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.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, glad to see you're still writing! Interesting to know that we're lacking strict protocols in private medicine here. It's still quite good but they probably could learn something from the military.