The Nurse's Guide to Charting Efficiently
Brady Pregerson, MD & Rebekah Child | Scrubs Magazine
Part II: Beyond the Medical Chart
How many times have you heard the phrase “If it wasn’t charted, it wasn’t done?” Simply writing your observations, concerns and actions in the chart, however, isn’t enough to guarantee good care.
In Part I of our Charting Conspiracy series, Dr. Brady and Nurse Rebekah challenged you to effectively communicate with patients and staff. In Part II, they urge you to move off the page and into the real world.
Dr. Brady: The example I gave in Part I was for the benign, self-limiting condition commonly known as a cold or a “URI.” But what if the patient in our vignette had something more sinister? What if it was a TIA, and two days later the patient had a stroke and did not have a complete recovery? What if the nurse documented that the patient had transient vision loss in addition to her chief complaint of arm numbness? What if the patient assumed the nurse told this to the doctor but didn’t? What if the patient was sent home, but returned two days later with a completed stroke, and the next doctor who saw her told her she should have never been sent home from her first visit two days prior?
What would this patient think? Whom would she blame for her bad outcome? What if she sued? What would her lawyer think if he looked over the medical records and saw that there were multiple inconsistencies between the documentation of the different doctors and nurses involved in her care?
I’ll tell you what that lawyer would think: “Cha-ching! No evidence of conspiracy in this chart.” The only thing left would be for the malpractice insurers to write the check.
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Nurse Rebekah: You know that comedian who goes around calling people stupid and saying, “Heeeeere’s your sign”? I think that’s kind of how it goes when we don’t communicate properly about our patients. The judge just looks at the lawyers and the patient who’s suing and says, “Heeeeeere’s your check.”
There is always the risk of being human. Not everyone presents with the textbook symptoms (I really wish patients would!) and not everyone is on his A-game every single day. So we should never assume that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. (Ever hear the old adage about assuming?!)
If you’re really concerned as a patient, nurse or physician, it never hurts to simply reiterate important information or ideas. I have irritated many a doctor by reminding them of stuff (as in turn, they have irritated me), but if I save a life three of those times a doctor got irritated—well then, mission accomplished.
Never, ever assume that charting a concern is the same as drawing it to a physician’s attention. As important as good charting is—and we’ll talk about that more in Part III of our Charting Conspiracy series—patient advocacy always comes first. If you’re worried about your patient, tell someone. You can always chart it later.
Let’s review: Charting is all about communication, and communication is absolutely essential to good patient care. As good as you may be—and we don’t doubt that you’re an excellent nurse—you can’t do it alone. To meet and exceed patient expectations, healthcare providers have to work in harmony with one another.