What A Broadened Understanding Of Health Means For Medical Office Staff

©Mark Adams

Tunnel vision is a term that refers to an overemphasis on one issue without sufficient attention to another. For example, a baseball coach may be so concerned with his pitcher's throwing motion that he ignores the placement of the pitch itself. Losing focus on the big picture can lead to losing much more, and medicine is subject to that same pitfall.

While we still have specialties in all fields of health care, we are learning more and more about the interconnected nature of all body systems and the importance of taking a broad view of the patient's overall situation in order to diagnose accurately and direct the patient to the appropriate treatment. Health care providers in all positions — office staff, nurses, therapists, physicians — need to keep their focus on the overall patient rather than only zeroing in on the most obvious complaint or symptom.

This is especially true of a condition like diabetes. Not only does it involve the endocrine system, but diabetes impacts the kidneys, heart, skin, and eyes. The first line of assessment in an office includes the nurses and office staff, and the more they notice about the patient's condition, the better the care provided.

For example, if a staff member at a dentist's office is well trained in a broad base of medical care, he or she may notice that a patient's symptoms seem to extend beyond a simple cold sore and may be early signs of oral cancer. By relaying these concerns to the practitioner, there is further reinforcement of the clinical examination that could save the patient's life.

But how do those staff members achieve that level of alertness? How do they learn what peripheral symptoms or signs can indicate that the scope of care needed may extend beyond their office walls?

As is usually the case, training is the answer. Using medical staffing agencies for educating your personnel can get them to a higher level of proficiency in the skill areas that they may use less frequently. Much like CPR training is required for all health care workers — from cardiac nurses to dermatologists — these overarching skills should be taught to all medical personnel just to make sure they're prepared for that once-in-a-career incident.

The rarity of such an outcome can make it challenging to motivate workers for such training. They can easily become complacent, believing that the most obvious problems is usually the most serious one. They can feel that they aren't high enough in the office hierarchy to be credible in seeking such problems. They may fear embarrassment if their suspicions prove unfounded. Whatever reservations they have, managers should work with them to ensure that they maintain a high level of vigilance for these issues, and even beyond the medical aspect.

Having at least a basic awareness of different support networks can reinforce the work of other providers and help patients get the care they need. Because, after all, that's what everyone in the medical field wants to do.

Ashley Andrews is a San Diego-based freelance writer who blogs on a wide range of green living, business, health and technology topics.

See also:
Natural Strategies for Managing Diabetes
Supportive Integrative Care for Cancer Patients