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Doctors Are Being Worked Too Hard, And That's Hurting Hospital Safety

The Atlantic Wire

Discovered: Physicians who see too many patients are more prone to slip up; gay men are gayer than straight guys; taking trays out of cafeterias reduces waste; new criteria for 'habitable' planets.

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Overworked doctors harm hospital safety. In a survey of 500 hospital physicians who deal in patient care, over 40 percent said they take on more patients than they can safely handle at least once per month. What's worse, 22 percent said they occasionally order unnecessary tests because they don't have the time to personally examine patients. On top of that, up to 1 in 10 doctors said their workload-related stress has in the past resulted in patients being sent to the ICU—or even to their deaths. Henry Michtalik of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine led the study. He says that he and his colleagues plan to study factors contributing to unsafe physician workloads next. One issue they'll look at is hospital layout. By partitioning hospitals according to healthcare providers, doctors might be spared precious time they currently spend walking from wing to wing between seeing patients. [Scientific American]

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Gay men aren't as anxious or depressed as straight men. No wonder the informal term for homosexuality also means happy. According to a new study led by McGill University neuroscientist Robert-Paul Juster, gay men are significantly less depressed and anxious when compared to straight men. Eighty-seven men and women were studied in Montreal, and the researchers found that gay men who've publicly disclosed their sexual orientation "had significantly lower depressive symptoms and allostatic load levels than heterosexual men." However, those results reversed amongst women. But the study's authors realize that conclusions drawn from such a small sample group should be questioned. In their paper, they write, "It is possible that healthier and hardier lesbians, gays and bisexuals are more likely to partake in such studies than LBGs struggling with psychosocial, distress and difficulties self-identifying as sexual minorities." [Los Angeles Times]

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Trayless cafeterias can reduce waste. Food waste is a systemic problem in school cafeterias. Remember all those food fight scenes from high school sitcoms? Well, American University's Kiho Kim and his colleagues have found a way to reduce the amount of perfectly edible food that ends up in garbage bins (or on geeks' faces). Just by removing trays from the university's cafeterias, Kim found that food waste went down by 32 percent, and energy savings kicked in too. "Our concern was that all of these other institutions were jumping on the bandwagon in the absence of data," Kim says about the trayless cafeteria trend. But with these findings, Kim can definitively say that "removing trays is a simple way for universities and other dining facilities to reduce their environmental impact and save money." [American University]

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Some exoplanets just became candidates for harboring alien life. Determining whether or not a planet falls into the "habitable zone" is a crucial concept amongst alien hunters. And it will probably aid future generations of humankind in their search for a new home, once we inevitably turn Earth into a Co2-choked ball of fiery desolation. So it's an important calculation. And now, the criteria for understanding which planets are just far enough from a star to sustain life has changed ever so slightly. Ravi Kumar Kopparapu of Penn State University and his colleagues now say that updated atmospheric databases of HITRAN (high-resolution transmission molecular absorption) have kicked out some candidate exoplanets and brought in some new contenders. "This will have a significant impact on the number of exoplanets that are within habitable zone," says Kopparapu. [NBC News]

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