Having been in the healthcare staffing industry since the early 90s, I’ve seen a number of faulty approaches to managing workforce credentials. One such example came early in my career while working a staffing desk on the 4am shift in Southern California. We staffed acute care hospitals from San Diego to Bakersfield. Part of my job as a staffer included keeping credentials updated for our field staff which was primarily RNs, RTs, LVNs, and CNAs.
One morning, I noticed one of our regular LVNs had a CPR card expiring soon. We made our regular calls to remind her that she needed to renew her card. We found her some class options and she planned to go. Unfortunately, one class went by after another, and, as happens with many of us, life got busy and she didn’t get to a class. The card expired.
Although we knew she was an excellent LVN, we couldn’t put her to work until her card was renewed. She was upset that we wouldn’t send her to work even though she now had a class scheduled a couple of months down the road. We didn’t put her to work. We couldn’t until her card was active.
A week later, a hospital called to confirm her for a shift even though we didn’t have her on our books due to the expired CPR card. I later learned she had gone down the street to a new agency that sent her to work without a current CPR card. I was so frustrated!
This made me think. Why do we care about credentials anyway? I know she’s a good nurse. Why did it matter if she updated her CPR card last week or in three months? The answer is simple — because in nursing the stakes are high. We’re not talking about getting someone their coffee while it’s still hot (although if you ask this Pacific NorthWesterner, hot coffee is paramount!).
We’re talking about life saving stuff here. We’re talking about critical care that can make the difference between life and death for our friends and family members. Techniques change. Our memories fade. Continuing education keeps us up to date and refreshed on these critical skills.
Last year, my son spent a week in the PICU at St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center in Boise. I’ll be the first to admit I drove his nurses nuts with my questions about what different machines were doing, what his test results were, and with my concerns about his heart rate. I certainly did not have the time or mindset to ask whether or not their PALS was current.
That’s our job in healthcare human resources to monitor the credentials of staff. It’s our job to make sure we help healthcare staff keep their skills refreshed.
Of course, it goes beyond being just a safety and quality of care issue. There’s also the business side of things. Had a hospital been audited while employing the nurse I referenced above, it would not have reflected well on the facility and could have resulted in a hefty fine. Non-compliance can damage reputations and harm one of the most important assets you can have with a patient, trust. Getting caught with non-compliant staff, regardless of the nurse’s actual competency, has a way of negatively affecting perceptions.
Fortunately, credential management is one of the fabulous features of the ShiftWise & Veristaff system. It keeps track of credentials and alerts management when a nurse has expired licenses and certificates. It keeps you on top of staffing issues without taking significant resources to accomplish.
Oh — and that nurse I mentioned earlier? She came to back to work for me the very day she got her CPR card updated.