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Health care accreditation group publishes lessons learned from COVID-19 pandemic

Photo: Juanmonino/iStockphoto

Oakbrook Terrace, IL — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic “pushing health care organizations to their limits and workers beyond physical exhaustion,” accreditation organization The Joint Commission has published a special edition Sentinel Event Alert highlighting adverse events and high-risk conditions.

Published in February, the alert features lessons learned from the more than 2,000 responses the commission has received from health care professionals during the public health crisis and lists ways employers can support workers.

“To be a nurse, you really have to care about people,” a nurse from an Iowa hospital told TJC. However, as patient deaths have mounted, “you just shut down. You get to the point when you realize that you’ve become a machine. There’s only so many bags you can zip.”

The commission notes that, as of Jan. 15, nearly 3,200 health care workers had died from COVID-19 and the fear of becoming infected is among the workforce’s major concerns.

In addition, fear of bringing the virus home has led to some unique measures, such as workers living in hotels to protect family from potential exposure, changing clothes in the garage before entering their home and showering immediately after returning home from a shift.

Other COVID-19-related concerns include the need to increase communication with staff, protect physical and mental health, and address staffing shortages at health care facilities.

To address these concerns, TJC encourages health care employers to:

  • Foster open and transparent communication to build trust, reduce fears, build morale and sustain an effective workforce.
  • Remove barriers to health care workers who are seeking mental health services and develop systems that support institutional and individual resilience.
  • Protect worker safety by using the NIOSH Hierarchy of Controls framework.
  • Develop a flexible workforce by evaluating the work being performed and determining if it can be done remotely.
  • Provide clinicians and others with opportunities to lead, collaborate and innovate.

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