Saturday, January 15, 2011

Inspection stressors

When I returned to work in Texas after deployment in Afghanistan, my co-workers were in the midst of a visit from the medical arm of the U.S. Air Force Inspector General Office. This routine occurrence creates much extra work and sleepless nights as people “spin” and stress. I was honestly relieved a bit to have been gone and to have missed much of the craziness. Well, guess what. When I arrived here at my new assignment, I learned that the same inspection was scheduled for this month!

I got the unusual opportunity of experiencing this nerve-racking event twice in nine months! I actually consider my self pretty lucky. As a newbie to the flight, I was not put in charge of any programs and just had the opportunity to use my knowledge and experience to create a much-needed operating instruction and review of about 400 records. I never even talked to an inspector and thoroughly enjoyed staying in the background, seeing patients all week while others showcased the excellent programs. And, at the outbrief, it was awesome to see people who had worked so hard be recognized and rewarded for their effort. I am pretty sure it is frowned upon for me to post inspection specifics or results, so let’s just say they won’t be back for a few years, and leave it at that!!

A very good friend of mine left the Air Force a few years ago to venture out into the cold, uncertain world of private practice. She and I were talking last week and laughing over the stress of these inspections, but she did have a good point. These routine inspections, while trying and often disruptive to our true responsibility of patient care, force us to maintain standards not always followed on the “outside.” We have a
very strict infection control program. We wipe exam tables and room surfaces after each patient, regardless of the reason for the visit or soilage. We have specific protocols in place with regard to who responds in an emergency and, in case of a building evacuation, have little signs that go on doors to indicate that a room has been checked and cleared. We also have a plan in place for how to respond to patients if the power goes out.

My friend has found that many of these precautions do not exist in the typical, small, outpatient office. When she asked her office manager, “What about when we get inspected?” the manager looked at her like she was speaking a foreign language, and said, “By who? We don’t get inspected by anyone.” So, my friend bought her own wipes and wipes her own tables because, after years of working under strict military guidelines, anything else just seems wrong. So, while inspections are stressful, trying, nerve-racking and, at times, disruptive, they verify we are providing safe, competent care to our beneficiaries.

To the members of this wonderful medical group, congratulations on an
outstanding job!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's confession

I love this time of the year, and not because of the gift giving and a few extra days off. I love the concept of a new time, the opportunity to purge my life—and my closet—of things no longer of benefit. I admit I am a bit of a mess maker. You can easily trace my path through the house after we get home in the evenings. I shed a jacket here, drop my purse there and, often, my boots are found in front of the coffee table. I usually just leave things where they are, knowing full well I can just retrieve them as I leave the next morning.

Mail tends to pile up—most is junk anyway—and, once I do open things, they are frequently left in the “to be filed” basket in the kitchen. Oh, and I lose my car keys almost daily. I know, I should put them in the same place every time I come home, and sometimes I do, but then I drop the mail on top of them!

But, for a few weeks in January, I am cured of my mess-making ways and I make a stab at organization, actually opening the mail and even getting to work on time. I spent the first two days of 2011 putting away Christmas, which led to cleaning up the storage room and—finally—flattening the last of the empty boxes from the move last summer. I cleaned out both kids’ rooms, convincing them to give away a few toys that they have outgrown. And, thanks to my Dad’s help, I disposed of the two TVs that died last month. Finally, shocker of all shockers, I even did something that those who have worked with me will never believe, I cleaned off my desk! I have to admit it was prompted a little by our pending inspection but, knowing it was my last workday of 2010 did put me in that cleaning spirit.

As much as I love all this cleaning and purging, I honestly don’t make a list of New Year’s resolutions. It just puts too much pressure on me, and I am too much a perfectionist—yes, even a mess maker can be a perfectionist—I feel guilty when I don’t manage to succeed at achieving all the goals on my list. But, I will admit, there are a few thoughts spinning around in my head:
  • Lose that five pounds I put on over the holidays, mainly due to the yummy no-cook peanut butter fudge I just had to make—three times.
  • Keep squirreling away money to ease the burden when I buy a house this spring. I “graduate” from Financial Peace University in a few weeks, and am doing my best to “live like no one else.”
  • Read my Bible more. After I finished the Essential 100, I got lazy with this. Anyone know another good reading plan to keep me on task?
  • Pick up as I go, in an effort to keep the mess to a minimum—at work (at least until after the inspection), at home and, maybe, even in my car.
  • And, finally, I want to make it here more often, to more consistently put the jumble of words in my mind down on “paper.”
Happy New Year, Everyone!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.