It’s that time of the year again. Flu Season and Respiratory Season are here and hospitals across the country are gearing up for the influx of patients streaming into their emergency departments.
It’s a hectic time each year, so we decided to ask some of the respiratory therapists, nurses, and physicians on our team what helped them get through it as smoothly as possible. Here are five tips they shared in no particular order:
Tip #1—Ensure Everyone is Vaccinated
Perhaps the most obvious, but also the most important tip. Given that clinicians are exposed to the flu virus during flu season, the flu vaccine is an important component in increasing their chances of not getting sick. Some of our team members suggested also using protective masks in addition to the vaccine.
Tip #2—Improve Staffing and Efficiency
Increasing staffing in anticipation of the patient flow increase was a common subject. However, not all hospitals or departments within a hospital can necessarily afford more staff and so efficiency is a close follow-up tip. For example, every member of a team should be clearly briefed on roles and expectations and each person’s job should be outlined so that collaboration becomes expedited in moments of urgency.
Tip #3—Have Dedicated Admission Nurses to Relieve ED Boarding
One big pain hospitals experience during the increased patient volume is boarding in the Emergency Department. The ICU gets backed up, beds get filled up, and patients have nowhere to go other than being boarded. But in some cases, patients can remain in the ED not because there is no bed for them to be admitted to, but because there was no staff to physically admit them.
In cases like these, some of our team members recommend having dedicated nurses whose sole job for the peak admission time of the day is to go to the ED, get the requisite patient, bring them to their hospital room, ensure the patient is stable, the report is accurate, and in general get the patient settled. Then the nurse would go back to the ED and repeat that with the next patient.
A bonus tip for our customers, regarding boarding reduction: Remember that Vapotherm® high velocity therapy is a mask-free alternative to noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NiPPV). For the patient, it represents a comfortable therapy that’s less reliant on coaching or sedation for compliance. Patients on high velocity therapy can safely be managed on the floor or step-down unit. This means that depending on your hospital protocol, you could free up ICU beds that might have been taken up by respiratory patients on pressure-based NiPPV.
Tip #4—Batch Patient Discharges
Depending on your experience and protocols, giving patents discharge instructions may only take you a few minutes, but if your volume is significant, those increments can add up fast. Our team members suggest that if there are 4-5 patients and they all need to be discharged, give them the discharge instructions at the same time.
Tip #5—Intentionally Maintain Good Morale, Especially If You’re a Leader
Let’s face it, this time of year is draining for clinicians and even in the best-run hospitals, morale might suffer amidst the hectic workload. One of our team members recounted how some charge nurses made even the most grueling days seem all right just by the tone they struck. It may seem corny, but it made a big difference to her and especially newer colleagues whether the message was “Well, this was the shift from hell!” or whether it was “We got this, team!”
Attitude and mood can be contagious and so making some extra effort to be positive during highly stressful times could make a difference.