Today more than ever before, the ability to skillfully manage crises is essential for healthcare leaders. As the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic continue to reverberate through the industry, and natural disasters surge in frequency and intensity, effective crisis management in healthcare is no longer a prospect of managing what-if, but of securing facilities and organizations against real and urgent threats.
Yet the job of crisis management in healthcare is a difficult one. Catastrophic weather or mass casualty events have an outsized impact on hospitals and other clinical facilities, and managing the impact is a multi-layered task. For leaders looking for a starting point, here are four strategies that should serve as the foundation of any crisis management plan.
Crisis Management in Healthcare: 4 Strategies for Leaders
#1: Update Your Disaster Plan
As many organizations learned during the pandemic, having a thorough disaster plan may not always be up to the challenge of a real crisis. Yet all the same, having that foundation in place is essential to maintain basic functionality during a catastrophic event. By ensuring communications and access to resources, organizations are taking a critical step in making sure they respond as well as they’re able.
To that end, facilities should have a formal disaster plan that covers basics like communications and data backup, and update it each year. That does require time, work and room in the budget. But as with insurance, failing to protect against this risk is simply not acceptable. And that’s even more true for facilities in high-risk regions — in the path of hurricanes, wildfires, floods or other predictable events.
The good news is that, in the wake of Covid-19, leaders should have an advanced understanding of their own operational strengths and limitations. That will help organizations create a disaster plan that’s more thorough and effective. Yet it’s also important to remember that this is a task that needs to be in the hands of experts. For organizations without in-house expertise, finding a third-party partner is essential.
Disaster Preparedness Checklist for Healthcare Facilities
#2: Upgrade Your Crisis Preparedness Skills
Beyond ensuring that an updated disaster plan is in place, leaders can also take it upon themselves to bolster their own expertise on managing crises in a number of ways. Keeping a system operational while under severe stress — while keeping communications open and resources intact — requires skilled and informed leadership. And that takes focused preparation, and often education.
Although it may be impossible to fully plan for unforeseen events, it is possible to hone the skills that will be called upon in those situations. According to a 2021 survey published in the Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, those abilities can include both “a process in which different steps are handled systematically” as well as ad hoc leadership “such as improvised decision‐making.”
Just as with the continuing education required of nurses in most states, there are a number of options for leaders looking to expand their disaster management skills. Crisis management certifications are available from a number of business schools. Likewise, many healthcare news and educational organizations offer in-depth articles, webinars and many other resources on the topic.
#3: Cultivate a Culture of Crisis Preparation
Leaders whose schedules may not be able to accommodate course-based learning can also delegate the role of crisis management to another member of the management team. Encouraging or enabling nursing staff — and especially the leaders among them — to acquire Certified Healthcare Emergency Coordinator (CHEC) certification is another method to help prepare a facility for potential crisis.
“Creating a culture of ownership is as important as anything else outlined in your crisis management plan,” notes Healthcare Digital Magazine. “Employees should feel a personal responsibility to prevent crises on an everyday basis. The more your employees are aware of their actions and the actions of those around them, the better caution they can take to prevent a crisis.
#4: Secure Access to Backup Workers
Staffing shortages are among the most serious challenges associated with crisis management in healthcare. Catastrophes impact the local labor pool of as much as the rest of the population. So, at a time when patient intake may be surging, floods or fires can cut those workers off from the facilities where they’re needed.
Beyond an immediate shortage of clinical workers, severe events can also lead to longer-term workforce disruptions. This phenomenon is currently playing out in the wake of Covid-19, which continues to cause shortages — especially in skilled nursing and long-term care. Sustained events like a pandemic can also lead to higher rates of burnout and more nurses and clinicians leaving the profession entirely.
There are ways to protect against these shortages. Leaders can “establish local incident management teams of managers, directors, and public health administrators to be on call during crises” and “coordinate in advance with government organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” advises AdventHealth University.
Yet even so, leaders can expect to find themselves shorthanded during times of crisis. The good news is that clinical staffing and recruitment companies can help resolve this aspect of crisis management. By providing access to a nationwide pool of nurses and other clinicians, companies like CareerStaff can help make sure facilities have the workers they need to stay operational, even during times of crisis.
CareerStaff Can Help Your Crisis Management in Healthcare Strategy
Whether the best solution is a travel nurse or a long-term hire, CareerStaff Unlimited provides services that are designed to adapt to each facility’s unique workforce needs. Offering decades of industry experience and a nationwide network of clinical professionals, we’re standing by to put our resources and expertise to work for your organization. Contact us here to learn more or get started today.