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News Briefs

Safe gun storage

Many factors play into whether gun owners store their firearms and ammunition separately and safely, a consideration with more weight right now as children spend more time at home. Experts from the University of Pennsylvania found that personal commitment contracts have the potential to help. “Firearm owners know there’s an important safety step they need to take, but it’s never the moment,” said Alison Buttenheim of the Penn School of Nursing. “A commitment contract can make it more salient.”

Nurses & the pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses have moved into roles beyond the medical care they typically provide, taking on tasks usually relegated to others, changing their workflow processes to maintain social distancing and sitting in as family and friends to the ill. “It has completely fallen on us to be that bedside person, both for COVID patients but also for the other patients in the hospital who don’t have COVID but still can’t have visitors,” James Ballinghoff, chief nursing officer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia said. “We’re providing that emotional support.”

Home-care movement

The home-care movement has been growing and is being hastened by the coronavirus pandemic. "In many ways," said Nina O’Connor, chief medical office at the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Medicine at Home program, "the coronavirus pandemic is revealing the strengths and importance of home care because we now have a situation in which, for many public health reasons, figuring out ways to care for sick patients at home is actually better than sending patients to facilities." O'Connor said the kinds of technological support continue to grow as they are customized to specific patient needs. "We work with a group using tablets delivered to their home, and that allows us to call them on the tablet twice a day, do a video visit, check their vital signs. It's almost like hospital-level monitoring and has worked well, even for older patients."

Theater & the pandemic

Jasmine Blanks Jones of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education used public theater to fight misinformation in Liberia during the Ebola outbreak. Moved online, she believes the lessons learned during that outbreak could help stop the spread of COVID-19 around the world. “In the U.S., we might need to focus on political differences or racial differences or geographic differences,” she said. “Making that emotional connection can change minds in a way that a news briefing can’t.”

Gaze & pupil dilation

Which direction people look and how dilated their pupils get can reveal what decision they’re about to make, researchers have found. It is a discovery that could offer clues into the underlying biological processes at play in the decision-making process. “Where people look indicates their biases, the information that’s important to them, and it becomes highly predictive of the decision they’ll make,” Michael Platt of the University of Pennsylvania said.

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