Early 2021 could be challenging for the nation’s nursing homes. Recent trends in infection rates combined with the slow rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine have the potential to make the coming months “the deadliest of the pandemic for long-term care residents and staff,” says the Kaiser Family Foundation in the Jan. 14 issue brief, Patterns in COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in Long-Term Care Facilities in 2020.
“Providers have a number of months yet to get through,” agrees Carol Maher, RN-BC, RAC-MTA, RAC-MT, CPC, director of education for Hansen, Hunter & Co. PC in Vancouver, WA. “Getting vaccines in nursing homes is absolutely great, but COVID-19 will still be in the local communities. Nursing homes, especially facilities with high turnover, will have new residents coming in from their communities, increasing the risk of an outbreak.”
To prepare, nurse assessment coordinators (NACs) should triage the Resident Assessment Instrument (RAI)/MDS process much the same way that healthcare providers triage personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, suggests Maher. “There are three core modes: conventional, contingency, and crisis,” she notes. “Conventional mode is business as usual; COVID-19 is not in your facility. Contingency mode means that you have challenges, but you are still managing the RAI process. Crisis mode means that you face catastrophic challenges that could stop the RAI process in its tracks.”