Ashley Carty is a seasoned medical professional with over 8 years of experience working at the top hospitals in Southern California, including Hoag, Saddleback Memorial, and UCSD.
If you’re one of the counties from around the United States that haven’t been hit by COVID yet, it’s time to prepare. We’ve compiled a list of what you need to know to prepare for the front lines.
Places such as New York and Seattle didn’t have the opportunity to learn from their peers, but you can. Although you may already feel overwhelmed with information and anxious about what’s to come, it’s important to hone in on the skills needed to care for COVID patients. There’s a lot of information and questions around ventilator training, and the skills nurses need for ICU.
To proactively address these concerns, AACN released a Covid-19 Pulmonary, ARDS, and Ventilator Resources course. Their online course is free to help support nurses who need to be trained to care for patients with Covid-19.
In addition to the online classes, AACN also created pocket-sized cards along with several other key resources that are readily available on their Covid-19 webpage. The pocket cards are a great quick and easy reference tool for nurses working in an unfamiliar environment.
A common theme when it comes to getting creative about staffing has been to pull staff from the closest fi to an ICU nurse. Most commonly, pulling nurses from post-anesthesia care since many of them are former ICU nurses and know how to care for ICU patients. They are familiar with sedation, suction, and ventilators. They already have the skill sets (or past experience) to transition quickly. Other hospitals are relying on med-surg nurses to assist with nursing tasks. They have the foundational skills to “supplement” but should not be used as the primary assigned nurse. Additional resources include reaching out to staffing agencies or using companies such as MediJobs to help bring in external nurses to meet your ongoing needs.
Image Source: New York Times
Health Department Communication
This may not seem as apparent as the others. Communication between hospital leadership, medical staff, and the local public health authorities are vital. Public health guidelines around COVID-19 are changing rapidly, and each community is taking a slightly different approach to testing procedures, work exclusion, and self-quarantine. Your administrator point person should establish regular contact with the county public health department to monitor the emerging situation. Guidance around the epidemic changes rapidly, so it’s important to have one point of contact from your leadership team to act as your hospital’s interface between the bedside provider and the public health authorities.
There are many ways that you can prepare for your first COVID patient if you haven’t had one already. Most of which are included on this list. However, the CDC came out and created an easy checklist to prepare you for that first patient that can be kept at the nurses’ stations, break rooms, and/or used in training.
Telehealth has been a trending topic, and rightfully so. Not only does it help limit the potential spread of the disease, but it also helps to keep doctors and nurses protected. Patients can join in on a consultation via their cellphone or computer in the comfort of their home. Additionally, be offering telehealth services in a hospital setting, hospitals are able to help control their influx of patients. To learn more about Telehealth and how to transition, visit our recent article, “5 Tips on Transitioning to Telemedicine“.
This one should go without saying. Clear protocols and guidelines need to be in place BEFORE the storm hits. Much like preparing for a tornado, everyone needs to know exactly what to do and when. There should not be any questions on PPE or patient isolation protocols. In the instance that isolation rooms are at capacity, what are the protocols for the overflow? Every scenario should be planned out and easily organized for reference on each unit.
As testing kits become more readily available, the need for staff testing may arise. Determining if and when your facility will provide such testing will be vital. The general consensus is that testing should be provided to all medical personnel as soon as testing is readily available.
This topic is one of the hardest to swallow and plan for and tends to be the one that takes quite a bit of time to decide on. Healthcare worker’s jobs involve caring for patients with countless diseases that can be brought home to their families. Proper hygiene and protocols have been followed by many for years. However, this disease is unlike the rest and is being treated differently for obvious reasons.
The choice between isolating from family and remaining home but following strict decontamination procedures isn’t easy. Many healthcare professionals have opted to isolate from thier family. Such methods include staying in campers, renting a short term apartment, staying in a hotel, and in more extreme conditions, sleeping in their cars. Determining the right fit for you should be a discussion with your family and loved ones. If you’re looking to isolate away from your family, there are resources for discounted and even sometimes free alternatives to going home.
Your mental health is also important to prepare for and take care of during this unprecedented time. We’ve created a resource guide on 9 ways you can practice self-care during COVID.
Has the storm hit your hospital? Please Let us know any additional things we should add to this list of what you need to know to prepare for the front lines in the comments below.
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