COVID-19 is changing our world in ways we never thought possible, and leadership in post-acute nursing facilities is more important than ever.
PPE—personal protective equipment—is a big deal across the nation. In long-term care facilities, just as in other healthcare facilities, using PPE supplies appropriately and judiciously is crucial.
While you might feel overwhelmed at the challenges you are facing, including PPE supplies, demonstrate calm for yourself and your staff. Start wherever you are.
Here’s how to get organized now to ensure the prudent use of your facility’s PPE equipment, lengthening the time each batch of your supplies can safely last.
1) Know your inventory. In order to build a strategy to maintain supply, you need to know how much you have. So, take a count of your facility’s available eye protection, isolation gowns, facemasks, N95 respirators, and ventilators. For more information, check out the CDC’s Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of PPE.
2) Know your utilization rate. How are staff using equipment, and how quickly, on a shift-by-shift basis? You need to know. To figure out how quickly your facility is going through equipment and how long it will last, plug your inventory counts into the CDC’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Burn Rate Calculator.
3) Talk to your partners. If you see an equipment deficit, first refer to your organization’s guidelines. Then, if appropriate, get on the phone with local health partners and local emergency organizations to seek out additional materials. Now is the time to get creative.
4) Educate staff. Ensure that staff know how and when to use PPE properly. Education should include demonstrations and cover any administrative requirements, such as use logs.
5) Communicate with staff on an ongoing basis. Keep rumors at bay by updating your staff about your efforts to track and supply PPE, as well as what else is happening in the facility related to COVID-19. Are there any residents who have known COVID-19 symptoms or diagnoses? If so, explain carefully and completely the protocol for how to care for these residents. Unanswered questions can lead to unnecessary fear.
6) Be present for staff. In times of crisis such as these, it’s more important than ever for your staff to see you on the floor to feel your support. Being on the floor also gives you an opportunity to observe how staff use PPE. If you observe equipment being used incorrectly, step in immediately to correct the staff member in a positive way.
7) Re-educate all staff. If you intervene on the spot about a staff member’s confusion about PPE, you should assume that other staff members might be confused, too. Therefore, you should re-educate all staff on how and why to use materials properly.
8) Be sensitive to resident adjustment. Considering the slew of recent changes for most residents, including more limited activities, no visitor policies, and cancelled communal dining, your residents may feel more isolated than ever. These sudden adjustments might be making them feel just as nervous as employees. Encourage your staff to be sensitive of this when they offer direct care to residents, reminding them that their job of caring for residents is more important than ever.
Remember, everyone has the same goals in your facility: to keep your residents and staff alike healthy. Your facility has the potential to be the best-case scenario, so communicate how staff can contribute to realizing positive outcomes. Let your leadership as the DON be a light in your facility by focusing on successes and optimism rather than fear. In doing so, you will help your facility’s level of care to shine into your community, serving as a light for all.
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