Ensure your organization is prepared for the next pandemic (or other health care crisis)

June 15, 2021
Christine Dixon
Christine Dixon, RN, MSN, MMHC
Managing Director, Health Care Operations Solutions

Earlier this year, I volunteered at a COVID-19 vaccination event. As I administered that first shot, I realized it had been 25 years since I last gave an injection to someone as part of my role as a nurse. I enjoyed experiencing again a direct connection with a person seeking health care, especially at this pivotal moment in time. It affirmed my reason for choosing this field and my current role with Health Care Operations Solutions.

As we assess the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on every aspect of society, we find clear examples in health care that compel us to work to prevent a similar fate in the future. Congregate care provides a particularly heartbreaking example of widespread death and despair. But health care organizations of every type can prepare for the next crisis by ensuring their operations perform efficiently and without interruption to deliver high-quality, safe care for their patients and residents.

In this and future blogs, I’ll use the example of a skilled nursing facility where Commonwealth Medicine conducted an assessment at the end of 2020 and provided findings and recommendations in the critical areas of leadership, quality improvement/infection control, and process improvement. This facility will reap the benefits of proven methods of operations planning and preparedness to handle unexpected events successfully. Yours can, too.

Let’s start at the top: Visible, engaged leadership is vital

It’s true what they say – no organization can be successful without leadership that creates and communicates its goals and motivates employees to be dedicated to fulfilling them.

During its site visit to the hospital system, Commonwealth Medicine found a leadership team of committed, hard-working individuals who, together with staff, were managing a COVID-19 outbreak affecting some 150 patients.

Commonwealth Medicine recommended the following leadership efforts to not only manage the current outbreak in a visible, engaging, and consistent manner but also to establish a mainstay in preparation for handling future crises effectively:

  • Executive leadership engagement. Create opportunities for leadership to have meaningful conversations with staff about their work and ideas for improvement.
  • Coaching and training. Implement regular sessions for leadership to share best practices and model safety behaviors for staff.
  • Intra-leadership communication. Conduct frequent, standing check-ins among leaders to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
  • Leadership composition. Evaluate the structure of the team to identify and fill gaps in roles and responsibilities.

Strengthening the foundation: Quality improvement for the safest care

The leadership activities mentioned above reflect the organization’s mission of placing their patients’ safety at the center of every strategy, action plan, process, and procedure they develop or fine-tune. My next blog will describe how the facility’s quality improvement plan – focused on infection control and prevention – serves as the cornerstone of their safety program.

Commonwealth Medicine launched its Health Care Operations Solutions program to help health care organizations prepare for unexpected events and implement the necessary processes and practices to address them when they happen. Explore our services.

Contact me to learn how we can help you prepare for the future and create the structure and processes that support your organization’s needs.