Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How to tell if you have been Studerized - or something that sounds similar

You’re a seasoned ED Nurse. You are respected by your peers. You are up to date with the latest medical advances, you treat your patients well, you’re a strong patient advocate and actively advocate for patient safety and the nursing profession even if it conflicts with some of your organizations priorities. You probably feel your operating at or near the expert level and have been evaluated that way for a number of years but I have news for you. Nurses are no longer graded on the Novice to Expert scale. They are now being categorized as Low, Medium, and High performers. So how do you know where you fit in and what’s behind this new evaluation system? Hold on, if you haven’t already you’re about to be Studerized or something that sounds similar but is much more painful, at least from what I’ve been told.

How can you tell if you’re on the road to Studerization. It starts out when your managers, CNE, CEO, ED MD Director, among others leave for a few days to a conference or management retreat. The retreats are usually held in resort places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Florida but have been branching out to other cities and even webinars. You are not told what it’s all about and you don’t care, you’re just happy to see them gone for a few days. When they return you notice an immediate change. They are using new lingo and talk like they have been indoctrinated into some sort of cult. They are very scripted. They use terms like “Hardwired”, “Fire Starter” “Best Practice” “Taking the organization to the next level” “Low Performers” and “Rounding.” Some of these I wrote about in a previous post titled annoying consultant speak They also talk about some charismatic character named Quint Studer. From conversations with a number of people who’ve attended the programs they sound like a combination of a Amway multilevel marketing seminar, manager training seminar, and Kool-Aid drinking cult gathering. There usually is an inspirational speaker to pump up the crowd. There are various levels and once students are immersed in the philosophy they are considered “Studerized”. A more advanced level is the “Fire Starter” which has a 15 point litmus test called “15 Sparks”. Hospitals can even win the prestigious Fire Starter Award after a visit from one of the Studer troopers.

Hospitals thought-out the nation are trying to improve their patient satisfaction scores and marketing share. I have written about that in a post on patient satisfaction scores out of balance and How has the patient satisfaction push effected your practice. They have turned to groups like Studer who give them the nuts and bolts of turning patients into customers and strategies to bump their satisfaction scores. I have listed my own strategies here.

Not long after the retreat new concepts start appearing into the work area. Some are founded in good ideas but are being done for marketing reasons and means to boost patient satisfaction scores rather than any interest in patient care. Some measures include.

Scripting: Nurses are no longer free to communicate the way that feels natural or based on the situation at hand but are given scripts to communicate with their patients. Coincidentally, or not, the scripts prompt the patient to answer their discharge surveys by injecting key phrases into the scripts that correspond with the questions on the survey. Would you like Fries with that?
Managing up: Encouraging staff to positively portray services and co-workers, doctors, ect during conversations and hand offs regardless if it is true or not. Hi, this is your Doctor, He is one of our best physicians, The patients really love him. Wink Wink
Hourly rounding: Rounding every hour and every half our for ER utilizing your best scripting language. Staff are required to fill out rounding documents and some facilities play the beach boys music “I get Around” every hour on the hour to remind staff. Even the Manager, CNE, and CEO round once a day and ask patients directly if your Nurse has been doing their rounding. I hope my patients are not sleeping when I round, I might get a write up for not performing my hourly’s.
Discharge Phone calls: Generally a good concept if done to check on patients but these calls are timed and scripted to plant answers to survey questions with the specific purpose of boosting patient satisfaction scores. Expect a call the day before your survey arrives provided you were not admitted, transferred, mental health, or someone who really needed to be in the ER.
Peer review: Having staff fill out 1 to 5 rating scales on each other in 5 different categories. Used to help classify people as low, medium, or high performers. If you dont participate your immediatly classified a low performer. Nice way of turning the staff against each other.
RME: Marketing measures disguised as ED through put measures that focus on turnover and catering to low acuity patients, oops, I mean customers. I have written on RME and similar programs here and here. The common thread it that they de-emphasize Triage and limit the practice of Nursing.

So where do you fall, Here are some characteristics of low, medium, and high performers from the Studer site. Funny thing, you could be a effective employee and Studer still recommends you be fired


“..In fact, I would even suggest that you terminate employees who get results but do not role model your organization’s standards of behavior, because they are so damaging to overall employee morale”.

One Chief Nursing officer at a Sutter Health Facility learned the hard way about the dangers of email. It exposed how managers are using groups like Studer target their staff following a quota system. She instructs each department manager to identify 3 low performers per unit “You know who they are” for moving up or out to improve Press Ganey scores. Read her leaked memo here. CNA gave a great response on the same memo.

So are you ready to be Studerized. Bend over.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Who is the right Union for RN’s - Update CNA-NNOC and SEIU truce

UPDATE March 19th: CNA-NNOC and SEIU made nice and have agreed not to step on each others turf. Basically, they agreed not to raid each others contracts and SEIU recgonized CNA-NNOC as the correct bargaining group for RN's not currently orgainzed with SEIU. This is a big win for each side even if it threw the NUHW worksers under the bus. Read about the strory here
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Origional Post:

A serious debate and some say war has been unfolding over who can provide the best representation to Nurses. One school of thought is that Nursing should be represented by the same Union that represents the entire hospital, from the housekeeper to the bedside RN and nearly everyone in between. The other side says RN’s power and ability to advocate for patients is diluted when their representative is not a organization dedicated to the Nursing profession. A third point of view wants no representation and wants to trust the employer. I won’t spend time commenting on the 3rd group who I consider hopelessly naive.

Now enter the major players. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is a nationwide union that represents more than 2 million workers in over 100 occupations from all sectors of the economy. SEIU has many divisions and locals, some exclusive to healthcare such as the United Healthcare Workers (UHW). In California UHW was a marriage of 2 large Unions, Local 250 in Northern California and Local 399 in Southern California. It’s not all one happy family within the SEIU-UHW marriage. Within SEIU and UHW’s web sites which are linked are charges and counter charges by both sides accusing each other of fraud, phony elections, inappropriate use of funds, and more. The other key player in this war is the California Nurses Association (CNA) and their national affiliate the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC) which represent approximately 75000 Registered Nurses in many states. CNA is a member of the national AFL-CIO which is a voluntary federation of 56 national and international Labor Unions. CNA and NNOC are basically the same people wearing different hats depending if they are organizing California Nurses or Nurses in other states. CNA is much more homogenises than SEIU. They only represent Registered Nurses. Are all these affiliations clear as mud.

The unions have several things in common, primarily their politics which is various versions of left of center. Some way left. Each promote Healthcare Reform with CNA promoting single payer coverage or "Medicare for All" and SEIU promoting Universal Coverage with employer provided coverage and government assistance to those not employed. Each were Obama supporters and provided resources for various democratic causes and campaigns. Each Union supports the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) also known as Card Check. You can read about the case for EFCA here and the case against here. This is where the friendship and cooperation ends.

Throughout the Nation there are Hospitals were all non-exempt employees are represented by SEIU unions. Others have SEIU representing ancillary staff and CNA or one of the other smaller Nursing unions or employee associations representing Nurses mostly with good cooperation. Others have CNA for Nursing and no one for ancillary. The majority of Nurses outside California and a few other states are unrepresented by any Union. CNA and SEIU are in competition for the most lucrative members and both have nationwide campains to organize hospitals and Registered Nurses. Union dues generally run about 1-2 percent of an employee’s gross yearly pay. 1 percent is a larger sum from an RN than it is from a Housekeeper. Each side accuses the other of a variety of issues. CNA alleges that SEIU is a more management friendly union and has made numerous backdoor deals and relationships that are not in the best interest of employees as well as numerous episodes of corruption. Read a variety of allegations in CNA’s SEIU watch website. SEIU accuses CNA of raiding other Unions which they claim weakens all represented employees. You can read their claims at their sponsored site “Shame on CNA”. This fight has turned ugly on a number of occasions this spring at hospital organizing events in Ohio, Michigan, and Chicago where things became physical.

I have worked in Hospitals where Nurses have been represented by SEIU and others by CNA. I have also worked in management roles without representation. Currently I am a CNA member where union membership is a requirement of employment. I feel much more empowered both economically and as a patient advocate in a RN union than in a all inclusive union or being unrepresented. CNA successfully brought Nursing Ratio’s to California and successfully repelled Governor Arnold’s attempt to repeal them in 2005. CNA is on a nationwide campaign to get patient protections in the form of ratios to other states. SEIU opposed ratios in favor of more protections for LVN’s and Ancillary staff who they represent and fewer for RN’s. While working as a SEIU nurse I was very aware that Nursing did not have the same voice as I do now. Nurses are one of the few classes of employees where the market was demanding higher wages but were constrained because our union was attempting to be fair by bargaining for more across the board increases for all workers. So there you have it. ERMurse comes out squarely for RN’s having a RN union. I am also troubled by the numerous reports of corruption within SEIU. That being said, the current nasty public battle between unions damages all of us seeking effective union representation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Flagrant Prescription Drug abusers doing the Perp Walk in California

In a previous posting I wrote about the CURES program in California. Under this program every controlled substance dispensed, from the six pack of Vicodin given to go from your local ED to controlled medications dispensed by Pharmacies, is required to reported to the CURES program. CURES is administered by the California Department of Justice. Data collected include the dispenser, date, time, drug, amount, and person dispensed to. Health Care providers can currently obtain a written report on patients under their care on just what they have received from all the various sources. Soon this database will be available online instantly for Health Care providers. This information is also available to Law Enforcement upon their request for cause. The need for this level of monitoring has become necessary in light of the medical communities inability to police itself. The outcome of reckless prescribing was highlighted recently in a Archieves of Intermal Medicine article here.

In a recent press release the Attorney General announced the arrest of some of the most flagrant prescription drug violators. Here is one

California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced a crackdown on rampant prescription drug fraud in California, including the top fifty abusers who average more than 100 doctor and pharmacy visits to collect massive quantities of addictive drugs like Valium, Vicodin, and Oxycontin.

“These prescription drug addicts are abusing the system, draining time and money from hundreds of doctors and pharmacies who are there to help real sick people, not con artists,” said Attorney General Brown. “On my order, California Department of Justice special agents launched a statewide search for the most aggressive prescription drug addicts. We want to end these dangerous cycles of fraud and abuse.”

Launched in June this year, the new crackdown has already led to the arrest of dozens of suspects, including Frankie Greer, 53, who visited 183 doctors and 47 pharmacies to feed a prescription drug habit that included some of the most dangerous painkillers in lethal combinations. In a one-year period, Greer sought out multiple doctors at hospital emergency rooms to prescribe her over 4,830 hydrocodone tablets, 2,210 oxycodone tablets, 156 Oxycotin, along with a variety of additional addictive painkillers.

Think Frankie was consuming all those drugs. Probably selling as many as she took for herself. The loose prescribing habits driven by the patient satisfaction push and the fear of being accused of not treating the firth vital sign have provided a steady supply and a nice income for many of our ED patients.

Now I am no fan of Jerry Brown, California’s Attorney General and former Governor, known as Governor Moonbeam. He is way left of my leanings but he has it right on this subject.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Drinking the RME Kool-Aid at ENA’s annual conference

Just got back from the Emergency Nurses Association’s annual conference in Minneapolis. Overall a pretty good conference if you avoided the Keynote addresses. A disappointment was the numerous presentations and posters touting the wonders of the process being pushed by several ED groups and Hospital bean counters called RME. Rapid Medical (Mediocre) Evaluation which also goes by several other names such as Triage Bypass, Provider is Triage, Door to Doc, among others depending on which ED Physician group is pushing it. All are basically the same thing. While pieces of the process can streamline care (immediate bedding, bedside registration) here are the claims that are made by the RME’ers that any thinking Nurse should question.
If we adopt RME we will be able to pay for more Nurses with the all the money we Save. Right!!!!! Well, that’s not my experience. I work in one of these facilities and staffing has stayed the same and the moment there is a lull the manager is trying to send staff home because the census is low. So, reduce your standards to move people through, stack them in chairs to utilize more space, pressure the Doc's to do a substandard exam, and as soon as you discharge them go home your not needed. Now that’s efficiency. Remember, work smarter not harder. I have an idea. How about not counting patients who dont get a Nurse in the Nursing hours of care. Most patients are alotted around 2 hours of care credit for budgeting. What if they never get a Nurse. No, that would be way to honest.

Patient should not have to tell their story more than once. Don’t trouble the patient with having to repeat their story more than once. This is team Triage and we get all the facts on the first try because the Story Never Changes!!!!! More Kool-Aid please. What do you call the Nurse in Team Triage? Scribe

You don’t need to have a Primary Nurse assessment. What the heck for. They don’t do that down at the Wall Mart Clinic, why should the ED. And what a wonderful way of dodging the Nursing ratios in California.


Patients do not need to get undressed. What the heck for. You never find anything when you examine the skin, back, or any other covered part. What a waste of time. Yum, Good Kool-Aid. I cant wait for our next round of survey results. Can you say Bump!!

Nurses are more satisfied. Which ones? The ones who view Nursing as a series of tasks rather than a process and don’t assess their patients or understand a Nurse Patient relationship probably will. You know them, the ones who make up discharge vital signs and always have their chart complete even though you never heard any of those questions asked. Yep, that’s them. There are certainly plenty of them around. Managers will also like it. Nothing makes them tingle like good numbers.

Patients can be quickly categorized with minimal or no triage. Put on your Blinders and only focus on the complaint they tell you. It keeps the problem simple. Patients always articulate an accurate complaint and totally understand their symptoms. Easy Peasy. You have an ear ache – Done, Your back hurts – take these, Done. Our Door to Provider times are awesome. Wow, why didn’t we think of this model 20 years ago.

Patients are more satisfied. Some probably will be. Most don’t recognize crappy care as long as its delivered with a smile and done quick. The Customer is always right.
So there you have it. Our professional organization (ENA) pumping up a process that shortchanges patient assessment and treatment from both Nurses and Physicians and cuts out important parts of the Nurses role to make the numbers look good. Brilliant recruiting strategy. I am so thrilled I think I will join for life right after I finish this Kool-Aid.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Annoying Consultant Speak

In the past week I have sat through several process type meetings and must reflect on some of the most irritating consultant speak. Here are a few examples.

Rapid cycle process improvement
The model of improvement is applied in short test periods, using small samples of patients, and measures the effectiveness of the changes being tested. Based on what is learned, successful interventions are applied to other patients or other organizational activities or settings and unsuccessful ones are revised and tested again for effectiveness. You usually hear it when a new manager or director takes over from the outside or your existing manager goes to a conference. Murse’s Translation. I went to this cool seminar and heard this great idea and since I don’t really know anything about statistics or study design and we don’t have time to do a real study were going to implement this new process and if by the end of the day it works were going to do it throughout the hospital. Then were going to put it in a power point and present our great success to the CEO. I love the smell of a bonus in the morning.

Perfect is the enemy of Good Enough
The origins of this phrase are from the French Philosopher Voltaire. In modern times it seems to appear during crunch time of hospital IT projects. Go-Live is just a few months out. The team is feeling nervous and wants changes. The CIO calls a big meeting and gives a power point pep talk to get everyone "on the same page". Then it comes out, “You know, when it comes to rolling this out, Perfect is the Enemy of Good Enough. Murse’s translation: “Lets put some lipstick on this pig and roll her out. Stop you’re bitching, the users will just have to deal with the issues”. Ok, we know its never going to be perfect but can I ask: Did you use that same term when applying for your job when asked to describe yourself? How about when you proposed to your significant other, or do you say it to your kids just before finals or the big game? Doubt it. I’ve decided that at the next EMR Go Live that I support I will wear a team t-shirt that says, Perfect is the enemy of good enough! How about that on a team shirt. The users will be impressed.

Studerized
Being Studerized is similar a baptism in the Studer Group philosophy. I suspect there is Cool Aid being served at this baptism. Hospitals thought-out the country are sending their staff to various vacation resorts for $1200 a pop, not counting lodging and travel for the 2 day Studerization. By the end you are a customer service expert. Patients become Customers. You become experts in scripting the survey and how to change the patients perception of the visit. You are eager to go back to your hospital and implement the Three Levels of Studerizaiton. When you get back you will be filling out report cards on each other and identifying your departments high, middle, and low performers. Hope I’m not in the low group. Wow, I’m pumped. Pass the Cool Aid.

I'll update this list from time to time, shouldn't be hard I have more meetings this week.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Spike in medications deaths. Could it beeeeeee ……. Satan – or perhaps “The Fifth Vital Sign”

In a article to be published in the Archieves of Internal Medicine next week an alarming spike in the number of accidental deaths from prescription drug use related to “medication errors" is reported. The Article by David P. Phillips, a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego is the most recent in a series of research he has done on the subject of drug abuse, suicide, and societal trends.

“Deaths from medication mistakes at home increased from 1,132 deaths in 1983 to 12,426 in 2004. Adjusted for population growth, that amounts to an increase of more than 700 percent during that time. In contrast, there was only a 5 percent increase in fatal medication errors away from home, including hospitals, and not involving alcohol or street drugs”

"By 2004, fatal medication errors were responsible for far more years of potential life lost than were all accidents from firearms, falls, fire and flames, drowning and non-medication poisonings combined," Phillips said

So what type of medications are we primarily talking about here. You guessed it, Opioid pain medications like Methadone, Oxycodone, Vicodin, and Fentanyl. Throw in a benzo, an antidepressant, perhaps a glass of wine and out go the lights.

Similar data is being reported by the Centers for Disease Control. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional poisoning deaths – 95% of which are drug overdoses – increased from 12,186 in 1999 to 20,950 in 2004.

During testimony at a Senate Judiciary committee in March of 2008 Leonard J. Paulozzi, M.D., M.P.H stated


When these more specific drugs were tabulated, we found that street drugs were not behind the increase. The increase from 1999 to 2004 was driven largely by opioid analgesics, with a smaller contribution from cocaine, and essentially no contribution from heroin. The number of deaths in the narcotics category that involved prescription opioid analgesics increased from 2,900 in 1999 to at least 7,500 in 2004, an increase of 160% in just 5 years.[1] By 2004, opioid painkiller deaths numbered more than the total of deaths involving heroin and cocaine in this category.


He went on to say

All available evidence suggests that these deaths are related to the increasing use of prescription drugs, especially opioid painkillers, among people during the working years of life. A CDC study showed a correlation on the state level between usage of opioid painkillers and drug overdose death rates.[2] Perhaps because of differences in marketing or physician prescribing practices


What can be done

It is important that state prescription drug monitoring programs share data with law enforcement officials for the purpose of investigating the unlawful diversion or misuse of certain controlled substances. For example, some state prescription drug monitoring programs are administered by a law enforcement agency in conjunction with a state board of pharmacy


This recommendations falls in line with what California is implementing through the CURES program which will give providers instant online access to all scheduled drugs obtained via prescription by a patient. Law enforcement also has access to this data as needed. I recently posted about that program here

What is going on here is a direct result of politicizing medicine by the pain rights movement and the organizations (Joint Commission and others) that have mandated liberal pain management into guidelines and enforcement standards. More recently the push to promote patient satisfaction in Healthcare organizations has resulted in liberalizing of prescribing opioid medications to make patients happy. Whatever happened to do no harm? Medicine has lost its way. These numbers should serve as a wake up call and re-examination of pain management practices and the whole concept of pain as the fifth vital sign.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

California takes a big step forward in fighting prescription drug abuse

In 2005 California expanded the CURES program to include all Schedule II-IV prescriptions dispensed. These medications have to be reported to the State Attorney Generals office who maintains a database of medications dispensed. This includes controlled substances directly dispensed from, Pharmacies, Doctors offices, clinics, and Emergency Departments that give out the to-go six pack of Vicodin when patients present after pharmacies are closed. Reports to the CURES program are done using a direct dispensing log that is faxed weekly to the CURES program.

Medical Providers and Pharmacist have been able to tap into this database by requesting an activity report on patients under their care. What they get is a print-out of every controlled Rx filled by the patient regardless of the source. In the past this report took several days to weeks to obtain. It was little use for the Provider who is trying to figure out if the person in front of them is filling multiple scripts from multiple sources. It worked well for ongoing care of repeat patients. I have seen it work well with some of our regular patients who return like clockwork to the ED several times a month. When confronted with the report of scripts they have filled recently and neglected to mention when listing their medications most give up knowing they have been had and you don’t see them again.

Soon the availability of activity reports will be online instantly via the California Attorney Generals web site. Instant access to a patients controlled substance prescription activity will give providers knowledge if they being lied to, used, played, to feed a habit or supply someone with an income who is reselling their meds. For those with legitimate pain conditions who are not seeking medication from multiple sources it should help them by removing the cloud of suspicion that follows them when seeking pain relief.

This effort is being funded partially by the Troy and Alana Pack Foundation founded by Bob Pack who’s 7 and 10 year old children were killed by a driver under the influence of prescription drugs obtained from multiple doctors. The Wall Street Journal recently had an article about the program.

Its about time.