Although elective surgeries have been halted across the nation due to the outbreak of COVID-19, surgery centers and hospitals are planning to selectively resume these procedures. As your facility prepares to recommence elective surgical care, fortifying your workforce is paramount. Utilizing physician and advanced practice locum tenens providers as support during this time is an ideal strategy.
Planning Strategically to Resume Elective Procedures
The American College of Surgeons (ACS) recently published Local Resumption of Elective Surgery Guidance, a set of principles designed to help facilities restart elective surgical care. The ACS guidelines cover:
- COVID-19 awareness
- Patient issues
- Delivery of safe and high-quality care
Under Section II, Preparedness, the ACS advises facility leaders to ensure they have adequate resources including PPE, beds, ventilators, supplies, oversight, and healthcare staff.
As for staffing, the ACS recommends leaders have a contingency plan in case employees become sick with COVID-19. Additionally, they suggest administrators consider levels of stress and fatigue among staff, implement multidisciplinary staffing coverage for routine and expanded hours, use creative staffing such as retired surgeons, and ensure adequate coverage should a second wave of COVID-19 occur. This is where locums providers can help.
Use Locums as You Resume Elective Procedures
Here’s how you can use locums to bolster your workforce and help ensure you’re prepared to resume elective surgical care:
1. Replace staff members who test positive for COVID-19. Although you, your support staff, and your providers may adhere to guidelines for using personal protective equipment, disinfection protocols, and social distancing, it is impossible to completely prevent exposure to the virus. If a staff member suspects exposure or tests positive for the coronavirus, you’ll need to have a plan. Reach out to your staffing specialist and find out how locums providers can fill in for healthcare staff members who are out.
2. Relieve staff who are stressed and fatigued. This pandemic has providers on high-alert, even those who are not operating on the frontlines. If any of your team members becomes ill, other staff may become worried about their coworker, anxious about getting the virus, or exhausted from picking up additional work. Consider bringing in locums to ease the burden.
3. Round out staff needed to open operating rooms. As you restart elective surgeries, you may find you need additional support. Providers who choose to take locums assignments are generally resilient, flexible, proactive, and upbeat by nature. Many are qualified to act in multidisciplinary roles, and all can help reinforce your care team.
4. Consider how retired providers can (and want to) help. Although some clinicians and physicians may be relieved that they’ve retired before the advent of COVID-19, many are eager to jump back in and contribute. Using retired providers as locums support is a smart way to gain valuable, experienced, engaged, and flexible surgical team members.
5. Prepare for a second wave. According to the ACS, “Once the COVID-19 crisis has been mitigated locally, it is still vital to continually know the latest local COVID-19 rates (such as incidence rates of new cases, as well as hospitalizations), particularly as there is a threat of subsequent waves of COVID-19 infection regardless of whether isolation/physical distancing mandates are reversed. Consider defining specific criteria and/or a threshold COVID-19 incidence rate for a re-entering mitigation phase in the facility if COVID-19 rates locally resurge.” With the possibility of openings and closings of your facility, workforce needs will fluctuate. By definition, the locum tenens arrangement is all about flexibility. Use locums to optimize your staff during this unpredictable time.
We’re Here to Help
With forethought and strategic planning, you’ll be well on your way to a robust reopening – and that’s a reason for you, your stakeholders, your providers, and your patients to celebrate.
Stay safe and well. Contact us. We’re here to help.