I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling weary. This pandemic has brought so many “feels”, and all the personal and professional changes are, well, a lot.
I’m sure that you can relate to some of my “feels”… grateful to be healthy and grateful for my loved ones, some “survivor’s” guilt for not being with peers in all the PPE on the true front lines, grief for those who have succumbed, completely over all the media, news, and information updated hourly, tired of all the tug of war debates about masking, sheltering, and everything in between. Just when we were adapting to all of this, we are ready to get back to elective surgery. Some questions probably immediately came to mind…
- How do we keep the patients and staff safe?
- What do I need to do to ramp back up to care?
Here are some of the things I reviewed to help some centers work towards re-opening:
Governing Body Approval:
Zoom or conference with your Governing Board to plan the criteria. Things for your agenda may include screening, testing, any patient exclusions due to risk, distancing plans, cleaning, infection control and surveillance. Not only will it provide a framework in writing as to your actions, it’s a great way to get everyone on the same page.
Once the Governing Body has set the rules to open, draft a policy that covers all the decisions. Have all your staff review the policy prior to care. Here’s a template we are offering, if you need one: COVID19 Response Plan Policy
Teach everyone all the new stuff, and review what’s important to keep everyone safe. Infection control activities including hand hygiene and point of care cleaning are good discussion points. Discuss screening activities (patient exclusions, symptom review, temperature monitoring), as well as PPE use (staff, patients and visitors). Here is some online education we have created that you may want to offer to your staff. Here is the link: COVID19 Awareness in the ASC
Communication is key when scheduling patients. Consider cancelled patients, how you may prioritize, your new exclusion criteria, and changes to block book scheduling to allow for social distancing. Make sure that everyone understands the new plans to reduce challenges.
Does everyone get their temperature checked? Are we screening patients, staff and physicians for symptoms and exposure? Remember it’s not just your patients who are at risk. Consider following up with patients again 2 weeks post op to see if they developed any symptoms.
We can’t take care of our patients unless we have PPE, supplies and medications to support care. Do an initial inventory to ensure supplies are adequate, and work closely with your vendors to make sure your facility has everything they need. Re-check all your emergency supplies to ensure nothing is out of date as well.
As you are ramping back up, remember that, what makes this easier, in my opinion, for all of us, are the skills we have honed by doing our jobs every day. We are constantly running contingency plans in our heads for the “what-ifs” in our highly responsible roles. We do well in crisis mode. We are required to make important decisions quickly. We are responsible for those around us. I guess we really have been training for this challenging situation every day. I think that means we also have a responsibility to support those around us who may not be as adept in their response.
As we settle into this “new normal”, let’s remember the most important task: to take care of ourselves, take care of those around us, and remind ourselves each day to start with gratitude, to take each day as it comes, and that we carry the invisible tools to get through this.