Important Lessons from the Pandemic for Healthcare Leaders

Last Updated on March 17, 2022

Group of healthcare leaders in PPE

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for the American healthcare system. Widespread staff shortages, overwhelmed intensive care units, and a series of other difficulties have kept employers scrambling for solutions. With no end in sight, then, what lessons from the pandemic can leaders apply today to make sure the next two years are less difficult than the last?

Lessons from the Pandemic for Healthcare Leaders

Update Your Disaster Plan

Although many hospitals and facilities have some form of a disaster plan, few were truly prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s hardly a surprise, given the scope of the crisis, and how much of the fallout was a result of system-wide effects like shortages and burnout among workers. But given these uncontrollable factors, how can leaders truly prepare for the next crisis?

The best answer to this difficult question is to update your disaster plan to account for these challenges. You’ve now experienced a crisis in real-time, and have an advanced understanding of your specific vulnerabilities, and that of the region in which you operate. So, you have a much better data set to offset your vulnerabilities.

How can you apply those lessons to your new disaster plan? As Dr. Eric K. Wei, Dr. Theodore Long and Dr. Mitchell H. Katz write at JAMA Internal Medicine, some good questions to begin with include:

  • What areas of the facility should be expanded, in order of priority (e.g., “recovery room first, ambulatory areas second”)?
  • How can you increase the operational capacity to care for a surge in incoming patients (e.g., a process to “cancel routine surgeries and appointments”)?  
  • How can you get immediate access to supplemental staff (e.g., reassigning staff or quickly acquiring new workers “with appropriate training”)?

That last point is particularly important: “The challenges in identifying additional space paled in comparison to providing sufficient ICU nurses, respiratory therapists, intensivist physicians, and dialysis nurses,” note the authors. In other words, building out a plan for contingency staffing during a crisis should be your top priority. 

> Pro Tip: To help make sure your disaster plan includes access to contingency workers, consider partnering with a staffing and recruitment provider with a nationwide footprint, such as CareerStaff.

Don’t Cut Corners on PPE

One of the earliest lessons from the pandemic was the absolute necessity of having a plentiful stock of personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers, as well as patients and administrators. This is too often neglected by leaders looking to cut costs — an understandable goal given the razor-thin margins many are forced to operate under.

Yet cutting PPE from your budget could end up being much costlier than it appears. Covid-19 has shown us that the cost of compromised safety has led to the loss of nurses in the workforce through forced quarantines from lack of protection against infection. It’s also contributed to burnout and exhaustion. By bolstering your PPE supplies, you’re helping protect yourself against these much more serious setbacks.

> Pro Tip: Partnering with a healthcare managed service provider (MSP) is an effective option for cutting operational costs. Offering automated, streamlined solutions to labor-intensive tasks like scheduling, billing, and invoicing, MSPs can save you significant labor expenses and free up your budget for PPE, not to mention ventilators, medications, and other critical resources.

Make Sure Your Workers Have Emotional Support

As we’ve noted here at the CareerStaff Healthcare Staffing Blog, the pandemic has ramped up the burnout and compassion fatigue felt by nurses and clinicians across the United States. Even before Covid-19, this was a serious problem for healthcare employers. Since the early months of 2020, it’s become a major driver of staff shortages.  

“In walking into ‘hot’ zones of sick patients with COVID-19,” the JAMA authors explain, workers “experienced the very human emotions of vulnerability, fear of bringing the virus home to their families, and guilt at not being able to save all patients. Although the culture of service is a positive attribute of health care professionals, it can obscure the human needs for support, leading to burnout and misplaced emotions.”

It can be argued that it’s the responsibility of leaders to support these workers emotionally, in some capacity. Too often essential workers are described as “heroes,” yet they’re not given the emotional support they need. And often, this support isn’t difficult to offer. Stress management classes, staff recharge rooms, and easy-to-access mental health resources are just a few ways to provide support.

> Pro Tip: From offering guidance in self-care to providing on-site counseling, here are 7 ways that employers can make sure that their essential workers have the emotional support they deserve and need to provide effective patient care.

CareerStaff Can Help

Today, we know more than ever about the nature of the Covid-19 virus — how it spreads, who’s most vulnerable, and the best ways to treat it. Yet many of the above lessons from the pandemic have gone unheeded. We encourage you to take the steps above to help correct any vulnerabilities you may have in your facility, and to best prepare you — and your workers and patients — for the challenges yet to come.

And we can help. Offering decades of experience, Joint Commission certification, a network of thousands of healthcare professionals, and much more, CareerStaff Unlimited can offer reliable, customizable, scalable workforce solutions to help make sure you’re prepared for the challenges to come. Learn more about how we can help — contact us today or request a consultation now.

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