All predictions for the flu this season are dire. Even those healthcare workers who proactively took charge of their health by getting a flu shot aren’t fully protected from this seasons raging virus. And, as expected, many of those health agencies “in the know” are sounding the alarm for a rough season ahead.
The flu can devastate on a personal level, to be sure. However, for employers across the country the flu can take a nasty toll on staff rosters. And it can be difficult just to provide for the basic coverage as the “domino effect” starts taking hold.
First you’re down one, then two then suddenly you have less than a skeleton crew. The current virus decimating entire workplaces is lasting the full 10-14 days. How can you make sure your patients are being cared for by healthy and hearty staff members when the flu seems to be wiping out employees with a vengeance?
Ways to Stay Ahead of The Flu Season
As a healthcare organization you probably already have the basics covered when it comes to preventing the spread of viruses like colds and the flu. To be truly armed and ready you will need to review your policies and protocols. Here are a few tips to help your healthcare organization prepare for the season of sick:
Review: Examine your existing staffing plans and procedures as soon as you possibly are able. What worked in the past? When is the best time to begin implementing your ideas? Remember, the flu can begin to show up anywhere between October and December and last as late as April or May.
Past Trends: Staff numbers and patient census counts from prior flu seasons can help you to plan for the next surge of flu. Did your patient numbers go up as the flu took hold? Do you have additional help in place on whom you can rely?
Stay on Top: Review your plans every 2-4 weeks during flu season to make sure you stay ahead of a crisis.
Don’t Wait: Contact your emergency staff at the first sign of a staff shortage. Do not wait until it’s too late. It’s much better for you and your patients to err on the side of caution.
Stay in the Know: Continually monitor the CDC for any changes during flu season. Stay on top of the trends.
Be Flexible: Above all, be flexible. Don’t be afraid to make changes to your plan as the need arises. The flu and it’s subsequent path of destruction is not in your control. However, providing medical staff to care for your patients and get through the crisis is an area in which you can take charge.
When The Flu Strikes
Although common and viable predictors are in place when it comes to figuring out just how desperately the flu may strike, it isn’t an exact science. Making sure you have a plan in place far ahead of a potential epidemic is a responsible practice. Waiting until you’re in a crisis is never a good idea and temporary staff isn’t always available should the flue hit particularly hard in your area.
Staffing agencies can come to your rescue when your healthcare facility is threatened by the latest flu , or other viral epidemic. By providing you with access to healthcare employees who are fully vetted and can hit the ground running a staffing agency is your best line of defense when it comes to covering patient care in your healthcare facility.
What’s more, when you partner with a staffing agency you know your temporary staff members meet your high standards. The professional staff members are matched specifically to the needs of your facility. Any and all certification and background checks have been performed and minimal training at best will be needed to onboard your temporary medical staff.
No one wants to lose their employees, no matter how temporarily, to the flu, but knowing you have a secure back-up plan in place, through your partnership with a medical staffing agency, makes it much easier to continue caring for your patients without interruption.
Better Days Ahead
Every flu season is a potentially deadly one. For the protection of your staff, and most of all for the health of your already-compromised patients, you need to avoid any complications that can arise. Enforce a strict stay-home policy at the very first indication a staff member may be ill. This may pose a hardship for your nurses and nurse managers providing adequate coverage, but your partnership with a staffing agency can help you get through any difficulties and avoid short-staffing.
Once the peak of the flu season is behind you business-and patient care-can return to normal. You’ll come out on the other side of this flu season much wiser and better prepared for the next time the flu takes it’s stranglehold on your staff roster. Take a moment to run through your procedures and plans before the next viral epidemic hits and adopt a pro-active stance. You’ll be ready to confront whatever the flu season throws your way.