Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Flu season not for me!: Surveillance screening for scheduling.

I have always believed in the motto "work smarter, not harder". 

As a respiratory therapist one is paid hourly and it does not matter how much work you do in that hour. You will not receive a bonus if you administer 100 more breathing treatments then your coworker. 

So what are the optimal times to be at work versus being on vacation, in regards to working smarter?

Lets look to  surveillance systems.

Surveillance Systems

There are a couple of great surveillance systems available to everyone on the Internet which can track infectious diseases that directly contribute to the amount of work a respiratory therapist may administer.

1. Flu
2. RSV

One surveillance system is "Google Flu Trends". 

Google Flu Trends complies data from search traffic related to symptoms of flu, medical websites visited on topics of flu, etc. Patients feeling  sick will most likely search the internet looking for possible reasons and remedy options. 

The below image shows Google Flu Trends for the city closest to me. Evaluating the data from the last seven years it appears that the best time to take off, to miss both the high work load and high chance of exposure is late February to early March. 

Image 1: Google Flu Trends current year versus the last seven for Norfolk, Virginia. 

The Centers of Disease Control

The next site is the CDC. This site provides my data for both Flu and RSV.

This data is composed from actual specimens collected and if the antigens for the disease is actually present. The below image displays the results for my area (Virginia) 2011-2012.
This graph shows that peak time for flu last year was early March, very similar to the Google Flu Trends results. 

Image 2: Data from the CDC Flu activity & surveillance. 

Lastly, Respiratory Syncytial Virsus (RSV) data.

The below data was also obtained from the CDC at this link:

Image 3: RSV Commonwealth of Virginia trends. 

The RSV trends show the most prevalent time of infection last year was January through early March.

Based on these results the best time for me to be off work is February to early March.

Surveillance for Staffing

A respiratory therapy department manager could use this same data and provide seasonal or extra staffing during these most common outbreak periods. This would decrease individual work load, decrease staff burnout, and have extra staff on hand in case team members became infected themselves.