Acute Care Survey Tips For Dietitians

By Sara Glanz, MS, RD, LD, CNSC

They’re here. CMS, The Joint Commission, or other equally intimidating inspectors. Before you panic, take a breath and know that you can handle these next few days with confidence. All dietitians have their tips and tricks to ace survey time, but we pooled the best ones and compiled them in a list. After all, what dietitian doesn’t love a good checklist?

Surveyors are here. Now what?

  • Ensure you have a signed and updated copy of your Policies & Procedures Manual and Nutrient Analysis of the patient menu. Have these handy.
  • Be mindful of your actions: hand hygiene, addressing patients with two identifiers, proper use of PPE, etc.
  • Visit pantry areas on patient units. Check temperature logs on refrigerators and discard all patient food or open containers.
  • Check in with the foodservice team and help out wherever needed.
  • Only answer what you’ve been asked. Don’t volunteer information. If you don’t know the answer, find out.
  • Double check that all dietitians’ employee files are current (copy of CDR registration and license, flu shot, PPD, required trainings, etc.)
  • Be prepared to answer questions about your typical daily activities. For example, “How do you know which patients need to be assessed by a dietitian?” or “How do you identify patients who are at nutrition risk?”
  • Don’t hide from surveyors. Do complete your regular daily tasks.
  • Stay calm. You’ll can do this!
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What to expect

Assuming the visit is routine and not in response to a complaint or previous troublesome survey, inspectors generally want to review the day-to-day goings on of your facility. This may include reviewing policies, interviewing or observing staff, or reviewing patient charts. When completing chart reviews, surveyors “track” a patient’s experience while they were under your facility’s care. They will review documentation, care planning, admission screenings, medication reconciliation, referrals to specialists or ancillary staff, and so on.

Through this process, they are checking that policies were followed, and the patient received safe and effective care. They may ask to speak with representatives from individual disciplines (like dietitians) for further explanation on how they were involved in a particular patient’s care.

In the wake of COVID-19, inspectors may also focus more on infection control practices. For the nutrition and foodservice departments, this could mean questions about additional training for foodservice staff (e.g., donning/doffing PPE, hand hygiene, proper sanitation or handling of dishes and cutlery from COVID-positive rooms, etc.) or how dietitians are assessing these high-risk patients.

And remember…

The inspectors aren’t there to try to stump you with tough questions or shut down your facility. Chances are, your policies and procedures are solid. The surveyors just want you to demonstrate that to them. So, if you’re ever in doubt as to how to answer one of their questions, just lean on your policies. And if you need to double-check the policy before answering, do it. A simple, “Let me check our policy on that because I want to be sure to tell you the correct information” will do just fine. You can do this!

Sara Glanz, MS, RD, LD, CNSC worked as a traveling dietitian for Dietitians On Demand for two years before joining the team as the corporate dietitian. In this role, she has championed the continuing education program to empower dietitians everywhere to achieve their professional goals.

Dietitians On Demand is a nationwide staffing and recruiting company for registered dietitians, specializing in short-term, temporary and permanent-hire positions in acute care, long term care and food service positions. We’re dedicated to dietitians and helping them enhance their practice and excel in the workplace. Check out our job openingsrequest your coverage, or visit our store today!

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