Filling In The Blanks

I’ve read at various online forums tales of how CNA’s literally fill in he blanks of vital sign records- without actually getting them.

What if we we all did this? Blew off getting the T, P, R and B/P? What if the resident has developed high B/P and because we couldn’t be bothered to be honest, it went unchecked? What if a real temp wasn’t measured for a couple days, while the resident is coming down with a infection? What if the resident is on a new medication that has a side effect of changing their respirations, but this isn’t seen because no one took the time to count them??

This is very bad. And illegal. And unethical. And most importantly, dangerous. What’s a new CNA to do? Or an experienced CNA? You stand up and advocate for the resident. You MUST not allow this to happen, when you see it, witness it, hear about it or otherwise KNOW of it.

How do you go about advocating in situations like this?

It seems pretty simple to me. Here’s what I would do (and have done many times):

1) Tell the CNA involved that she is committing fraud and that she needs to get the VS in question, right now. While you watch.

2) Report the incident to the charge nurse immediately; explain what happened and leave your personal thoughts out of this.

3) Seek the DON and report the incident to he/she as well. In writing. ASAP…Make a copy of your report to keep for your own records. Even if the charge nurse says she will make the DON aware, go to the DON yourself. You’re covering yourself by doing so. Otherwise, it could come back to haunt you in the misconception that you were aware of the incident but didn’t report it…and so on.

The CNA who fraudulently documents care is opening themselves up to numerous problems. They could lose their job; their certification/license; their chances to work in health care as a career will most likely be ruined for good. If actual harm came to the patient/resident because we slacked off, patients and their family can pursue legal remedy. The facility and the state body in charge of regulating CNA practice can turn the “case” over to the Attorney General and hence start the criminal justice process. You get the idea.

Trust is big in health care.
Do we really think we can trust the aide who doesn’t measure vital signs but who writes in fictional numbers?

It’s not just vital signs. When an aide fills in the blanks in this one area, I question their honesty and integrity in all areas. The box is checked for the bed bath, but did the resident really get one? There are numbers in the intake and output record, but are they truthful?

Patients trust their health care providers to be skilled and honest. Our employers, the nursing homes and hospitals and assisted living centers trust that we’re using our skills and being honest as well. Our charge nurses depend upon our skill and honesty to assist with providing timely and needed treatments and medication administration. Our co workers trust that their peers are doing the right thing for their beloved residents.

The right things mean filling in the blanks with real, honesty measured/provided numbers/care. The right thing means when something isn’t done, it’s documented as not being done. We all know there are days when we can’t get IT all done and that’s the way of this work.

Experienced aides can prioritize their work- they KNOW what care or task needs to be completed vs what can wait. New aides should feel confident to ask for direction and HELP when they need it (which might be often the first couple weeks they are on the job!)

Charge nurses should always provide guidance to help sort through these issues. When it comes to actual skills- some newer aides really have trouble measuring blood pressure. The new aide should seek the help of her mentor, or the charge nurse to really learn this skill.

Paperwork overload is no excuse.
There is WAY too much paperwork in our work. Everyone knows this. Yet, facilities don’t get paid and pass inspections if the paperwork isn’t done. In the medical chart, if it isn’t documented it wasn’t done. Sadly these are facts.

The burden of documenting has become overwhelming. The original purpose of charting was to provide a clear record of a patients’ medical condition, where members of the health care team could go to see updates and alter their interventions and treatments as needed.

The chart is rarely used for this anymore. Now, it’s a place where endless pieces of paper are stored- and kept, in the event of a lawsuit. Nurses and others document on the defensive now. This is the world many have created and our little part in it has tremendous consequences. Those vital sign numbers better correlate with the sudden medical condition discovered on the next shift. When it doesn’t, red flags are spotted and questions are asked.

Maintaining Integrity Isn’t Easy in This Work
The CNA must always be honest in the care and tasks they provide. We are the front line. The first to see and know. We are extremely valuable because of our place. If we don’t feel skilled enough in providing tasks/care, we need to speak up to this and ask for help. Those of us who hear the cry for help need to be willing and able to teach. We need to recognize when a peer is having a bad time, a bad day, and offer assistance. We do this not for the aide but for the patients/residents she is assigned to.

Why is this happening more and more?
In the past few years I have seen an increase in aides who graduate from these small medical-skills schools who don’t have (or are not taught) the same foundations of honesty and integrity. I’m not sure honesty and integrity can be taught either…we either have these ethics or we don’t. Better screening might be one solution.

The quick turnover rates of graduating “classes” of aides amazes me- and the fact they can pass the state tests tells me they know the basics. The basics aren’t good enough anymore.

It gets lost when these fast food CNA’s get on the units and are totally overwhelmed with their assignment. They feel pressured to get everything done and this is where I often see the cheating occur. I have to wonder if these schools are not doing an adequate job teaching the students everything they really need to know. I wonder if the new aides thought the job would be much easier.

When we see cheating happen we have to speak up. Loudly at times. We might even need to make a stink once in a while. Life and death decisions are sometimes made based upon our honesty. As I said, we’re the front line. Our words have HUGE impact upon everyone’s word, all of whom are above us. If we’re not honest, then neither are they. Yet we know it, and they don’t. Remember that.


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