Sunday, February 14, 2016

Musical Chairs, Minus the Music

I was in my work area, minding my own business, when a shift supervisor came around with an entourage.  This is always trouble, so I ducked into a closet.

Yes, I am a grown woman, a professional, who hides in closets when her supervisor comes around.

The group focused on a locked office.  They banged on the door and in shrill voices exclaimed things like, "Oh my God!" and "This is unacceptable!" and my most feared, "Where is Nurse Enid?"

I didn't come out of hiding until I was sure they were gone.

Hours later, the supervisor found me.  "Who has that office?" she barked at me.

"I don't know," I answered truthfully.  There is no sign on the door.  Maybe twice a week I see a woman go in, shut the door, stay a few hours, then leave.  The important thing about her is that she has never bothered me.

The supervisor didn't care.  "There is confidential medical information visible on the desk in that office!" she cried.

"It's not my office," I answered.

"It is your responsibility to protect patient information!" she cried again.

"I protect the little information I have access to," I countered.  "I don't police the entire building."

Now she was annoyed.  Her whole face dropped.  "Listen, there is no need for you to be rude," the supervisor accused.  "HIPAA is everyone's responsibility.  I asked you a very simple question and you responded very rudely."

"I have no control over other people's offices," I answered firmly.  She probably thought this was rude.

"Well, you should have reported the HIPAA violation," the supervisor continued with this idea.  "I mean, the office is near yours and you have a responsibility to maintain your work area."

"That office is not my responsibility.  I don't even know who works in that office.  Plus, other people have offices next to that office.  Why aren't you telling them to monitor that office?" I continued to fight.  Useless.

"We're not talking about other people.  We are talking about you not protecting patient information.  We've been over this before," she insisted.

She's right.  I have no access to the few electronic services because I supposedly can't honor HIPAA.  At least I know how to spell it.  They spell it HIPPA.

So I was silent.  Whatever I say is wrong and rude.

The supervisor continued.  "And where did that chair come from in that office?"

I stared at her.  My prior assertions that I had no knowledge or access to that office did not suffice, so I wasn't going to restate them again.

"That is a nicer chair in that office than I have in mine," the supervisor continued.  "I want to know how it got there."

We stood there, looking at each other.

"Give me the key so I can remove that chair," the supervisor ordered.

She had not absorbed a word I said.  "I don't have a key to that office," I answered.

"Why don't you have a key?" she snapped.  "You lost it and didn't report it as missing?  This is not acceptable!"

"It's not my office," I enunciated again.

She huffed away.  How does this runaway train happen?

Soon she returned with someone from maintenance who opened the door for her.  From a distance I watched her remove the chair from the room and wheel it away.  She was not in there long enough to move the files that were supposedly exposed.

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