The HIPAA Hippo


“Okay,” I say in the most cheerful voice I can manage. “Anything with a resident’s name or room number goes in the shredder. That’s for HIPAA compliance.”
“Hippo?” Mrs. G interjects. She’s a bit confused by this…and also not the intended recipient of this factoid. “Why do you have to be compliant with hippo? Where is this hippo anyway?”
“No, HIPAA,” I tell her, grinning at J, the new aide I’m training. “HIPAA, stands for Healthcare Information…something or other.”
“Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act?” J, fresh out of class, corrects.
“What she said,” I agree. “It’s part of how we protect your identity.”
“Oh, then please follow the hippo,” Mrs G says, “I’m rather attached to my identity–I’ve had it for eighty or so years.”

The strange thing about training a new aide is how it forces you to slow down and think about the things that have become muscle memory.
For me, at least, when I first started, CNA work was overwhelmingly mental: I had to think about each and every single thing I did, the whys and wherefores behind each action. Then the routine and the tasks slid from my mind to my body; I just did them with little need to think about how or why. I got faster, more efficient and was able to focus on the people, not so much the tasks. That’s how you carry on an emotional conversation about their life while you change their brief.

But when I’m training, I try to slow it back down. I force myself to talk new aides through why I do things the way I do. Sometimes I feel like a motor-mouth because I never stop talking while I’m training.
“Training” might be the wrong word. It feels more like an initiation rite, guiding the new aide into this strange world.
It’s a hell of a responsibility…but I feel that doing it right gives the new aides a fighting chance.

One thought on “The HIPAA Hippo

  1. Don Hill

    Mentoring is a great responsibility as well as highly satisfying. You get to impart wisdom as well as “smarts” about how to do good and survive a broken system. Your work is more important to the patients than the “hippo” and other such laws, ordinances and guidelines.


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