident physician safety, training in structured handovers and quality improvement, more rigorous external oversight of work hours and other aspects of residency training, and the identification of expanded funding sources necessary to implement the recommended reforms successfully and protect the public and resident physicians themselves from preventable harm.
Given that resident physicians comprise almost a quarter of all physicians who work in hospitals, and that taxpayers, through Medicare and Medicaid, fund graduate medical education, the public has a deep investment in physician training. Patients expect to receive safe, high-quality care in the nation’s teaching hospitals. Because it is their safety that is at issue, their voices should be central in policy decisions affecting patient safety. It is likewise important to integrate the perspectives of resident physicians, policy makers, and other constituencies in designing new policies. However, since its release, discussion of the Institute of Medicine report has been largely confined to the medical education community, led by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).
To begin gathering these perspectives and developing a plan to implement safer work hours for resident physicians, a conference entitled “Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety: What will it take to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations?” was held at Harvard Medical School on June 17–18, 2010. This White Paper is a product of a diverse group of 26 representative stakeholders bringing relevant new information and innovative practices to bear on a critical patient safety problem. Given that our conference included experts from across disciplines with diverse perspectives and interests, not every recommendation was endorsed by each invited conference participant. However, every recommendation made here was endorsed by the majority of the group, and many were endorsed unanimously. Conference members participated in the process, reviewed the final product, and provided input before publication. Participants provided their individual perspectives, which do not necessarily represent the formal views of any organization.
In September 2010 the ACGME issued new rules to go into effect on July 1, 2011. Unfortunately, they stop considerably short of the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations and those endorsed by this conference. In particular, the ACGME only applied the limitation of 16 hours to first-year resident physicans. Thus, it is clear that policymakers, hospital administrators, and residency program directors who wish to implement safer health care systems must go far beyond what the ACGME will require. We hope this White Paper will serve as a guide and provide encouragement for that effort.
Resident physician workload and supervision
By the end of training, a resident physician should be able to practice independently. Yet much of resident physicians’ time is dominated by tasks with little educational value. The caseload can be so great that inadequate reflective time is left for learning based on clinical experiences. In addition, supervision is often vaguely defined and discontinuous. Medical malpractice data indicate that resident physicians are frequently named in lawsuits, most often for lack of supervision. The recommendations are: The ACGME should adjust resident physicians workload requirements to optimize educational value. Resident physicians as well as faculty should be involved in work redesign that eliminates nonessential and noneducational activity from resident physician dutiesMechanisms should be developed for identifying in real time when a resident physician’s workload is excessive, and processes developed to activate additional providersTeamwork should be actively encouraged in delivery of patient care. Historically, much of medical training has focused on individual knowledge, skills, and responsibility. As health care delivery has become more complex, it will be essential to train resident and attending physicians in effective teamwork that emphasizes collective responsibility for patient care and recognizes the signs, both individual and systemic, of a schedule and working conditions that are too demanding to be safeHospitals should embrace the opportunities that resident physician training redesign offers. Hospitals should recognize and act on the potential benefits of work redesign, eg, increased efficiency, reduced costs, improved quality of care, and resident physician and attending job satisfactionAttending physicians should supervise all hospital admissions. Resident physicians should directly discuss all admissions with attending physicians. Attending physicians should be both cognizant of and have input into the care patients are to receive upon admission to the hospitalInhouse supervision should be required for all critical care services, including emergency rooms, intensive care units, and trauma services. Resident physicians should not be left unsupervised to care for critically ill patients. In settings in which the acuity is high, physicians who have completed residency should provide direct supervision for resident physicians. Supervising physicians should always be physically in the hospital for supervision of resident physicians who care for critically ill patientsThe ACGME should explicitly define “good” supervision by specialty and by year of training. Explicit requirements for intensity and level of training for supervision of specific clinical scenarios should be providedCenters for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should use graduate medical education funding to provide incentives to programs with proven, effective levels of supervision. Although this action would require federal legislation, reimbursement rules would help to ensure that hospitals pay attention to the importance of good supervision and require it from their training programs
Resident physician work hours
Although the IOM “Sleep, supervision and safety” report provides a comprehensive review and discussion of all aspects of graduate medical education training, the report’s focal point is its recommendations regarding the hours that resident physicians are currently required to work. A considerable body of scientific evidence, much of it cited by the Institute of Medicine report, describes deteriorating performance in fatigued humans, as well as specific studies on resident physician fatigue and preventable medical errors.
The question before this conference was what work redesign and cultural changes are needed to reform work hours as recommended by the Institute of Medicine’s evidence-based report? Extensive scientific data demonstrate that shifts exceeding 12–16 hours without sleep are unsafe. Several principles should be followed in efforts to reduce consecutive hours below this level and achieve safer work schedules. The recommendations are: Limit resident physician work hours to 12–16 hour maximum shiftsA minimum of 10 hours off duty should be scheduled between shiftsResident physician input into work redesign should be actively solicitedSchedules should be designed that adhere to principles of sleep and circadian science; this includes careful consideration of the effects of multiple consecutive night shifts, and provision of adequate time off after night work, as specified in the IOM reportResident physicians should not be scheduled up to the maximum permissible limits; emergencies frequently occur that require resident physicians to stay longer than their scheduled shifts, and this should be anticipated in scheduling resident physicians’ work shiftsHospitals should anticipate the need for iterative improvement as new schedules are initiated; be prepared to learn from the initial phase-in, and change the plan as neededAs resident physician work hours are redesigned, attending physicians should also be considered; a potential consequence of resident physician work hour reduction and increased supervisory requirements may be an increase in work for attending physicians; this should be carefully monitored, and adjustments to attending physician work schedules made as needed to prevent unsafe work hours or working conditions for this group“Home call” should be brought under the overall limits of working hours; work load and hours should be monitored in each residency program to ensure that resident physicians and fellows on home call are getting sufficient sleepMedicare funding for graduate medical education in each hospital should be linked with adherence to the Institute of Medicine limits on resident physician work hours
Moonlighting by resident physicians
The Institute of Medicine report recommended including external as well as internal moonlighting in working hour limits. The recommendation is: All moonlighting work hours should be included in the ACGME working hour limits and actively monitored. Hospitals should formalize a moonlighting policy and establish systems for actively monitoring resident physician moonlighting
Safety of resident physicians
The “Sleep, supervision and safety” report also addresses fatigue-related harm done to resident physicians themselves. The report focuses on two main sources of physical injury to resident physicians impaired by fatigue, ie, needle-stick exposure to blood-borne pathogens and motor vehicle crashes. Providing safe transportation home for resident physicians is a logistical and financial challenge for hospitals. Educating physicians at all levels on the dangers of fatigue is clearly required to change driving behavior so that safe hospital-funded transport home is used effectively. Fatigue-related injury prevention (including not driving while drowsy) should be taught in medical school and during residency, and reinforced with attending physicians; hospitals and residency programs must be informed that resident physicians’ ability to judge their own level of impairment is impaired when they are sleep deprived; hence, leaving decisions about the capacity to drive to impaired resident physicians is not recommendedHospitals should provide transportation to all resident physicians who report feeling too tired to drive safely; in addition, although consecutive work should not exceed 16 hours, hospitals should provide transportation for all resident physicians who, because of unforeseen reasons or emergencies, work for longer than consecutive 24 hours; transportation under these circumstances should be automatically provided to house staff, and should not rely on self-identification or request
Training in effective handovers and quality improvement
Handover practice for resident physicians, attendings, and other health care providers has long been identified as a weak link in patient safety throughout health care settings. Policies to improve handovers of care must be tailored to fit the appropriate clinical scenario, recognizing that information overload can also be a problem. At the heart of improving handovers is the organizational effort to improve quality, an effort in which resident physicians have typically been insufficiently engaged. The recommendations are: Hospitals should train attending and resident physicians in effective handovers of careHospitals should create uniform processes for handovers that are tailored to meet each clinical setting; all handovers should be done verbally and face-to-face, but should also utilize written toolsWhen possible, hospitals should integrate hand-over tools into their electronic medical records (EMR) systems; these systems should be standardized to the extent possible across residency programs in a hospital, but may be tailored to the needs of specific programs and services; federal government should help subsidize adoption of electronic medical records by hospitals to improve signoutWhen feasible, handovers should be a team effort including nurses, patients, and familiesHospitals should include residents in their quality improvement and patient safety efforts; the ACGME should specify in their core competency requirements that resident physicians work on quality improvement projects; likewise, the Joint Commission should require that resident physicians be included in quality improvement and patient safety programs at teaching hospitals; hospital administrators and residency program directors should create opportunities for resident physicians to become involved in ongoing quality improvement projects and root cause analysis teams; feedback on successful quality improvement interventions should be shared with resident physicians and broadly disseminatedQuality improvement/patient safety concepts should be integral to the medical school curriculum; medical school deans should elevate the topics of patient safety, quality improvement, and teamwork; these concepts should be integrated throughout the medical school curriculum and reinforced throughout residency; mastery of these concepts by medical students should be tested on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) stepsFederal government should support involvement of resident physicians in quality improvement efforts; initiatives to improve quality by including resident physicians in quality improvement projects should be financially supported by the Department of Health and Human Services
Monitoring and oversight of the ACGME
While the ACGME is a key stakeholder in residency training, external voices are essential to ensure that public interests are heard in the development and monitoring of standards. Consequently, the Institute of Medicine report recommended external oversight and monitoring through the Joint Commission and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The recommendations are: Make comprehensive fatigue management a Joint Commission National Patient Safety Goal; fatigue is a safety concern not only for resident physicians, but also for nurses, attending physicians, and other health care workers; the Joint Commission should seek to ensure that all health care workers, not just resident physicians, are working as safely as possibleFederal government, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, should encourage development of comprehensive fatigue management programs which all health systems would eventually be required to implementMake ACGME compliance with working hours a “ condition of participation” for reimbursement of direct and indirect graduate medical education costs; financial incentives will greatly increase the adoption of and compliance with ACGME standards
Future financial support for implementation
The Institute of Medicine’s report estimates that $1.7 billion (in 2008 dollars) would be needed to implement its recommendations. Twenty-five percent of that amount ($376 million) will be required just to bring hospitals into compliance with the existing 2003 ACGME rules. Downstream savings to the health care system could potentially result from safer care, but these benefits typically do not accrue to hospitals and residency programs, who have been asked historically to bear the burden of residency reform costs. The recommendations are: The Institute of Medicine should convene a panel of stakeholders, including private and public funders of health care and graduate medical education, to lay down the concrete steps necessary to identify and allocate the resources needed to implement the recommendations contained in the IOM “Resident duty hours: Enhancing sleep, supervision and safety” report. Conference participants suggested several approaches to engage public and private support for this initiativeEfforts to find additional funding to implement the Institute of Medicine recommendations should focus more broadly on patient safety and health care delivery reform; policy efforts focused narrowly upon resident physician work hours are less likely to succeed than broad patient safety initiatives that include residency redesign as a key componentHospitals should view the Institute of Medicine recommendations as an opportunity to begin resident physician work redesign projects as the core of a business model that embraces safety and ultimately saves resourcesBoth the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should take the Institute of Medicine recommendations into consideration when promulgating rules for innovation grantsThe National Health Care Workforce Commission should consider the Institute of Medicine recommendations when analyzing the nation’s physician workforce needs
Recommendations for future research
Conference participants concurred that convening the stakeholders and agreeing on a research agenda was key. Some observed that some sectors within the medical education community have been reluctant to act on the data. Several logical funders for future research were identified. But above all agencies, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the only stakeholder that funds graduate medical education upstream and will reap savings downstream if preventable medical errors are reduced as a result of reform of resident physician work hours.
PMCID: PMC3630963  PMID: 23616719
resident; hospital; working hours; safety
20.  The clinical burden of malaria in Nairobi: a historical review and contemporary audit 
Malaria Journal  2011;10:138.
Widespread urbanization over the next 20 years has the potential to drastically change the risk of malaria within Africa. The burden of the disease, its management, risk factors and appropriateness of targeted intervention across varied urban environments in Africa remain largely undefined. This paper presents a combined historical and contemporary review of the clinical burden of malaria within one of Africa's largest urban settlements, Nairobi, Kenya.
A review of historical reported malaria case burdens since 1911 within Nairobi was undertaken using archived government and city council reports. Contemporary information on out-patient case burdens due to malaria were assembled from the National Health Management and Information System (HMIS). Finally, an audit of 22 randomly selected health facilities within Nairobi was undertaken covering 12 months 2009-2010. The audit included interviews with health workers, and a checklist of commodities and guidelines necessary to diagnose, treat and record malaria.
From the 1930's through to the mid-1960's malaria incidence declined coincidental with rapid population growth. During this period malaria notification and prevention were a priority for the city council. From 2001-2008 reporting systems for malaria were inadequate to define the extent or distribution of malaria risk within Nairobi. A more detailed facility review suggests, however that malaria remains a common diagnosis (11% of all paediatric diagnoses made) and where laboratories (n = 15) exist slide positivity rates are on average 15%. Information on the quality of diagnosis, slide reading and whether those reported as positive were imported infections was not established. The facilities and health workers included in this study were not universally prepared to treat malaria according to national guidelines or identify foci of risks due to shortages of national first-line drugs, inadequate record keeping and a view among some health workers (17%) that slide negative patients could still have malaria.
Combined with historical evidence there is a strong suggestion that very low risks of locally acquired malaria exist today within Nairobi's city limits and this requires further investigation. To be prepared for effective prevention and case-management of malaria among a diverse, mobile population in Nairobi requires a major paradigm shift and investment in improved quality of malaria diagnosis and case management, health system strengthening and case reporting.
PMCID: PMC3114797  PMID: 21599931
21.  Mortality in Iraq Associated with the 2003–2011 War and Occupation: Findings from a National Cluster Sample Survey by the University Collaborative Iraq Mortality Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(10):e1001533.
Based on a survey of 2,000 randomly selected households throughout Iraq, Amy Hagopian and colleagues estimate that close to half a million excess deaths are attributable to the recent Iraq war and occupation.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Previous estimates of mortality in Iraq attributable to the 2003 invasion have been heterogeneous and controversial, and none were produced after 2006. The purpose of this research was to estimate direct and indirect deaths attributable to the war in Iraq between 2003 and 2011.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a survey of 2,000 randomly selected households throughout Iraq, using a two-stage cluster sampling method to ensure the sample of households was nationally representative. We asked every household head about births and deaths since 2001, and all household adults about mortality among their siblings. We used secondary data sources to correct for out-migration. From March 1, 2003, to June 30, 2011, the crude death rate in Iraq was 4.55 per 1,000 person-years (95% uncertainty interval 3.74–5.27), more than 0.5 times higher than the death rate during the 26-mo period preceding the war, resulting in approximately 405,000 (95% uncertainty interval 48,000–751,000) excess deaths attributable to the conflict. Among adults, the risk of death rose 0.7 times higher for women and 2.9 times higher for men between the pre-war period (January 1, 2001, to February 28, 2003) and the peak of the war (2005–2006). We estimate that more than 60% of excess deaths were directly attributable to violence, with the rest associated with the collapse of infrastructure and other indirect, but war-related, causes. We used secondary sources to estimate rates of death among emigrants. Those estimates suggest we missed at least 55,000 deaths that would have been reported by households had the households remained behind in Iraq, but which instead had migrated away. Only 24 households refused to participate in the study. An additional five households were not interviewed because of hostile or threatening behavior, for a 98.55% response rate. The reliance on outdated census data and the long recall period required of participants are limitations of our study.
Beyond expected rates, most mortality increases in Iraq can be attributed to direct violence, but about a third are attributable to indirect causes (such as from failures of health, sanitation, transportation, communication, and other systems). Approximately a half million deaths in Iraq could be attributable to the war.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
War is a major public health problem. Its health effects include violent deaths among soldiers and civilians as well as indirect increases in mortality and morbidity caused by conflict. Unlike those of other causes of death and disability, however, the consequences of war on population health are rarely studied scientifically. In conflict situations, deaths and diseases are not reliably measured and recorded, and estimating the proportion caused, directly or indirectly, by a war or conflict is challenging. Population-based mortality survey methods—asking representative survivors about deaths they know about—were developed by public health researchers to estimate death rates. By comparing death rate estimates for periods before and during a conflict, researchers can derive the number of excess deaths that are attributable to the conflict.
Why Was This Study Done?
A number of earlier studies have estimated the death toll in Iraq since the beginning of the war in March 2003. The previous studies covered different periods from 2003 to 2006 and derived different rates of overall deaths and excess deaths attributable to the war and conflict. All of them have been controversial, and their methodologies have been criticized. For this study, based on a population-based mortality survey, the researchers modified and improved their methodology in response to critiques of earlier surveys. The study covers the period from the beginning of the war in March 2003 until June 2011, including a period of high violence from 2006 to 2008. It provides population-based estimates for excess deaths in the years after 2006 and covers most of the period of the war and subsequent occupation.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Interviewers trained by the researchers conducted the survey between May 2011 and July 2011 and collected data from 2,000 randomly selected households in 100 geographical clusters, distributed across Iraq's 18 governorates. The interviewers asked the head of each household about deaths among household members from 2001 to the time of the interview, including a pre-war period from January 2001 to March 2003 and the period of the war and occupation. They also asked all adults in the household about deaths among their siblings during the same period. From the first set of data, the researchers calculated the crude death rates (i.e., the number of deaths during a year per 1,000 individuals) before and during the war. They found the wartime crude death rate in Iraq to be 4.55 per 1,000, more than 50% higher than the death rate of 2.89 during the two-year period preceding the war. By multiplying those rates by the annual Iraq population, the authors estimate the total excess Iraqi deaths attributable to the war through mid-2011 to be about 405,000. The researchers also estimated that an additional 56,000 deaths were not counted due to migration. Including this number, their final estimate is that approximately half a million people died in Iraq as a result of the war and subsequent occupation from March 2003 to June 2011.
The risk of death at the peak of the conflict in 2006 almost tripled for men and rose by 70% for women. Respondents attributed 20% of household deaths to war-related violence. Violent deaths were attributed primarily to coalition forces (35%) and militia (32%). The majority (63%) of violent deaths were from gunshots. Twelve percent were attributed to car bombs. Based on the responses from adults in the surveyed households who reported on the alive-or-dead status of their siblings, the researchers estimated the total number of deaths among adults aged 15–60 years, from March 2003 to June 2011, to be approximately 376,000; 184,000 of these deaths were attributed to the conflict, and of those, the authors estimate that 132,000 were caused directly by war-related violence.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide the most up-to-date estimates of the death toll of the Iraq war and subsequent conflict. However, given the difficult circumstances, the estimates are associated with substantial uncertainties. The researchers extrapolated from a small representative sample of households to estimate Iraq's national death toll. In addition, respondents were asked to recall events that occurred up to ten years prior, which can lead to inaccuracies. The researchers also had to rely on outdated census data (the last complete population census in Iraq dates back to 1987) for their overall population figures. Thus, to accompany their estimate of 460,000 excess deaths from March 2003 to mid-2011, the authors used statistical methods to determine the likely range of the true estimate. Based on the statistical methods, the researchers are 95% confident that the true number of excess deaths lies between 48,000 and 751,000—a large range. More than two years past the end of the period covered in this study, the conflict in Iraq is far from over and continues to cost lives at alarming rates. As discussed in an accompanying Perspective by Salman Rawaf, violence and lawlessness continue to the present day. In addition, post-war Iraq has limited capacity to re-establish and maintain its battered public health and safety infrastructure.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Salman Rawaf.
The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development website provides information on the global burden of armed violence.
The International Committee of the Red Cross provides information about war and international humanitarian law (in several languages).
Medact, a global health charity, has information on health and conflict.
Columbia University has a program on forced migration and health.
Johns Hopkins University runs the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response.
University of Washington's Health Alliance International website also has information about war and conflict.
PMCID: PMC3797136  PMID: 24143140
22.  Process mapping of PTA and stent placement in a university hospital interventional radiology department 
Insights into Imaging  2012;3(4):329-336.
To apply the process mapping technique in an interdisciplinary approach in order to visualize, better understand, and efficiently organize percutaneous transluminal angioplasty (PTA) and stent placement procedures in a university hospital’s interventional radiology department.
After providing an overview of seven established mapping techniques for medical professionals, the process mapping technique was chosen and applied in an interdisciplinary approach including referrers (physicians, nurses, and other staff in referring departments, e.g., vascular surgery), providers (interventional radiologists, nurses, technicians, and staff of the angiography suite), and specialists of the hospital’s controlling department.
A generally binding and standardized process map was created, describing the entire procedure for a patient in whom the radiological intervention of PTA or stent treatment is contemplated from admission to the department of vascular surgery until discharge after successful treatment. This visualization tool assists in better understanding (especially given natural staff fluctuation over time) and efficiently organizing PTA and stent procedures.
Process mapping can be applied for streamlining workflow in healthcare, especially in interdisciplinary settings. By defining exactly what a business entity does, who is responsible, to what standard a process should be completed, and how the success can be assessed, this technique can be used to eliminate waste and inefficiencies from the workplace while providing high-quality goods and services easily, quickly, and inexpensively.
Main Messages
• Process mapping can be used in a university hospital’s interventional radiology department.
• Process mapping can describe the patient’s entire process from admission to PTA/stent placement until discharge.
• Process mapping can be used in interdisciplinary teams (e.g., referrers, providers, and controlling specialists).
• Process mapping can be used in order to more efficiently organize PTA and stent placement procedures.
• Process mapping can assist in better understanding and efficiently organizing procedures in standardized fashion.
PMCID: PMC3481077  PMID: 22695945
Interventional; Health policy and practice; Decision analysis; Quality management; Process control
23.  United States Private-Sector Physicians and Pharmaceutical Contract Research: A Qualitative Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001271.
Jill Fisher and Corey Kalbaugh describe their findings from a qualitative research study evaluating the motivations of private-sector physicians conducting contract research for the pharmaceutical industry.
There have been dramatic increases over the past 20 years in the number of nonacademic, private-sector physicians who serve as principal investigators on US clinical trials sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. However, there has been little research on the implications of these investigators' role in clinical investigation. Our objective was to study private-sector clinics involved in US pharmaceutical clinical trials to understand the contract research arrangements supporting drug development, and specifically how private-sector physicians engaged in contract research describe their professional identities.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a qualitative study in 2003–2004 combining observation at 25 private-sector research organizations in the southwestern United States and 63 semi-structured interviews with physicians, research staff, and research participants at those clinics. We used grounded theory to analyze and interpret our data. The 11 private-sector physicians who participated in our study reported becoming principal investigators on industry clinical trials primarily because contract research provides an additional revenue stream. The physicians reported that they saw themselves as trial practitioners and as businesspeople rather than as scientists or researchers.
Our findings suggest that in addition to having financial motivation to participate in contract research, these US private-sector physicians have a professional identity aligned with an industry-based approach to research ethics. The generalizability of these findings and whether they have changed in the intervening years should be addressed in future studies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Before a new drug can be used routinely by physicians, it must be investigated in clinical trials—studies that test the drug's safety and effectiveness in people. In the past, clinical trials were usually undertaken in academic medical centers (institutes where physicians provide clinical care, do research, and teach), but increasingly, clinical trials are being conducted in the private sector as part of a growing contract research system. In the US, for example, most clinical trials completed in the 1980s took place in academic medical centers, but nowadays, more than 70% of trials are conducted by nonacademic (community) physicians working under contract to pharmaceutical companies. The number of private-sector nonacademic physicians serving as principal investigators (PIs) for US clinical trials (the PI takes direct responsibility for completion of the trial) increased from 4,000 in 1990 to 20,250 in 2010, and research contracts for clinical trials are now worth more than USṩ11 billion annually.
Why Was This Study Done?
To date, there has been little research on the implications of this change in the conduct of clinical trials. Academic PIs are often involved in both laboratory and clinical research and are therefore likely to identify closely with the science of trials. By contrast, nonacademic PIs may see clinical trials more as a business opportunity—pharmaceutical contract research is profitable to US physicians because they get paid for every step of the trial process. As a result, pharmaceutical companies may now have more control over clinical trial data and more opportunities to suppress negative data through selective publication of study results than previously. In this qualitative study, the researchers explore the outsourcing of clinical trials to private-sector research clinics through observations of, and in-depth interviews with, physicians and other research staff involved in the US clinical trials industry. A qualitative study collects non-quantitative data such as how physicians feel about doing contract research and about their responsibilities to their patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Between October 2003 and September 2004, the researchers observed the interactions between PIs, trial coordinators (individuals who undertake many of the trial activities such as blood collection), and trial participants at 25 US research organizations in the southwestern US and interviewed 63 informants (including 12 PIs) about the trials they were involved in and their reasons for becoming involved. The researchers found that private-sector physicians became PIs on industry-sponsored clinical trials primarily because contract research was financially lucrative. The physicians perceived their roles in terms of business rather than science and claimed that they offered something to the pharmaceutical industry that academics do not—the ability to carry out a diverse range of trials quickly and effectively, regardless of their medical specialty. Finally, the physicians saw their primary ethical responsibility as providing accurate data to the companies that hired them and did not explicitly refer to their ethical responsibility to trial participants. One possible reason for this shift in ethical concerns is the belief among private-sector physicians that pharmaceutical companies must be making scientifically and ethically sound decisions when designing trials because of the amount of money they invest in them.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that private-sector physicians participate as PIs in pharmaceutical clinical trials primarily for financial reasons and see themselves as trial practitioners and businesspeople rather than as scientists. The accuracy of these findings is likely to be limited by the small number of PIs interviewed and by the time that has elapsed since the researchers collected their qualitative data. Moreover, these findings may not be generalizable to other regions of the US or to other countries. Nevertheless, they have potentially troubling implications for drug development. By hiring private-sector physicians who see themselves as involved more with the business than the science of contract research, pharmaceutical companies may be able to exert more control over the conduct of clinical trials and the publication of trial results than previously. Compared to the traditional investigatorinitiated system of clinical research, this new system of contract research means that clinical trials now lack the independence that is at the heart of best science practices, a development that casts doubt on the robustness of the knowledge being produced about the safety and effectiveness of new drugs.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The website is a searchable register of federally and privately supported clinical trials in the US; it provides information about all aspects of clinical trials
The US National Institutes of Health provides information about clinical trials, including personal stories about clinical trials from patients and researchers
The UK National Health Service Choices website has information for patients about clinical trials and medical research, including personal stories about participating in clinical trials
The UK Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit also provides information for patients about clinical trials and links to information on clinical trials provided by other organizations
MedlinePlus has links to further resources on clinical trials (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3404112  PMID: 22911055
24.  Infections in British clinical laboratories, 1988-1989. 
Journal of Clinical Pathology  1991;44(8):667-669.
During 1988-89 this continuing survey showed 18 infections in the staff of laboratories reporting from 166 centres, representing 21,756 person-years of exposure. Shigella and other bowel infections (one caused by S typhi) predominated, affecting 11 microbiology medical laboratory scientific officers. Three shigella infections originated from quality control samples. Pulmonary tuberculosis affected four workers, including two mortuary technicians, but without detected occupational exposure to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Other infections included one caused by Brucella melitensis. Hepatitis was not reported. The sustained low level of hepatitis is encouraging and suggests a low risk to staff of bloodborne infections such as human immunodeficiency virus.
PMCID: PMC496761  PMID: 1890201
25.  Toward an Understanding of Disengagement from HIV Treatment and Care in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Qualitative Study 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(1):e1001369.
Norma Ware and colleagues conducted a large qualitative study among patients in HIV treatment programs in sub-Saharan Africa to investigate reasons for missed visits and provide an explanation for disengagement from care.
The rollout of antiretroviral therapy in sub-Saharan Africa has brought lifesaving treatment to millions of HIV-infected individuals. Treatment is lifelong, however, and to continue to benefit, patients must remain in care. Despite this, systematic investigations of retention have repeatedly documented high rates of loss to follow-up from HIV treatment programs. This paper introduces an explanation for missed clinic visits and subsequent disengagement among patients enrolled in HIV treatment and care programs in Africa.
Methods and Findings
Eight-hundred-ninety patients enrolled in HIV treatment programs in Jos, Nigeria; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Mbarara, Uganda who had extended absences from care were tracked for qualitative research interviews. Two-hundred-eighty-seven were located, and 91 took part in the study. Interview data were inductively analyzed to identify reasons for missed visits and to assemble them into a broader explanation of how missed visits may develop into disengagement. Findings reveal unintentional and intentional reasons for missing, along with reluctance to return to care following an absence. Disengagement is interpreted as a process through which missed visits and ensuing reluctance to return over time erode patients' subjective sense of connectedness to care.
Missed visits are inevitable over a lifelong course of HIV care. Efforts to prevent missed clinic visits combined with moves to minimize barriers to re-entry into care are more likely than either approach alone to keep missed visits from turning into long-term disengagement.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. As the infection progresses, the immune system becomes weaker, and the affected person becomes more susceptible to life-threatening infections. Over the past three decades, 25 million people have died from HIV, and according to the World Health Organization, in 2011, there were roughly 34.2 million people living with HIV, over 60% of whom lived in sub-Saharan Africa. Although HIV cannot be cured, the virus can be suppressed by combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) consisting of three or more antiretroviral drugs. ART controls viral replication and strengthens the immune system, allowing the affected person to fight off infections. With ART, HIV can be managed as a chronic disease: people living with HIV can live healthy lives as long as they take antiretroviral drugs regularly for the rest of their lives.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, poor retention in HIV programs is a huge problem: a large proportion—30%–60% in some settings in sub-Saharan Africa—of people starting ART, are lost to follow-up and stop taking treatment. Few studies have looked in depth at the reasons why people with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa miss clinic appointments or even stop coming altogether. So in this study in Tanzania, Uganda, and Nigeria, the researchers did a qualitative analysis from the patients' perspective on the reasons for missing clinic visits. Qualitative research can use information-gathering techniques, such as open-ended interviews, to develop an in-depth understanding of human behavior and the reasons behind such behavior.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers indentified people to interview by using “tracking lists” from HIV/AIDS care clinics in the three countries—patient tracking by clinical trackers is increasingly used as a way to contact patients who have missed clinic appointments. The researchers included people in the study who had been tracked and contacted by clinic trackers, had been absent from the clinic for three months or more, and gave consent to be re-contacted by the researchers. The researchers interviewed participants, using their local language, on several topics, including their experiences of care at the clinic and of tracking, and the circumstances of missed appointments. The detailed accounts were transcribed, and then the researchers categorized the reasons for missing appointments into intentional and unintentional reasons.
Eight-hundred-ninety patients in the three countries were tracked during the study period, but only 287 were located, of whom 91 participated in the study. Of the 91 participants, 76 were being prescribed ART, and 15 had not started treatment. The main unintentional reason for missing clinic visits was a conflicting demand on the patients' time, which was often unexpected and for complex reasons, such as caring for a dying relative, going to a funeral, or traveling to work. These reasons were often transient and changed over time. Intentional reasons were often related to dissatisfaction with the care received at the clinic, especially “the harsh treatment” they received from health workers, which typically referred to behavior perceived by patients to be rude. For example, participants reported being spoken to “roughly” or feeling that the clinic staff “didn't care.” Such behavior made patients feel hurt, humiliated, and angry, and reluctant to return to the clinic. The researchers found that, overall, disengagement from care appeared to be a process through which missed visits and subsequent reluctance to return over time eroded patients' sense of connectedness to care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Absences from care will be inevitable over a lifetime course of treatment for HIV/AIDS. These findings indicate that absences may be unintentional as well as intentional, and that the reasons are complex and can change over time. Initial reasons for missing may disappear, leaving patients free, but reluctant, to return to care. Reasons for reluctance include shame at having been absent and the anticipation of a negative response to return from care providers. Patient education for ART initiation in sub-Saharan Africa often includes stern warnings about the lifelong commitment beginning ART represents. Paradoxically, educational efforts intended to maximize the benefits of ART for patients may be driving some away from care. Therefore, efforts to prevent missed clinic visits coupled with strategies to minimize any obstacles to coming back to care are necessary to keep patients' missed visits from turning into long-term disengagement from treatment.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Edward Mills
The World Health Organization has the latest data on access to ART
The US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more information on types of ART, and also on adherence to treatment
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some information about interventions to help improve adherence
PMCID: PMC3541407  PMID: 23341753

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