Healthcare professionals across the continuum of care are becoming more aware of the behavioral health ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. While focus has remained on survival, treatment and prevention, the next phase of coping and adjusting has — or is — about to begin.
It comes as no surprise that mental health has suffered and will continue to be a long-term issue well past the end of the pandemic. What does this mean for our clinicians and caregivers entering a patient’s home in questionable conditions? Simple protocols will help ensure your field staff are aware of their surroundings and equip themselves to make quick decisions regarding their personal safety.
Basic Clinician Safety Protocols
Employee safety training should occur on a frequent basis, but more frequent quick reminders will ensure it is at the forefront of each person’s mind. Here are some suggestions to heighten clinician safety:
- While most field staff groan at the thought of electronic visit verification (EVV), geolocation capture goes a long way toward making sure someone knows where the clinician is at all times.
- Sharing this benefit with your staff serves a dual purpose. It helps acclimate them to the visibility of their location for EVV rules and provides them with the protection of someone in the office, monitoring when their location has not moved in a reasonable time frame.
Map your daily route before hitting the road:
- The utilization of an electronic medical record’s (EMR) mapping directions, included in an intuitive EMR, will ensure clinicians know exactly where they are going and prevent getting lost in areas that might put staff at risk for not having cell connectivity or having to stop to ask for directions.
- When clinicians call the patient to confirm the next day’s visits, be sure they map the directions in the order of occurrence.
- It is also not a bad idea to remind clinicians to keep their cars filled with gas before visits, especially on longer-than-typical routes.
Know where your car keys are:
- There is really nothing worse than digging to the bottom of your nursing bag to find your car keys. If your visit or shift is after dark, make sure you have your car keys in hand before you walk to your car.
- If possible, carry a spare that is always accessible in the event you lock your keys in the car.
High-risk environment identification:
- Each organization may have their own policies regarding how to handle patients in a high-risk environment (weapons may be present but not confirmed, potential illegal drug use may happen in the client’s home, verbal abuse and more). However, one thing organizations can agree on is that these patients all need to be easily identifiable.
- One way to create awareness internally is the utilization of a patient label or tags. This tag could be visible only to participants in the patient’s care and might be in code.
- For example, if there was potential for domestic violence in the home, the flag might be “PDV” (potential domestic violence).
- Open discussions and role-playing scenarios will ensure your clinicians know how to handle or avoid a violent incident.
- Always follow the guidelines of your governing body with regard to incident reports, but also ensure all employees are aware of the protocol for reporting safety risks so that patients can be flagged for identification and a strategy can be devised.
- Reaffirm that clinicians know when a social worker visit could be beneficial and the process for coordination.
Know your vicious pet protocol:
- Intake teams should regularly practice asking about aggressive pets at the time the patient demographics are being confirmed. The identification of these risky scenarios should also be flagged or tagged to the clinician visiting the home.
- Clinicians should confirm this information when verifying their next day’s visits, especially for their first interaction with the patient.
- If the pet needs to be restrained during the visit and the patient needs a 10-minute warning call before the visit, this information needs to be documented in a care period note that every clinician knows to check.
Organization policy and best practices typically taken for granted can often prevent certain disaster. Providing ongoing training and education lets your clinicians know that you care about their safety. Brushing up on these standard operating procedures will ensure your staff are confident and informed when navigating the uncharted post-pandemic waters.
Axxess Home Health is a cloud-based home health software with real-time capabilities for instant communication between clinicians and office staff, prioritizing clinician safety. Use these tips to help your clinicians de-stress and relieve pandemic fatigue.