Under My Skin

Damned documentation


Documentation got you down? Feel like you’re turning into a data entry clerk?

Sorry, but I can’t help you. What I can do is tell you you’re not alone. Datamania is now an endemic malady. Everybody has it and everybody’s doing it, even some you’d never imagine. If misery loves company, you should soon be head over heels.

1. Tiers for Tots

A sleepy doctor holds a coffee mug while looking at her computer. PRImageFactory/iStock/Getty Images
Tracy teaches kindergarten in what was once a working-class neighborhood, now populated by biotech types with PhDs and lots of dough.

“What are the parents like?” I ask.

“They’re great!” Tracy says. “They want their kids to be creative and play.”

She frowns. “But my boss insists I give him data.”

“Data? What data?”

“Studies show that letter recognition in kindergarten correlates with reading ability in third grade,” she says. “So I have to test the kids and provide him with the data.”

“And what if the kids flub letter recognition?”

Tracy’s smile is now rueful. “Then they might need a Tier 2 intervention.”

“Good grief! What is a Tier 2 intervention?”

“It’s time consuming,” she says. “It takes a lot of one-on-one work, me and the kid.”

Less play all around, I guess. But documentation must be done, and data delivered. By the kindergarten teacher!

2. Filing for firefighters

Bruce has been a firefighter for 30 years, and it’s starting to wear him down. The physical exertion? The stress? Nah.

“The paperwork is driving me crazy,” he says.

“What paperwork?”

“In between calls, we spend hours filling out forms,” he says.

“Which forms?”

“At the scene, you go to work on the fire and help people get to safety. Then you see how they’re doing, and refer the ones who need it for medical help.

“Used to be,” says Bruce, “that you’d eyeball someone, ask them how they felt and if they needed to go to the hospital. If they said they were OK, they were good to leave.”

“And now?”

“Now we have to cover ourselves. We need to document how they look, what they say, what we asked them, what they answered. They have to sign a release that we asked them what we needed to ask and they answered what we needed to hear, that they said they were OK and didn’t need to go to the ER and signed off on it. Takes a lot of time.”

And paper. Maybe little kids who used to dream of being firefighters will start to dream that they’ll be file clerks with big red hats.

3. Your personal banker doesn’t know you!

Marina looks frazzled. “Stress at work,” she says. “It gets worse all the time.”

I know Marina works at a community bank. “What’s the problem?” I ask. “More restrictions on lending?”

“Oh sure,” she says, “but that’s an old story. Now there are new regulations to prevent money laundering. We have to know the identity of anybody who makes a deposit.”

“Sounds reasonable.”

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