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Vital SIgns

News Briefs

Getting Caught Napping

Shhhhh!" is an injunction more often associated with libraries than with hospitals. But it's now being uttered in hushed tones for an hour every afternoon on one floor at DHMC. The inpatient floors of big hospitals-even Dartmouth- Hitchcock, which was built in 1991 without an overhead paging system in order to reduce noise- are infamous for the constant clatter of cart wheels, beeping of monitors, and background hum of conversation among staff and visitors. The poor patient sometimes finds it impossible amidst all the hubbub to rest, much less take a nap.

But for the past several months on One East at DHMC, every day between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m., the doors of patients' rooms are closed, the lights are turned down, and silence is enforced on the whole floor.

Although the new regime is reported to be a minor inconvenience for staff, the compulsory quiet is getting glowing reviews- no, make that dim reviews-from patients. A.S.

RX: Take a Two - Mile Hike

Say "prescription" and most people think of a pill-or perhaps a lotion. But the term has taken on new meaning at Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center, where doctors have started issuing prescriptions for exercise. The scrips-suggesting, say, that a patient take a biweekly two-mile hike-are individualized and just as detailed as orders for medication; they may even come with a trail map.

The project is a collaboration among DMS and DHMC, several local towns and schools, the National Park Service, and a group called the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, which received a $200,000, five-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support the initiative.

Dr. Charles Brackett, an assistant professor of medicine, is director of the new program. The concept behind it is that the more specific a directive is, the more likely it is that patients will follow it. The program will also involve medical students who have volunteered to make calls to patients to offer follow-up encouragement. So that would be "Take two hikes and we'll call you in the morning"? A.S.

BABY STEPS: Cheryl Boyarsky of Bedford, N.H., ran the New York Marathon last fall as a benefit for DHMC's In Vitro Fertilization Program. The mother of triplets born by assisted reproduction, she raised $8,327 for the cause.

HI, TECHNOLOGY: Incoming Dartmouth medical students are now, as of the current first-year class, required to have a personal laptop computer (a computer was recommended before this year but not required).

WORKING ASSETS: More than 30 physician assistants (PAs) work at DHMC in specialties ranging from pediatrics to orthopaedics to cardiology. PAs are licensed to practice medicine under physician supervision; it's the third-fastest-growing profession in the nation.

REINVENTING THE WHEEL: Dr. Patricia Watson, an assistant professor of psychiatry, cofounded Mobility without Barriers, which designed a wheelchair suited for developing countries and is helping destigmatize wheelchair use in such regions.

FRIENDS INDEED: Margie Cole of DHMC's Comprehensive Breast Program started a project called BeFriend, which pairs breast cancer survivors with newly diagnosed patients; more than 100 volunteers responded to her first appeal.

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