Based on my background and training as an RN and CRNA, I am frequently drawn into discussions about COVID-19, the challenges hospitals face during the pandemic, the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, and other healthcare issues. Recently, I have engaged in some insightful and relevant interactions:
• Delaying elective surgery. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, many elective surgeries were put on hold. Although some facilities may have started performing these procedures again sometime in 2020, a backlog of cases remain. One estimate places that figure at 5 million, which could take months to clear.1
Eventually, administrators may be ready to return to pre-pandemic case load levels, but staff may not. The authors of an article underscored “fatigue, lack of routine practice, distraction, overload, and emotional stress as medical staff issues that could compromise patient care.”2
The phrase “lack of routine practice” (or muscle memory, as I would refer to it) is hard to ingrain in many of us. With almost a year of COVID-19 experience behind us (and possibly at least another year ahead of us), it is difficult to assimilate every new pandemic safety protocol on top of those we are used to handling. Easing staff back into handling cases rather than a full-on catch-up sprint may be the better approach.
• Post-op visits worry patients. Surgery that requires post-op office visits or treatments (e.g., rehab, physical therapy) trouble the general public. Specifically, they worry about further and perhaps unnecessary exposure to COVID-19, on top of the usual time commitments and possible added costs.
Assuring patients that post-op visits are safe requires continuous education about the ongoing COVID-19 safety protocols happening at your facility.
• New level of respect for healthcare workers. It is gratifying to hear such praise for our profession. We know about the awesome performance of sterile processing staff, surgical techs, schedulers, nurses, registration staff, surgeons, housekeeping personnel, and vendors. It is always rewarding to see the general public is aware of the personal sacrifices everyone has made, especially during the pandemic. I also hear so many people encouraging their children and grandchildren to enter the healthcare industry and become part of this overwhelmingly satisfying career opportunity it brings. I am so proud of all of us.
(Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management. Address: 5114 Balcones Woods Drive, Suite 307-203, Austin, TX 78759. Phone: (512) 297-7575. Fax: (512) 233-2979. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.earnhart.com. Instagram: Earnhart.Associates.)
- Fu SJ, George EL, Maggio PM, et al. The consequences of delaying elective surgery: Surgical perspective. Ann Surg 2020;272:e79-e80.
- Martin LA, Berry W, Mate KS. How to safely restart elective surgeries after a Covid spike. Harvard Business Review. Nov. 19, 2020.