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3 Ways to Better Prepare for Surveys

With the importance surveys have on your hospital’s success, it is important to appreciate the opportunity surveys present to you.  The view of dread or opportunity greatly relies on the prioritization you place on your survey preparedness.  A survey, if properly prepared can be an exciting way to showcase the quality of work you and your team do every day. 

The Importance of Preparing for Surveys

For many Nurse Managers, the survey can be a top stressor that results in several events of trial and error until you finally learn how to prepare for survey.  Once you have the right practices in line, surveys can easily go from a dreaded part of the job to a celebration of you and your team.

How to Achieve Survey Preparedness

Step 1: Become an Expert in Knowing Your State, Federal and Accrediting agency (Joint Commission/DNV/HFAP) regulations.

Your ability to better understand regulatory compliance means more than just reviewing your regulations, it means adopting them as part of your standard way of doing business.  Love them or hate them, they’re your key to regulatory compliance.  Rather than fighting an uphill battle of attempting to challenge regulations you don’t like, be able to speak to them and implement them into your policies and practices.  The Joint Commission has free resources to help you in the process including a Readiness Checklist for Joint Commission Behavioral Health Care Accreditation. 

If your team is struggling with certain regulations, instead of losing valuable time resisting those regulations, find a way to address your concerns and overcome them.  Developing a survey preparedness committee can be a proactive approach to solving how to meet the intent of the regulation. 

Effective Performance Improvement Committees are Not a Meeting of Nay-Sayers. 

If you’ve taken the step of launching a committee, chances are, there are enough voices that disagree with some of the regulations.  Be protective of this committee and be sure it does not become a complaint committee.  Identify what the real concerns are with the regulation.  It could be a lack of clinical resources, costs-based or something that feels too out of reach to achieve.  By allowing a free-flow of concerns (not complaints), you can be more successful in addressing any limitation your staff is concerned about in meeting your state’s regulations.

Step 2: Be the Expert of Your Own Policies

How well do you understand and execute on your own regulatory compliance policies and procedures?  Whether it’s a regulation from CMS, your state, your hospital’s accrediting agency (JC, HFAP/DNV) or your hospital’s own practices, your policies are in place to help guide the care provided in a quality-driven manner.  

Just as you will do with step 1, it’s critical that you be the champion of your internal policies and procedures.  Some employees merely glance at the policies, some may not know where to find them.  Others may have read them but couldn’t explain what they mean.  A big piece of survey preparedness is policy adoption.  More than agreeing to them, your team needs to adopt them into their daily practices and that starts with your ability to turn them into policy advocates, not policy adversaries.

Step 3: Make Survey Preparations a Part of Your Daily Practice

Audits are a key piece to your survey success.  Surveyors tend to spend more time reviewing records than anything else.  Auditing your charts can have a powerful impact on improving your surveys.  Knowing what your charts say will drive you to improve them.  Don’t overlook this important step.  Imagine yourself sitting down with a surveyor as they begin reviewing records, only to have the surveyor point out simple violations you had no idea were being made.  Don’t let that be you.

Your Environment Advertises Your Survey Preparedness
A surveyor’s first impression begins with your unit.  Walking through with a more critical eye can lead to better results.  There’s more to this than simply knowing the layout of your unit.  If you want to create a better first impression, be more present and aware of your unit.  This means knowing where your vulnerabilities are every single day.  These can change frequently based on who is working each shift and the types of patients you have.

A daily walk-through will go a long way.  All staff, including leaders should be completing a walk-through every day with the objective of identifying and correcting areas of concern.  Be sure items aren’t left in the hallway, doors aren’t left propped open.  Check all of the logs.  Gauge the overall cleanliness of the unit and make sure programming is running on time.  You’ll be celebrating when you spare yourself an embarrassing walk through with surveyors seeing issues that could have been easily avoided if you had taken the small extra steps of addressing these issues on your own.

Better Surveys Begins with You
It may seem daunting at first, but the steps we’ve outlined are achievable if you improve your preparation habits.  Accept that they’re needed and then learn to adopt them.  Eventually, you’ll learn to love and appreciate them because of the success you’re achieving due to better surveys. 

Feeling overwhelmed by surveys?  Horizon Health can help with your survey preparedness.  Our Clinical Resources team has several tools and training opportunities to help your team become more effective in preparing for surveys.  Contact us today to learn how you can begin to leverage our expertise in survey preparedness.

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