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Controlling diabetes at work

As part of National Safety Month, staff in the Penobscot Valley Hospital emergency department would like to remind the community to learn more about diabetes in the workplace. Knowing how to spot signs of low blood glucose in yourself or your co-workers can be an invaluable skill to learn. Portions of this article were reprinted from the National Safety Council.

Diabetes has been called an epidemic in America. A 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 29.1 million people in the United States – almost 10 percent of the population – have the disorder. Of those, 8.1 million are undiagnosed.

Diabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, vision problems and lower limb amputation if not controlled. So what are the implications for worker safety?

The blood of a person with diabetes has too much glucose, resulting in possible health issues. In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas makes little or no insulin, which is needed to turn sugar and other food into energy. With type 2 diabetes – the most common type – the body improperly uses insulin, leading to abnormal blood glucose levels.

Concerns about worker safety focus mainly on hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose. Symptoms of hypoglycemia range from hunger and dizziness to confusion and unconsciousness. In contrast, hyperglycemia occurs when blood glucose is high because the body has too little insulin or is improperly using insulin, resulting in symptoms such as hunger, thirst and frequent urination. Left untreated, hyperglycemia can lead to diabetic coma.

“When sugar gets very high, it can affect their cognitive abilities, it can affect vision,” said Dr. Daniel Samo, member of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine board of directors and medical director of health promotion, and corporate services and public safety medicine divisions, at Northwestern Medical Group in Chicago.

Experts say that, regardless of type, an individual with diabetes can work safely as long as he or she can effectively control the disorder and perform the job’s essential functions. “It’s very dependent on the person’s job duties,” said Wendy Strobel Gower, director of the Ithaca, NY-based Northeast Americans with Disabilities Act Center. “Diabetes can be very mild and it can be very significant. It really depends on how you experience it and how you manage it.”

Employers and employees
By law, in most cases, workers with diabetes do not have to disclose the condition to their employer. Strobel Gower says, “If you need to do something differently on your job, because of your diabetes to do your job effectively, you should probably say something so you can ask for what you need, but it’s a personal choice.”

Workers who have diabetes may choose to disclose their condition to request “reasonable accommodations.” The employer may then require proof of disability and need for accommodations, the American Diabetes Association states. According to law, an employer cannot retaliate against a worker for requesting such accommodations.

Reasonable accommodations may include breaks to eat, take medicine and test blood sugar levels; and larger computer screens.

Safety-sensitive work
For safety-sensitive jobs – such as those involving a firearm or heavy machinery – concern has revolved around whether the worker will become disoriented or incapacitated, according to the American Diabetes Association.

This may be changing in some industries. FMCSA’s recent proposal to ease exemption requirements states that commercial motor vehicle drivers with insulin-treated diabetes mellitus “are as safe as other drivers when their condition is well-controlled.” Drivers with ITDM would be allowed to operate CMVs if they are cleared yearly by a medical examiner listed in the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

“It’s really great progress,” Paul said. “There’s still plenty of protections. You have to have the treating health care provider provide his or her opinion about qualification. There’s a registry of doctors who have to be certified to provide the Department of Transportation exams. Those are at least two separate medical providers that have to weigh in on the qualification issue or safety issue.”

Similarly, opportunities have expanded for law enforcement officers with diabetes. ACOEM’s National Consensus Guidance for the Medical Evaluation of Law Enforcement Officers states that “blanket bans” of people with diabetes are illegal and inconsistent with medical information. And for firefighters, any disqualification due to diabetes or insulin use must be made on an individual basis.

“The concept is a well-controlled, well-educated, well-motivated diabetic can pretty much do anything,” Samo said. 

Hospital board elects new governing members

Bonnie Gray

Patty Houghton

May 24 - Penobscot Valley Hospital announces two new members to the board of directors. Bonnie Gray, retired employee of PVH, and Patty Houghton, business manager at Lee Academy, assumed their posts on the governing board at the April annual meeting. They join other board members in taking on leadership responsibilities of PVH including planning and policy development, community and organizational development, and fundraising and support development.

Bonnie Gray provides many years of healthcare experience to the board as she was an employee of Penobscot Valley Hospital for 41 years, retiring in 2014. She is an active member in our community, including the Lincoln Historical Society, and she also currently serves as the president of the PVH Auxiliary.

“I am looking forward to serving with the present Board of Directors and adding my knowledge of the hospital to their varied expertise,” states Gray. “The hospital is facing many challenges, but it is still (as quoted in the newspaper 43 years ago) ‘a hospital built by the people for the people’.”

Patty Houghton has worked for Lee Academy for over 25 years serving as assistant treasurer and business manager. She brings financial expertise to the board in budgeting, accounts payable and receivable, and endowment reporting. She has served as secretary on the Lee Academy board of directors and a member of the Maine Association of Independent Schools health insurance committee.

“I live by the Winston Churchill quote: We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” states Houghton. “I was honored to be asked to serve Penobscot Valley Hospital, and look forward to collaborating with fellow board members and hospital personnel as we champion the needs of our rural, hometown communities.”

The board also elected a new executive committee including:
· Phillip Dawson, Jr., President
Retired Fire Chief
Board member since 1984
· Richard Wyman
Vice President
Retired - United States Department of Defense
Board member since 2009
· Gilberte Mayo
Clerk, United States Postal Service
Board member since 2002   

Win a Free 1-Year Membership to PVH Gym

May 17- Penobscot Valley Hospital has over twenty participants in our new weight loss program called Healthy Me. Participants have been working directly with PVH staff to make lifestyle changes and reach weight loss goals. Healthy Me group leaders Jen Cowing, physical therapist, and Mark Robinson, registered dietitian, are thrilled with the interest in the program and wanted to extend a fun challenge to the group and community as a whole.

Through June 2, PVH is hosting a community-wide challenge for everyone to walk 10,000 steps per day.

The community is encouraged to track your steps each day. On the evening of June 2, at the end of the Healthy Me weight loss program, one person participating in the 10,000 steps per day walking challenge will win a free one-year membership to the PVH Community Fitness Center.

Increasing your physical activity levels not only reduces your risk of developing a chronic disease, it also decreases your likelihood of disability and premature death, and helps keep your healthcare costs down. Walking is a great way to increase your physical activity.

Our local Healthy Maine Partnership, Partnership for a Healthy Northern Penobscot, is providing free pedometers for the community to join in the 10,000 step per day challenge. Tracking charts and pedometers are available at the PVH Rehab & Wellness Center, 37 Main Street, Lincoln, while supplies last. Those wishing to take part in the challenge simply need to log their steps each day and report back to the Rehab & Wellness Center staff. Final tracking charts should be turned in by noon on June 2 to be eligible to win the one-year membership to the PVH Community Fitness Center.

Throughout the month, PVH staff are posting physical activity tips and healthy recipes on the PVH Rehab & Wellness Facebook page,

Scholarship Opportunity for Non-Traditional Healthcare Students

March 29  -  The Penobscot Valley Hospital Auxiliary will be awarding a scholarship to a non-traditional student pursuing a healthcare-related degree. Any student who has been out of high school for more than one year and is returning to pursue a degree is considered a non-traditional student. The PVH Auxiliary Scholarship provides college tuition assistance for adults who may not have access to other scholarships. Applications may be found at the PVH website,, then click on the scholarship article under the “What’s New” section. You may also pick up an application at the PVH Patient Registration desk in Lincoln. Hurry, the deadline to apply is May 15, 2016.

Flu Map


Healthy Me weight loss program at PVH

Penobscot Valley Hospital invites you to join us for a new weight loss program called Healthy Me. This five-week program is designed by our physical therapists and registered dietitian to help you make lifestyle changes to help you reach your weight loss goals.

Healthy Me provides all the essentials to embrace healthy lifestyles including free use of the PVH Rehab & Wellness Center gym after hours on Thursdays and education on heart rate monitoring, safe exercise options, meal planning and making healthy food choices.
· Reach your goals for weight loss in a supportive environment with guidance from licensed professionals
· Receive personalized support to incorporate aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretching programs into your daily routines
· Learn about personal energy needs & healthy food options

This program is free to anyone living within the Penobscot Valley Hospital service area who has a goal of weight loss. PVH staff will review applications and select participants who meet specific criteria for the program. Preference will be given to those who have a body mass index over 30 and have an interest in reaching a healthy weight. Approximately 20 people will be selected to participate in the first session, and if there is demand for this program, PVH will work to host additional sessions in the future.

Classes will be held every Thursday evening at the PVH Rehab & Wellness Center, 37 Main Street, Lincoln starting May 5 through June 2 from 5:30-7:30pm. Participants should plan on attending all five weeks. Call 794-7228 or click here today to apply for Healthy Me!  

What to say (and what NOT to say) to a cancer patient

By Terri Coolong, PVH Cancer Support Group Leader

Being diagnosed with cancer is difficult not only for the patient, but for friends and family as well. Most of us are ill equipped to handle this kind of situation, and while well meaning, many of us say things that are hurtful or thoughtless. Here are some comments that I heard shortly after being diagnosed that had the very best of intentions, but fell flat for one reason or another.

“Call me if you need help.” This was a wonderful offer, but truly, at that point, I had no idea what I was going to need help with! Moreover, I was busy trying to juggle kids, husband, work, and medical appointments. I didn’t have the energy to think of what someone else could do, and like many people who are ill, I felt awkward asking for a favor.
Ø Try to come up with something specific that you can do for the person or the family with cancer. One of my friends came over every Friday afternoon and cleaned my house. Another kept track of my chemo appointments and made sure that someone had dropped off a hot meal on those days. Still others would call from the grocery store and ask what they could pick up for me while they were there. These people were able to find ways to help that did not involve me asking.

“Everything will be OK” or “You are a strong person, you’ll be fine”. Sometimes these statements come out of your fear that the person will NOT be fine. Other times, it is a fervent wish for the loved ones good health. However, when a patient is operating from a place of fear, of how they will react to treatments, of pain they might experience, of leaving loved ones to go on without them, these platitudes sound trite. It feels like no one is listening to how they really feel. They may not be feeling particularly strong at that point.
Ø Instead, try listening to the patient and tailor your comments to their specific situation and fears, and offer thoughtful, genuine encouragement.

“Do you think it is because you gained so much weight/smoked/don’t eat healthy foods?” A cancer patient is already worried and guilty that they have done something to cause their cancer, and adding fuel to the fire is not helpful. In most cases, it is very difficult to pinpoint a specific cause for cancer. We all have thoughts like this, but please, keep these kinds of thoughts to yourself. No one can change the past.
Ø Instead, focus on helping the patient regain their health. Think of ways to promote healthy living.
Ø Ask if the doctor has suggested a specific diet or exercises for the patient to do. Help them eat a healthy diet by bringing them fresh fruit or vegetables if that is what the doctor recommends (remember, many fresh foods are forbidden during a chemo regimen) or offer to be their exercise buddy and walk with them on a regular basis.

“My co-worker’s cousin’s brother had the same kind of cancer you do.” Every cancer diagnosis is different, and every person has an individualized plan to follow. Furthermore, everyone reacts differently to different drugs or chemotherapy. If they were never sick a day and I am vomiting because of the medicine, I don’t really want to hear about it. Even worse, telling me they died in spite of an aggressive treatment is something I REALLY don’t want to hear.
Ø Focus instead on asking thoughtful questions about their treatment and how they are reacting to it. You don’t need to offer advice to help someone who is going through cancer treatment. Just be there to listen.

“You should ________(fill in the blank).” No, they shouldn’t. They shouldn’t switch to a different doctor, or take more of a drug, or exercise more. They shouldn’t eat a macrobiotic diet, or sleep less, or get out of the house. “Shoulds” are generally value judgments that we are placing on someone else.
Ø What they should do is try to follow the plan that their oncologist has given them. If for some reason they are not succeeding, they already know it. As far as getting up or socializing, even people who don’t look sick might have a lot going on inside that makes it very difficult to stay awake and function. One side effect of cancer itself is extreme fatigue. Just getting out of bed in the morning may be the greatest thing they can accomplish.

Doing or saying nothing at all. Hardest of all for me was the friends who dropped out of my life while I was going through treatment. While I could rationalize that any of the dumb things that were said to me came from a place of caring and love, I found it very difficult to understand why some good friends were silent.
Ø There is always something you can do to make a patient feel loved and supported. One of the most meaningful things that happened during my cancer treatment was when, unbeknownst to me, my church planned a hat day. I had lost my hair and was wearing hats to cover my bald head. On that Sunday, when I looked out across the congregation and saw every head covered by some type of hat, whether fancy, silly, or utilitarian, I felt absolutely loved, supported, and accepted. No one had to say anything at all: their actions spoke volumes.

The PVH Cancer Support Group meets the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month from 6:00-7:15 pm in Conference Room B of the hospital. Meetings in March are the 8th and the 22nd. We are open to patients, caregivers, friends, and family. Remember, too, to check out our cancer library in the hospital chapel.

3/15 & 17 - First aid basics classes at PVH

In March, Penobscot Valley Hospital will be offering evening classes for the public in First Aid, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), and Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training.

In these courses, PVH staff will teach you First Aid basics, CPR for adults, children, and infants, and how to use an AED. This training is especially helpful for parents, grandparents, teachers, daycare providers, and teenagers who are planning to babysit.

Night 1 (3/15) covers CPR and AED training:
- CPR for adults, children and infants
- AED use for adults and children
- How to help a choking child and infant

Night 2 (3/17) covers First Aid topics:
- Breathing problems
- Choking in an adult
- Allergic reactions
- Heart attack
- Fainting
- Diabetes and low blood sugar
- Stroke
- Seizure
- Shock

The upcoming courses for First Aid, CPR and AED training will take place on Tuesday, March 15 and Thursday, March 17 from 5:00-8:00pm in Conference Room A on the second floor of Penobscot Valley Hospital. Learn these life-saving skills for just $35 a night or $60 for both evenings. You may request a book to study the programs ahead of time through the PVH Cardiopulmonary Department.
To register, contact the PVH Cardiopulmonary Department at (207) 794-7101. 

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