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Data base files: a tool for long-term care administration.

A DON shows how creating data bases can simplify facility and staff management

Data bases -- are they just for use in the realm of computer programmers? In reality, they are a very useable tool for administrators and directors of nursing in long-term care.

The concept of computer data bases lends itself well to the area of long-term care where varieties of lists and information are frequently required, whether oriented to residents, employees, supplies or maintenance.

While there are exclusive data base programs on the market featuring specific sorting, calculating and statistic-gathering capabilities, there are also basic programs available in integrated packages which perform a wide variety of functions. Programs incorporating spreadsheet, data base, word processor and graphics are economical and perform a notable variety of operations once the "data base" is set up and the facility-specific information is entered.

An example of the versatility of a data base program can be shown in the use of an employee file. A form unique to the needs of the user can be designed by entering the "Create a Data Base" part of the program. The blank screen you see can be compared to a blank index card in which any "fields" can be placed in any way.

A sample data base employee file form is displayed on p. 3.

The "fields" are the description of information followed by colons in the sample. Once the data base form is designed, it is saved. Now the user is ready to start entering the specific data requested in the form. This operation may be time-consuming depending upon the numbers of employees because each must be entered separately. In one large university hospital where I worked, the data base consisted of 7,000 employees. To perform the job of entering information on each employee, I employed a data entry clerk full time for 6 months. Smaller institutions such as nursing facilities, however, can accomplish this operation in increments over a period of time. Five to ten files can be pulled and entered each day until all are logged in. The data entry is fairly quick and easy once the form is designed. It is well worth the effort and, once done, may be kept up-to-date with a minimum time outlay. When setting up an employee or resident file, I found it helpful to have an identical form, but in a different file, for termination or discharge. This can be easily done by using the "Copy Form Design" command in the utilities part of your program. Using this command will enable you to copy your form design to another new file to be kept separate from your current, active file. Use this file to store your terminated employee or discharged resident filecards for future reference. For example, my "Employee.Fol" was duplicated and renamed "Empterm.Fol." Each time an employee terminated employment, his or her "filecard" was copied onto the "Empterm.fol" and then deleted from the current "Employee.fol."

A word about "files" in computerese. Any entries you make into a computer must be given a name in order for the computer to store and save the information and for you to be able to retrieve the information. The name of the information you wish to save is thought up by you, the author, and it can be up to eight characters long. These eight characters (or less) are concluded with a ".", followed by three letters which indicate what type of file it is.

For instance, a word processor produces narrative type documents. A good suffix to use with a word processed document is ".doc." Since data bases are essentially file folders, a good suffix for a data base is ".fol." Likewise, spreadsheets could be ".SS." Many programs will assign these suffixes for you in order to categories your file types for easier retrieval.

Reports can be developed from a data base file using any or all of the fields of information. These reports take the form of columns or lists which may be totalled or calculated if you wish. The columns may also be sorted in ascending or descending order alphabetically or numerically. For example, using the sample displayed on this page, if you need a current listing of telephone numbers, you identify the second and seventh fields for your report. The data base report can then generate and print a list of names and telephone numbers and exclude the rest of the information on the filecard.

Another example of report use might be to print a listing of employees' birth dates in November. The computer can sort "ranges" if you insert the time span you wish included in the birth date field. In this case, you would enter 11/1/..-12/1/.... The computer will then select only those employees with birth dates in this time frame. The actual format or syntax characters used may vary somewhat in different programs but the principle remains the same. The point is that the many varieties of reports one can generate is defined by the types and numbers of fields you have designed into the data base form.

Still another data base function is the use of names and addresses for letters and labels. In the sample employee data base field, #13 is "salutation." A director of nursing can use this field to merge names into a form letter. (Judith Jones, RN, DNS might use the name "Judy." This would be her salutation and would be merged to address her in her letter). As Long-Term Nursing Council representative in my state, I use this application to send out letters to the 23 directors of nursing in my region. Within minutes I am able to print out all the addresses on individual labels and have 23 personalized letters. This program capacity can also be used in a residents' file for residents whose family members need to be informed of a facility function. The salutation and address in this case could be the responsible party for the resident. In addition to reports, letters and labels, the data base is a useful tool for the director of nursing to summon up individual employees names for specific information relating to hire-in dates, dates of last evaluation, pay rate, or any information needed quickly without having to go to another office to retrieve a file. There is also ample room for comments on the individual filecards. These might include reminder of maternity leave dates, change of hours, or status of a compensation injury. Generally speaking, a card file can be up to several hundred lines in length, thereby extending the capacity far beyond the end of the screen. Writing into this area will cause the file form to scroll forward.

Once your data base is in place, be sure you back it up onto a separate disc and make regular back-ups as you change or enter new data. Doing this will enable you to restore your data in the event you inadvertently lose information or if your data file becomes damaged.

Data bases can be applicable to any department. Using these principles and examples, application of the data base can be made to many uses. Purchasing supplies can be entered on file cards and usage of items tracked. Maintenance schedules can be kept and reports of dates for servicing produced. Data base files serve as excellent methods for tracking incidents, as well as for generating lists of types of incidents, people involved, their frequency and dates.

In short, even the most basic data base program is an invaluable tool, very applicable to the long-term care industry and limited only by the user's imagination.

Eleanor Allen, RN, BS, is Director of Nursing Services for the TallPines Health Care Facility, Belfast, Maine.
COPYRIGHT 1994 Medquest Communications, LLC
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Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Allen, Eleanor
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:Jan 1, 1994
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