As vaccines rollout, and the end of COVID-19 is finally no longer just wishful thinking, but rather a not-so-distant reality, it’s important that the United States collects and analyzes all data surrounding the pandemic. From financial loss to changes in workplace structure to the travel industry, there were lessons to be learned everywhere, especially in the hospital setting.
As hospitals are the single most important places to keep active and thriving during a pandemic, dealing with excess patients is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in regards to changes that had to take place in hospital settings so COVID patients could receive proper treatment. With almost of year of trials and tribulations, lessons have been learned, and theories have become reality. Here are a few ways hospitals can better prepare for a pandemic in the future.
A common, yet sensible, way to prepare for things is to practice them! Even after the COVID-19 pandemic finally comes to an end, hospitals should have a day or two per month where they operate at faux pandemic capacity and practice scenarios that would involve certain areas of the hospital being re-assigned, as well as staffing for pandemic situations. The latter can be costly, of course, but given 2020, an uptick in wages paid out one or two days per month sounds like it would be worth it so long as the staff takes the training seriously.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic was global in a matter of weeks, not all viruses are quite that easily spread. If a hospital is operating in an area that is densely populated, the chances of a disease spreading quickly is pretty decent. Assessing potential hazards is an important preventative step in “preparation,” as those hazards may be able to get minimized before any potential threats could germinate.
In the political world, information and misinformation were both shared in abundance during the COVID-19 pandemic, depending on who was writing the speeches, but in the hospital setting, there is no need for embellishment nor speculation, as there is more than enough pandemic information available now, given the last year. Staff training should be as regular as the aforementioned pandemic practice days, and a thorough description of what each staff member’s role is during an outbreak is something that hospitals will revisit frequently.
Not all education on outbreaks and pandemics needs to be directly related to COVID, and even lessons on infection control, case reporting, and proper hygiene need to be regularly discussed for a team to stay prepared to deal with a pandemic.
Expect the Unexpected
No matter the level of preparation a given hospital can have for a virus or disease, there is always going to be something new with each new strain. Plans need to be put in place for how to deliver materials that may be needed in response to a disease in a speedy and economic fashion, and when doing “practice days,” hospitals should throw unexpected wrenches into the scenarios to ensure people are thinking on their toes and preparing to deal with the unknown.
Hopefully, the next pandemic is lightyears away, but preparation for it should begin today!