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G. Enforcing Standards Through Well-Publicized Disciplinary Guidelines

1. Disciplinary Policy and Enforcement

An effective compliance program should include disciplinary policies that set out the consequences of violating the nursing facility’s standards of conduct, policies, and procedures. Intentional noncompliance should subject transgressors to significant sanctions. Such sanctions could range from oral warnings to suspension, termination, or financial penalties, as appropriate. Disciplinary action may be appropriate where a responsible employee’s failure to detect a violation is attributable to his or her negligence or reckless conduct. Each situation must be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine the appropriate response.

The written standards of conduct should elaborate on the procedures for handling disciplinary problems and those who will be responsible for taking appropriate action. Some disciplinary actions can be handled by department or agency managers, while others may have to be resolved by a senior administrator. The nursing facility should advise personnel that disciplinary action will be taken on a fair and equitable basis. Managers and supervisors should be made aware that they have a responsibility to discipline employees in an appropriate and consistent manner.

It is vital to publish and disseminate the range of disciplinary standards for improper conduct and to educate employees regarding these standards. The consequences of noncompliance should be consistently applied and enforced, in order for the disciplinary policy to have the required deterrent effect. All levels of employees should be potentially subject to the same types of disciplinary action for the commission of similar offenses, because the commitment to compliance applies to all personnel within a nursing facility. This means that corporate officers, managers, and supervisors should be held accountable for failing to comply with, or for the foreseeable failure of their subordinates to adhere to, the applicable standards, laws, and procedures.

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