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Outpatient Lessons Learned During COVID-19

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October 14, 2020

Ann GeierThe coronavirus outbreak disrupted the nation’s way of life and completely changed the way surgery is performed. The spring peak has passed, but summer spikes in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and parts of California show the curve has not been flattened and rekindled fears of a second wave. Ann Geier, MS, RN, CNOR(E), CASC, chief nursing officer at Surgical Information Systems, will present a thought-provoking analysis during the upcoming Virtual OR Excellence focused on how the pandemic has impacted surgical care and what facility leaders must do to ensure outpatient ORs remain open and patients receive the care they need during these unprecedented times.

Geier shares below her take on the continuing pandemic challenges and a few of the lessons it’s taught today’s hard-working healthcare professionals.

 

What challenges are surgical professionals facing as elective surgeries come back online?

There are many. Room turnover times are slower to allow for more rigorous cleaning, and facilities therefore perform fewer cases in a day. Block times must be adjusted, and that’s extremely hard for some surgeons to accept as they work through backlogs of cases. Staff members are learning how to communicate with anx­ious patients about new protocols that have been put in place to ensure surgery is performed safely. Surgical team members are nervous about performing surgery under the current conditions and must have confidence they’re operating in safe spaces. The bar has essentially been raised across all aspects of care.

What lessons can surgical professionals take from the outbreak?

Staff and patient safety have taken on even greater importance, and there’s been a renewed focus on infec­tion prevention. The infection preventionist has become one of the most important roles in a facility. They need to stay current on the latest best practices and be given adequate time to devel­op up-to-date protocols and educate staff. Moving forward, staff members must feel empowered to speak up if the rules put in place to protect themselves or their patients are violated.

What topics will you cover during the discussion?

We’ll review human resources issues that arise if you furlough or layoff staff when case volumes suddenly decrease. Medical malpractice cases will surface in the coming months as lawyers look for liabilities related to care delivered during COVID-19. I’d like to discuss how we can plan thoughtfully and properly to avoid another national shutdown of elective procedures. We’re all trying to solve challenges we’ve never faced. Let’s share our best solutions and figure out a path forward together.

How should facility leaders plan for the next outbreak?

They need to create a new “pandemic” section in their emergency response plan. They also need to adjust PPE par levels, plan for how to modify case schedules and staffing levels in the event of an outbreak, diversify supply sources, review contracts with pharmaceutical suppliers and prepare for how they’ll manage shortages of needed medications. Joining state surgical associations will help them stay current on rules and regulations that are changing very quickly. If possible, they should increase cash reserves to make sure their facilities can survive another financial hit if ORs are forced to close again.

This article originally appeared in Outpatient Surgery Magazine. This version has been edited specifically for The Periop Life.

 

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Find out how your fellow outpatient surgery leaders are taking on COVID-19 and the strategies that are making a difference in the OR. Preregister for Virtual OR Excellence 2020 today for guaranteed first-day access on October 22. Complimentary pass included with AORN membership and Outpatient Surgery Magazine subscriptions.