QUESTION: I took the minutes at committee meetings for years, and if there was any doubt as to what someone said, my minutes would give a word-for-word accounting of the discussion. We just hired someone new to take the minutes, and I was shocked at the small amount of information recorded. What should be in the minutes?
ANSWER: The most important thing that minutes should do is record the actions taken at a meeting, but not the discussions that took place. There are “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for meetings, and we’ll start with the “Do’s.”
Do: write down the name of the committee that is meeting, the date of the meeting, who is in attendance, and who is absent; list if there are any guests or visitors at the meeting; note the time the meeting was called to order, who called it to order, and the time it was adjourned; note whether it is a regular or special meeting of the committee; note, if it is a special meeting, that notice was given to the committee members and the way notice was given; note whether a quorum was present; note whether the previous minutes were read and approved; note the result of the votes, for example, 7–1 to suspend the physician’s privileges. This is the most important “Do” since the vote is the committee’s action.
Don’t record the details of any discussion. This is the most important “Don’t.” Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, someone may say something that they do not mean, that can be misinterpreted, or was meant as a joke, but looks sinister in black and white. If it is recorded in the minutes, it is there forever, and may turn up again – in front of a jury. There is not really a need to record the details of a discussion. What is important is the vote, the committee’s action.
But, with every rule, there is an exception. The exception here is “Do put details of a discussion in if it helps” and it helps when a committee makes an adverse recommendation regarding a physician. In that case, the minutes could be your best friend. The details would allow the committee to record the objective reasons for taking action. The reasons can be explained, but, comments should not be attributed to any one individual.
Don’t record how each member voted, unless a committee member wants a dissent recorded.
Don’t record who made motions and who seconded them or who said what to someone else or record personal remarks unrelated to the committee’s business.