How hospitals can recover from COVID-19

Author: Betsie Sassen, R.N., M.S.N.

During the peak of COVID-19, Med Surg floors were being staffed as Progressive Care floors, Emergency Rooms were staffed like Intensive Care Units, Progressive Care floors were staffed as Intensive Care Units, and Intensive Care Units were almost staffed at 1:1 RN to patient ratios.  Essentially all units were staffed up by an additional nurse on all shifts and in some cases even a tech (“PPE Buddies”) above normal levels. The COVID patients were highly acute in isolation, required proning, and staff were constantly donning and doffing PPE, all adding extra steps to providing care.  It was what was needed to survive the storm.

COVID-19 is now starting to recede into the rearview mirror, thank goodness. Society is moving toward normalcy, re-adjusting to the return of in-person learning at school, in-person work at the office, and other activities of post-pandemic living. While COVID-19 is rapidly declining in the care environments, caregiver to patient ratios are lagging in a return to normal levels. Citing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Caregivers are reluctant to let their guard down. Who can blame them? Frontline staff has endured a horrifying and unrelenting experience over the past year

While the fear is easy to understand, most hospitals have lost the COVID-19 volume and the CARES ACT reimbursement that sustained them for over nearly a year and are now entering summer where volume naturally softens. Hospitals cannot afford to stay locked into the “new normal” from the past 12 months, running each unit with a higher level of staffing than is required. Nursing Staffing Matrices need to revisited, dusted off, and re-adjusted for normal caregiver to patient ratios depending on the needs of the unit.  Excess personnel such as Agency and seasonal staff brought on for “leveling up” during the crisis should be eliminated immediately. This simple step is critical in the hospital industry’s own recovery from COVID-19. We can help!

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