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Testing for honesty.

Q We discovered that we had several medical technologists omitting a maintenance-check step in the automated procedure for our routine chemistry tests. The step is part of the written daily procedure, and all techs were trained on the procedure. There is a place on the daily maintenance form for the techs to initial they performed this task each day. A concerned tech notified us that this step was not being done along with verification of computer printouts, but the techs always initial that they performed this. My question for the panel is: Should we be testing for honesty traits on a pre-employment basis? Can the panel offer suggestions?

A Marti Bailey points out, "Pre-employment honesty testing comes with its own set of issues that need careful consideration. The Congressional Office of Technology Assessment defines honesty tests as written tests designed to identify individuals applying for work who have relatively high propensities to steal money or property on the job or are likely to engage in behavior of a more generally counterproductive nature. Employee-rights advocates have strongly criticized the use of honesty tests, claiming potential privacy and discrimination infringements due to the personal nature of test questions. Thus, an employer could conceivably be found liable for invading an applicant's privacy if the testing process caused perceived injury. Privacy could also be compromised if any of the information from the testing happened to fall into the hands of persons who did not need to know. The employer would be advised to obtain written, informed consent to perform honesty testing and that the results of such testing be strictly confidential and maintained in a secure place.

Ms. Bailey adds, "There are legitimate concerns regarding use of honesty-testing tools. The results of honesty testing should not stand alone in making or breaking a hiring decision. You would still need to make the same judgments as you do today, based on review of employment history, resume, background checks, recommendations and interview. I am doubtful that honesty testing would have prevented the problem you have experienced.

"Sound and consistently enforced employment policies seem to be what is lacking. The deficiency that you describe is extremely serious. Patient care could be compromised. Not only was an important quality assurance step not performed but also records were falsified. My own opinion is that this is justification for immediate dismissal. I would start by meeting personally with all your staff to let them know of the deficiency and that any future failures to follow protocols or falsification of records will not be tolerated and will result in disciplinary action that may include immediate dismissal. You then need to be true to your word. When there was a breech of confidentiality issue in our hospital, a number of employees were terminated on the spot, and it made a resounding impact. I do not think your issue is of any lesser importance."

Alton Sturtevant advises, "I am not personally aware of a method to test for honesty as a trait. When I conducted an Internet search for honesty testing, I found over 35,000 references to honesty as a trait and testing for it. I would attack the problem described as more of a management problem relating to the instrument in question (and the others in the laboratory) and document the process. The appropriate supervisor then must review the daily checklists for completion. Anyone not complying with company policy should be subjected to company disciplinary procedures. The supervisor directly responsible for the instrument must be reviewed for his compliance with policy, as well. This should correct the problem and ensure that employees understand the necessity of compliance with policy."

According to Larry Crolla, "I do not think doing pre-employment checks will necessarily solve this problem. People become lazy, have a bad day or never see a problem and think the check is unnecessary. Explain to people how important it is to do what they say they did in light of the reaction over medical errors that have been in the news lately. This also emphasizes the point that instrumentation that does self-checks will be significant in the future in helping to reduce medical errors."

Bottom line: It is doubtful that honesty testing would have prevented the problem you have experienced. Close supervision, retraining, employee competency checks and explaining the reasons for doing each step in the maintenance procedure are probably the answer. Meet personally with all your staff members to let them know of the deficiency. Make clear that any future failures to follow protocols or falsification of records will not be tolerated and will result in disciplinary action that may include immediate dismissal.

Christopher S. Frings is an internationally known consultant and speaker on the topics of leadership, managing change, time management, reaching goals and stress management. His consulting firm, Chris Frings & Associates, is in Birmingham, AL.
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Title Annotation:Percent of Billing Collected and Testing for Honesty
Author:Frings, Christopher S.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Previous Article:Percent of billing collected.
Next Article:Stick to OSHA rules.

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