As winter weather begins to set in and the holiday season approaches, Covid-19 cases are surging. For facilities that provide any type patient care, the pandemic has added an extra layer of complexity to a busy time of year. As the holidays and flu season approach, it’s never been more important to make sure that your clinical staffing plan is up for the challenges ahead.
And all across the country, even as Covid-19 hospitalizations increase, states are revising executive orders to allow elective and nonurgent procedures. That puts many facilities into a doubly challenging spot — ramping up standard elective services while also working to contain local Covid-19 outbreaks.
Whether you’re re-opening a facility after a lengthy shutdown or have been soldering on during the entire pandemic, it’s important to take a new look at your staffing needs in light of what’s likely to come in the months ahead. With that in mind, our thought leaders at CareerStaff have compiled a checklist of essential items to make sure your clinical staffing plan is ready for a difficult winter.
Checklist: Preparing Your Clinical Staffing Plan for the Holiday Season
✓ Double-check your local regulatory and licensing rules.
Creating a clinical staffing plan that can withstand the challenges of the months to come begins with understanding the current rules about which services are allowed, and which aren’t. This state-by-state chart from the AMA offers a detailed breakdown on what areas are allowed to resume “non-urgent medical services and elective procedures.”
Since March, the rules for inter-state practice for nurses, therapists and other healthcare professionals have been relaxed to enable clinicians to quickly move to areas where their help is most needed. Having a clear understanding of the current situation is critical for building out a staffing plan. If you’re not sure of your state’s status, this guide from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing is a great place to start.
It’s also important to understand any federal or state mandates that offer liability protection related to Covid-19 treatment, and to make sure those regulations are reflected in your employee contracts. It’s also good for morale if your team members understand the specific risks and any protections you offer against them.
✓ Make a (better) plan for safety and supplies.
Remember, your staffing plan is only as good as the people who do the work! If you haven’t taken extra steps to protect them from infection, you could be compromised by community outbreaks or the need for quarantine. Make sure to double-down on your infection prevention strategies, while also making sure that your team understands the nature of Covid-19 and when to stay home from work.
The AMA also advises rearranging workspaces “to provide distance between employees and consider dedicated workstations and patient rooms so fewer people touch the same equipment.” They also recommend creating “a timetable charting what needs to be done prior to reopening and order enough medical supplies and personal protective equipment so that sporadic deliveries do not disrupt services.”
But even with the best safety system in place, it’s still essential to develop procedures for what do in a worse-case scenario. As the AMA puts it, that means making a clear plan for “if a clinician, employee, patient or visitor is diagnosed with COVID-19 after visiting the practice and how long employees who interacted with a diagnosed patient should stay home from work.”
✓ Be selective with visitors.
To best curb the risk of outbreaks, experts recommend limiting the amount of non-clinical personnel in your facility. This includes taking a careful assessment of who is allowed to visit, and whether those folks should be restricted to those actively participating in a patient’s care. It also may include rethinking visitor hours, and preparing for the possibility of prohibiting visitors entirely in case of emergency.
This also includes other people like educators, vendors or the building’s maintenance team, each of whom have different, valid reasons for visiting your facility. As much as possible, try to limit those interactions to phone or video chat. If you haven’t already integrated some sort of video consultation for patients to discuss symptoms with doctors in lieu of in=person visits, it’s time to start the process.
✓ Get an on-call contingency staffing plan.
According to the AMA, a “fully resourced hospitals and healthcare workforce” is one of the four essential components of a safely re-opened care environment. That means having access to a robust pool of clinical workers is equally important as a “coordinated and well-supplied testing network” and contact tracing.
Facilities operating in communities that are experiencing a shortage of nurses, SLPs or other essential clinicians can enjoy the benefits of a contingency workforce by partnering with a healthcare managed services provider (MSP). With offices located across the U.S., companies like CareerStaff specialize in providing quick access to thousands of nurses and other clinical professionals for the facilities that need them the most.
Ready to learn more? With decades of collective experience in healthcare workforce management and a nationwide network of skilled, trained and motivated professionals to call upon, CareerStaff Unlimited is standing by with the network you need to ensure a successful staffing plan this winter, and beyond. Contact us today to find out more, or fill out a staffing request now.