Most providers would agree that the quality of their day is dictated by the quality of their schedule. The factors that impact regular work schedules and case flow become heightened during an emergency event, in particular whether there is sufficient coverage to a) safely and adequately provide care for all patients, including unscheduled emergencies and b) enable providers to take breaks or have scheduled days off for physical and mental health.
Establishing benchmarks for tasks is helpful to preserving the efficiency of flow, because it allows decision makers to have realistic expectations of what a compressed response time could be in an emergency. With this in mind, decision makers can set goals for saving time and diverting that time towards other more critical tasks. Processes that allow for some flexibility by decision makers is also critical. It is important that the standards are well established so processes can be adjusted to reduce time and effort without sacrificing on safety and quality of care.
Shift coverage is the next essential component to review. Organizations should consider how their normal scheduling practices either enabled them to quickly adapt to the emergency or caused leaders to scramble to fill the required slots. If scrambling for scheduling was already a regular occurrence, the additional capacity constraints and scheduling requirements of the pandemic response likely consumed leaderships’ time—time better spent on emergency tasks.
The final timing component to consider is one which is often hard to achieve even in normal operations. It is important nonetheless to consider how the opportunity for provider breaks is achieved. Recognizing the high burnout rate among providers and the additional stress and pressure of an emergency event, it is necessary to plan for ways to rest providers. Burnout has been reported as high as 54%, and 57% of organizations do not have programs in place to assist providers with stress, anxiety, and depression resulting from burnout.
Organizations should consider enforcing a defined plan for addressing different forms of stress and fatigue caused by short- or long-term events. Employee Assistance Programs also can help providers confidentially reach out for help dealing with stress caused by emergency events.
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