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Monday, June 6, 2016

What does STAT really mean????

Okay, so I'm a new respiratory therapist and my pager goes off. I look at it and see, "EKG in recovery STAT!" What does this mean? What do I do?

I am taught that if something is STAT, that means that immediately or without delay. It means I must drop everything I am doing and rush to the patient. In my mind, it means the patient is in dire straights, and my services are needed immediately to fix the patient.

So, I do just that: I stop the breathing treatment I am presently doing, even though my patient is somewhat short of breath. I have to do this because, by my definition of STAT, someone needs me more than this guy. So I rush down to recovery and...

... what I find is a patient who is awake and alert and in no apparent respiratory distress. Okay, he is fine. He is talking. When asked, he says he has no chest pain. And the nurse says, "Yes, the doctor just wanted an EKG before he left the unit, and didn't want to wait."

Eh! This is where the respiratory therapist gets a little perturbed. He grumbles under his breath, but he does the EKG to keep the peace. He is pleasant to the patient, pleasant to the nurse, and pleasant to the doctor. Then he quickly returns to the person in need of a treatment.

Still a note is made in the back of the therapist's mind: don't rush the next time the term STAT is used. And, a few hours later, another STAT page to recovery is observed on the beeper. This time, the RT finishes what he is doing and then walks to recovery.

So, you see, in this way, the word STAT is watered down so that it is essentially irrelevant. The word STAT becomes no more useful than that word ASAP, which means As Soon As Possible. To me, by my definition, ASAP means finish what you are doing and then come down.

You see, at some point the watered down version of STAT is going to get me and a patient in trouble. However, considering about 99% of STAT pages are not to save a life, it would be frivolous to have an RT rushing to the scene of every STAT page.

Now, this brings me to the definition of STAT that doctors go by. Doctors, or so it seems to me, define it as "per my convenience, I need you to get this done immediately, or without delay."

It does not matter what you are doing, you have to drop it to rush to the scene of the STAT page. It doesn't matter who the patient is you are presently taking care of, or how sick your patient is: you drop what you are doing and run.

But I do not like this definition. I wish there was a more universal definition of STAT and ASAP. This would help prevent frustration on both the part of the therapist, nurses, and physicians.

Here's how I would define these terms:

  • STAT: You are needed immediately, or without delay, because something you do can help save this person's life. A delay might result in increased morbidity or mortality. 
  • ASAP: You are needed as soon as you finish up what you are currently doing. A delay will not result in increased morbidity or mortality, although your services are requested as soon as you can possibly fit them into your schedule. 
  • AYC:  This means at your convenience. Your services are needed, although you can do them whenever they fit into your schedule. There is no rush to get them done. In most instances, this is assumed. 
These new definitions allow physicians to get the rapid service that they require, although they also allow the therapist time to prioritize. This would result in greater satisfaction of workers, while making sure the patient's get the care they need when they need it. What do yo think? 

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