Addressing Hospital Operations as the COVID-19 Surge Abates

By Michelle Sanchez, MSN, RN May 11, 2020

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By now, many facilities have made the shift to prepare for the surge in capacity and acuity that may occur or has occurred due to COVID-19

Evidence regarding scheduling elective and routine care continues to evolve. Please visit the CDC website for their latest recommendations.

By now, many facilities have made the shift to prepare for the surge in capacity and acuity that may occur or has occurred due to COVID-19. This state of preparation may not subside in anticipation of a second wave of patients with COVID-19 in the fall. There will be lasting changes in our personal and professional lives because of our experiences and the impact on healthcare systems.

As organizations emerge from this crisis, consideration must be given to how they will resume operations related to elective surgeries and procedures that were postponed, in addition to new patient needs that have emerged since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. As we anticipate moving forward there are important considerations in planning for the future. We have included some resources to help guide you through the next steps.

Recommendations for Resuming Non-COVID Care

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) released recommendations for facilities to begin expanding their services to include non-emergent, non-COVID-19 care. Their recommendations align with the federal recommendations for Opening Up America Again in phases. In addition to complying with local, state and federal regulations related to COVID-19, it offers suggestions related to staffing, supplies and COVID-19 testing.

Resuming Elective Surgery and Procedures

Elective procedures were postponed as hospitals prepared for the surge of patients during the initial phase of COVID-19. Hospitals will need to evaluate their ability to resume elective procedures. Professional healthcare organizations have collaborated to develop a “Joint Statement: Roadmap for Resuming Elective Surgery After COVID-19 Pandemic”, which provides guidance for your hospital to consider before scheduling the next elective surgery. This statement includes considerations about resource capacity, prioritization and risk mitigation related to a possible second wave of patients with COVID-19. There is a new opportunity to provide support and education to patients who may have concerns about receiving care in the hospital at this time. As this new wave of patients with COVID-19 may require acute or critical care, units must participate in the planning to resume elective surgeries and procedures.

Framework for Moving Forward

Planning for the future will require authentic leadership, skilled communication, true collaboration, effective decision-making and appropriate staffing. As teams and leaders work together, the AACN Healthy Work Environment Standards can help you prepare to engage in these conversations, and how to communicate these plans to your staff. Although it may be overwhelming for you to consider implementing these standards for your entire unit at this time, it may be helpful for you to refresh yourself on the elements to adopt them as a framework for moving forward and embracing the new normal we will face.

Taking a thoughtful approach to planning as you and your team prepare for the next phase will help ensure patients’ needs are optimally met and your staff is confident in their ability to navigate this transition.

How can you help your unit through this important phase?