Sir Winston Churchill: Be clear, be brief, be seated.
I have been told that I could improve my chances of selling my product of delirium prevention to various stakeholders by developing a good elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short summary used to quickly and simply define a product or service and sell it. The idea is that you should be able to deliver the pitch in the time it takes to ride an elevator or about thirty seconds to two minutes.
I’m a doctor, not a salesman. But I’ll give it a shot.
Pitch to a staff nurse: I’m Dr. JA and I teach nurses how to assess, treat, and prevent delirium in hospitalized patients. Delirium is an acute confusional episode that mimics mental illness but is actually a medical emergency. Delirium worsens concentration, can lead to hallucinations, withdrawal, changes in appetite, reduced mobility, and sleep disturbance. When nurses have the skills and tools to prevent delirium, they ultimately do less work yet provide safer and more effective care for their patients, thereby promoting healing. Delirium leads to increased death rates, longer lengths of hospital stay, and persisting cognitive impairment. Nurses work harder to take care of them because confusion makes patients less cooperative, emotionally volatile, harder to communicate with, and sometimes even violent. Nurses want and need to know how to prevent delirium and I can help them do that.
Pitch to a potential funding source: I’m Dr. JA and I teach doctors and nurses how to assess, treat, and prevent delirium, an acute confusional disorder caused by multiple medical problems that mimics mental illness but is actually a medical emergency. They may be slow to respond, withdrawn, have attitude changes, and have mood symptoms. Because the risk for delirium is higher in the elderly, physicians and nurses in hospitals actually have to work harder to treat delirious patients with serious medical disorders. That’s because the patients are too cognitively impaired to cooperate with treatment, too disorganized to consent for them, and too agitated and restless to sit still for necessary tests. Doctors and nurses want and need to learn how to use assessment skills and tools to prevent delirium. This vital educational resource allows them to provide the best health care for older patients.
Pitch to Patient and Carers: I’m Dr. JA and I help doctors and nurses care for patients who may be at high risk for or who are in fact suffering from delirium. Delirium is an abrupt change in your mental state that represents a distinct change from your usual self and is often alarming to you and your loved ones. You can be disoriented, restless, hallucinate, have delusions and personality changes, or be very sleepy and seem depressed. Delirium is often temporary but can cause longer hospital stays, or the need for long-term care and raises the risk for falls and bed sores. Those at risk are over age 65, already have memory problems or dementia, have a broken hip, or several serious medical illnesses. We’ll assess regularly for changes in your emotions, behavior, or thinking and if they occur we’ll use a special test to spot delirium early. We’ll work to prevent delirium by providing high-quality medical care. Occasionally, distress and behavioral changes could make patients a risk to themselves and if non-medication methods don’t reduce these, then a short course of medication called Haldol may be used.
Now have some fun. Use the information in the Elevator Pitches to find all 15 indicators (or signs and symptoms) of delirium in the word search puzzle below, which is from the NICE guideline for raising awareness about delirium. All indicators are in the vertical or horizontal plane. There are no indicators written diagonally. One hint: the word “slow” is not counted. See how many indicators suggest hypoactive delirium, which is one of the subtypes of delirium, which can resemble and be mistaken for depression or apathy. The most easily recognized subtype is hyperactive delirium, in which patients exhibit hallucinations, delusions, and extreme behavioral disruption. And the other common subtype, just for completeness, is the mixed subtype in which patients can fluctuate between being hypoactive and hyperactive.
After you’ve done the puzzle, go find an elevator in a building with at least 8 floors to practice your elevator pitch because that’s what most videos and pictures on the internet show the elevator pitchers performing in.
I usually take the stairs because that’s about the only exercise I get these days. I figure that justifies my pitches being a bit on the long side.