Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

Happy Anniversary to the Girl Scouts

They say once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout. I was both a Brownie and a Girl Scout growing up, and I read with interest recently that the Girl Scouts are celebrating their 100th Anniversary in 2012. Being a Girl Scout taught me a great deal: the importance of being part of a larger group (which has come in handy leading a 300-plus-member healthcare association); the amazing feeling of accomplishment when you earned a badge (even though I did earn a badge for sewing, I never learned to enjoy sewing them on my sash); how to approach someone with confidence (essential for someone selling their own weight in cookies.) To this day, I can’t go by those cookie vendors without buying a couple of boxes. I also got my first taste of leadership when my troop elected me division leader. I will never forget how proud I was to put on my uniform for every meeting.

No matter what your field, the lessons and life skills learned in the Girl Scouts never go out of fashion. So thank you to the Girl Scouts, and congratulations on reaching a century milestone.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 13:37

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Congressman Payne: A Trailblazing Leader for New Jersey

NJHA sends it condolences to the Payne family over the passing of Congressman Donald Payne. Congressman Payne has served the 10th congressional district of New Jersey for 22 years. He is truly a trailblazer, being the first African American elected to Congress from the State of New Jersey. He also served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressman Payne served his constituents and all the people of New Jersey very ably for over two decades. It is a sad day for our state. We will miss him and the leadership he so often provided on key issues.
Written by Betsy Ryan at 17:40

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’Tis the Season… for Flu Shots

’Tis the season for shopping, socializing, a sprinkle of snow – and flu shots.

That’s right. As much as it may hurt – just a pinch, really – I urge all of you to get a flu shot this December. Don’t delay.

If you’re a healthcare worker, it’s extra important to provide protection to yourselves and your patients by getting the shot. Most facilities make it easy by providing flu shots at convenient times. I know of some hospitals that have a designated flu vax team to bring the vaccine straight to you, providing a flu shot on the spot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccination rates for healthcare workers climbed to 63.5 percent for the 2010-2011 flu season. That’s a modest increase from the rate of 61.9 percent reported in 2009-2010. Hospital workers had the highest vaccination rate among healthcare providers, reaching 71.1 percent. That’s an improvement – but still not good enough. The CDC’s goal is a 90 percent vaccination rate for healthcare workers.

And even if you don’t work in healthcare, take care of yourself and your loved ones by getting the flu vaccine. I do a lot of driving around our great state and I don’t think I’ve recently passed a CVS or a Rite Aid without seeing flu shots offered for a nominal fee. A lot of insurance plans will even pay for the shot.

In this season of caring, take care of yourself and those around you by getting a flu shot. It will only hurt for a second, and it will help protect you for months to come.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 15:33

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Honor the Veterans Who Serve and Protect

Friday is Veteran's Day – a day for us to thank those who have served our country in the Armed Forces. With the United States currently involved in Afghanistan and Iraq and servicemen and women serving multiple tours of duties -- and their families facing unbearable absences and constant worry – I urge you to take the time to thank a vet for serving and protecting.

I have two brothers-in-law who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both are retired U.S. Marine Corps. Semper fi. That time-honored phrase always makes me think of retired Sen. Bob Littell who proudly wore a Marine Corps emblem on his lapel. Veterans Day also makes me think of my father, my father-in-law, my grandfather, my husband and brother, all of whom served and made our family very proud. And I think of NJHA's own Aline Holmes who served in the U.S. Navy as an ER nurse. I think of countless others, and those who never returned.

So if you have the chance, and if you feel like I do, take the time to thank the vets in your life. And say a prayer for those servicemen and women serving our country right now.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 19:45

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Storm Stories: Healthcare Facilities Show Their Heart During Hurricane

As is so often the case, the worst of times bring out the best in people. And that’s certainly true with Hurricane Irene. The news is full of stories of devastation and loss, and my heart goes out to those seriously impacted by storm. But today, let me focus on the warm and uplifting storm stories that are coming in from across New Jersey…

Like Dr. Dwight Lee at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center, who climbed on to the back of a pickup truck, umbrella in hand, to assist a patient with chest pains. Meadowlands had wisely set up an “outpost” emergency department when the flood waters rose on its main facility. Working closely with their local EMS and county Office of Emergency Management, the hospital team continued to receive emergency patients throughout the storm, including critical cases of heart attack and stroke that could have been fatal without quick access to emergency care.

Or like the hospital workers hunkered down at hospitals all along the Jersey Shore. Many of them were evacuated from their own homes and went straight to their workplaces, committed to providing a shelter in the storm. While some hospitals in flood-prone areas made the right call to evacuate ahead of the storm, other hospitals made the prudent decision to “shelter in place” and continue to provide essential healthcare services to their community. To those hospitals and their dedicated staff, thank you for your bravery, your commitment and your very smart planning to assure the safety of your patients, community and colleagues.

Another heartwarming story came to us from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Rahway, where the hospital’s chapel hosted a wedding Sunday for a happy couple whose original church location was made inaccessible by Irene.

We also heard about many other blessed events – babies born at hospitals at the height of the storm. (Anyone like Irene as a middle name?)

I could go on and on, and I apologize for not being able to share every single story of service and commitment that occurred this past weekend at our hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and other healthcare organizations. Nor am I able to fully extend our appreciation to first responders such as EMS and local law enforcement, or the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services. All of them were tremendous partners with healthcare facilities to ensure the safety and well-being of our fellow New Jerseyans.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 18:23

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