Redeploy and Rebalance Staff for COVID-19 Response and Recovery

by | Sep 14, 2020

female nurse with tablet “We don’t have enough nurses.”

As COVID-19 cases surge in hotspots, hospitals are forced to scramble for adequate staffing. While health systems and public health agencies work to create capacity for COVID-19 patients, especially ICU beds and negative pressure rooms, the availability of nurses needed to staff these beds lags behind. According to analysis in Health Affairs, only about 15 percent of hospital-employed RNs work in critical care units, which means that doubling the number of ICU beds significantly outstrips the ability to staff them.* For large hospitals, that could translate into needing 500 or more additional ICU-trained nurses, virtually overnight.

In response, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issues waivers to give hospitals staffing flexibility to help meet demand without affecting reimbursement, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act augments these.* The waivers are in line with CDC guidance that healthcare personnel from other departments should be shifted to areas of need whenever state and federal emergency waivers allow.

Still, the burden falls on healthcare coalitions, health systems, and hospitals to do the work of training, redeploying, and rebalancing staffing levels to meet demand. And as hospitals return to providing care that was deferred during COVID-19 peaks, the process of prioritizing and reallocating labor resources continues.

In this blog post, I’ll describe how one of our customers uses specific LiveProcess tools to handle staffing challenges during this pandemic, and then look at the big picture for healthcare staffing in the months — and years — to come.

Rebalancing staff dynamically with real-time awareness

One of our health system customers uses both LiveProcess surveys and the LiveProcess event log to manage staffing requests, especially for RNs with ICU experience, respiratory therapists, and security staff. A daily brief survey that can be sent and completed with a few clicks allows them to use real-time, accurate information to achieve balance of hospital medical staff:

• How many RNs with ICU experience do you have available today?
• How many respiratory therapists do you have available today?
• How many security personnel do you have available today?

All participants — in this case, the health system’s human resources specialists — get an email with a link to complete the survey. Their responses generate a report viewable by all participants, so redeployment decisions can be made based on a high-level view of staffing across the entire system. In the event log, individual facilities make labor pool requests to fill specific needs for the current patient census. As a result, the health system as a whole can dynamically rebalance staff quickly.

COVID-19 highlights healthcare delivery needs and innovations for the future

Hospitals and health systems across the country have had to get creative about staffing in the last several months. Among the most important lessons learned during this pandemic, for all of us in the healthcare industry, is that we must innovate the tools and processes needed to support that creativity during the long recovery period — and during the next emergent event. The organizations I’ve seen have the most success in meeting staffing challenges are those that implemented these key changes:

• Reaching across department, disciplines, and facilities, uniting as one to find and execute solutions
• Enabling flexibility around staffing levels and assignments, both for COVID-19 peaks and valleys and for other areas of patient care
• Establishing a clear vantage point for situation management, to guide and accelerate decision making

Our hats are off to the healthcare providers who embrace creative changes, even though this innovation emerges from a very difficult crisis.

Try LiveProcess in your health system, free for 90 days with no strings attached

We’ll get your LiveProcess system configured with just a few hours of your time. Rollout is easy with hardware you already have, no software to install, and an intuitive interface that people learn in minutes. Together we’ll help your health system help your communities get through this unprecedented pandemic while re-establishing operations halted during the first wave. Learn about the LiveProcess COVID-19 Response and Recovery Package for Health Systems at www.liveprocess.com/covid-19.

terry-zysk-100x100Terry Zysk, CEO of LiveProcess, has more than two decades of experience in leading organizations that provide innovative solutions to the healthcare industry.

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