Canaries in a coal mine

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

When it comes to measuring how well a long-term care facility is doing, we all know the usual benchmarks: revenues, profits and census levels.

But if you happen to work in a distant corporate office, there's a faster, easier and more reliable way to take a facility's pulse: the MDS Coordinator Test.

This two-pronged assessment can quickly reveal more about an organization's culture, working conditions and future prospects than just about any spreadsheet. Essentially, it lets you rapidly size up what life is really like for the Minimum Data Set coordinator or equivalent role. 

I won't argue there's a link between the MDS coordinator's experience and the health of an organization. Actually, it's more like a direct correlation. These folks are the proverbial canaries in a coal mine. Here are the two things you want to size up:

First, take a good look at the office (or more likely “work space”) allotted to this person. Does she (and it's almost always a she) have at least one large screen (preferably two) to work with? Or must she make do with the old tiny screen and laptop combo? Does she have modern file cabinets? Or are there piles of paper stacked up, seemingly willy-nilly? How's the lighting? Nice and bright? If any of these “perks” is substandard, that's a big red flag. 

Second, how is this person treated, starting with rank? Is she on the management team? One would think someone who is a gatekeeper for what could be millions of dollars each year in revenue has earned that right. 

Does she put in normal hours? Or is her car regularly in the parking lot before 7 a.m. in order to get some work done before the craziness starts? 

Office appearance and recognition are simple things, really. But they can reveal a lot about the leadership, mindset and prospects of a long-term care facility. If you are in a management position and are allowing shabby MDS coordinator treatment to continue, I won't go so far as to say shame on you. But you might want to make a real quick run to an office supply store for some serious furniture and computer hardware upgrades. 

And while you're on the way there, consider this: How are you going to convince the people who really drive your company that the treatment of a top resource needs a major upgrade?