How to Successfully Talk to Surveyors

How to Successfully Talk to Surveyors

Written by: Vanessa Sindell, MSN, BSN, RN


Sometimes, the most difficult part of a Medicare or accreditation survey can be talking to surveyors. They seem to speak their own language, which often makes us — knowledgeable directors — look like we don’t know what we are talking about. To get through a survey successfully, it is imperative that you know how to speak to surveyors. Below is a list of tips to help you communicate effectively with surveyors and get the positive survey result you strive to achieve.

Prior to Survey

Improve your chances of having a better survey by doing your homework to ensure you are prepared.

  • Find out who are your surveyors. Knowing your surveyors and their perspective will allow you to better understand what they may ask for and why. Remember, surveyors can be anybody: doctors, nurses, firefighters, engineers, pharmacists, etc.
  • Study the regulations. To successfully speak to the regulations and how your facility meets them, you must first know what they are. We recommend having all key staff members review the standards and regulations prior to the survey, as well.
  • Complete a mock survey. Hire an outside company to conduct a mock survey to help you prepare. This activity gives you an independent party’s perspective and allows you to practice answering questions surveyors might ask.
  • Organize everything. Set yourself up for success by organizing any relevant documentation so it’s easy to find. This way, if surveyors ask to see meeting minutes from your QAPI meeting from Q3 2018, you can easily point them in that direction. We recommend using separate binders for contracts, risk assessments, meeting minutes, life safety code logs, etc.
  • Check your files for consistency. Make sure all your personnel and credentialing files are consistent. They should be organized using the same method(s) and include the same items, as applicable. If surveyors see that certain files look different from one another, they will pick them apart.

During Survey

Once prepared, you can conduct yourself with composure and confidently talk with surveyors.

  • Project confidence. This should come naturally if you have prepared accordingly. For those who are a little more nervous under pressure, it’s important to make eye contact, not fumble, and answer surveyors directly.
  • Don’t be afraid to push back. If you’re unsure what surveyors are referring to, ask, “Can you show me that regulation in the manual?” This questioning demonstrates confidence and knowledge that you are doing a good job.
  • Respond appropriately to inquiries.

When asked something by surveyors, use the following responses:

“Let me go find that.”
“I know we have a policy for it; let me grab the policy and procedure manual.”
“Can you show me where that regulation is?”
The truth.

When asked something by surveyors, avoid the following responses:

“I don’t know.”
“I didn’t know we had to do that.”
“We don’t do that.”
No response.

  • Answer questions conservatively. Surveyors are not our friends; they are looking for what we are doing wrong. If surveyors ask you a question, answer it directly. Do not give your opinion, what you should have done, or over-explain a situation — more often than not, this will get you into trouble.

Hopefully, these tips will help you get through your next survey with more confidence and less stress. If you need help with an upcoming survey, or would like to conduct a mock survey, the Progressive team is here to help.

WANT TO LEARN MORE?  Register for a FREE webinar with Vanessa Sindell Monday March 25 @11AM PT / 2PM ET.

WE CAN HELP! Our team at Progressive Surgical Solutions has extensive experience preparing ASCs all across the country for licensing, certification and accreditation surveys. Check out our services page and contact us for pricing and availability.

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