Guest post: Support throughout a transition to CDI

By Kelly Sutton, RN, BSN, MHL, CCDS for ACDIS CDI Blog

The transition into CDI from other avenues can be filled with overwhelming thoughts and emotions. In my experience as division educator, almost every CDI specialist will, at some point, have doubts about their career change. In the CDI specialist role, the relationships with physicians must be built differently, trust must be earned, and worth must be demonstrated. In bedside nursing, the providers knew our role; we were part of a team working together to clinically manage the patient. We earned trust and respect by discussing our patient’s disease processes and advocating for their needs.

So why does CDI feel so different sometimes? As CDI professionals, sometimes our role and worth are not as easily understood, especially by new providers. Even some administrators struggle with placing a specific value on what we do, and the relationships with physicians may take even longer to build. Inevitably our team members will have interactions where the physician is tired, busy, or not interesting in discussing documentation issues with the CDI team.

Most of the CDI specialists we have hired recently do not have previous CDI experience and have recently transitioned from bedside nursing positions where they found purpose and fulfillment in caring for patients and their families. The transition to CDI is very rewarding, but in different ways. As the new CDI specialist navigates the onboarding process, they start to realize this is not a retirement position. CDI is a career where lifelong learning is required to become successful and proficient.

Some of the struggles observed with specialists through all stages of their CDI careers center around finding fulfillment and purpose in their chosen field. How can we motivate and empower our CDI specialists to face the challenges in CDI with a positive attitude and help them feel a sense of pride about their career? We can share our personal stories and words of encouragement with our team from our own challenges and experiences. I like to share examples of situations I witnessed where our team members have successfully overcome barriers or difficult situations. The goal is to inspire and remind the team about the important role we play as part of the interdisciplinary team. The CDI team still helps manage the patient, but now, it is from a documentation perspective. The CDI specialist is an active participant in discussions about patient’s disease processes through clarifications, in multidisciplinary rounds, and in conversations with providers as we work out on our units.

The CDI specialist advocates for better documentation to support the patient’s needs and resource utilization; we still can affect our patient’s care. CDI professionals can discover untreated conditions such as UTIs and can advocate for consults such as a nutritionist or wound care specialists. I proudly share situations where the CDI specialist has helped prevent weight-based medication errors by catching a weight that was documented incorrectly and collaborating with nursing staff to ensure the correct weight is documented. These are some of the many situations that bring me a sense of purpose and accomplishment in CDI.

This field is so intellectually stimulating. I enjoy a new type of personal fulfillment in my role, even though it is away from the bedside. It is so important to encourage, share, and inspire each other daily to help each other stay motivated and fulfilled.

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