As the foreboding news of COVID-19 crept into our lives on the nightly news, Traditional Home Health Care wasted no time in the implementation of a disaster plan for the impending pandemic. Recognizing the need to prepare and adapt for a challenging health crisis, the administrative team knew it had to put forth measures to continue its highest standards of care in a manner that would protect both its patients and employees
Traditional Home Health Care, a locally owned agency located at 113 W Drinker St. in Dunmore, provides a broad spectrum of services to people in the community including home health and hospice care, palliative intervention, pediatric care, and non-medical services. All of these services are provided to patients and consumers in their homes. At a time when there are so many unknowns regarding the novel coronavirus, the goal to keep patients and consumers safe and contained in their homes has been of utmost importance.
Before state mandates and shelter-in-place orders had even been issued, Doreen Nixon, RN, Director of Nursing at Traditional Home Health Care, instituted a number of measures to safeguard employees and patients, and she stated, “It was imperative that Traditional implement processes swiftly in order to maintain the safety and well-being of its staff, its patients and the agency itself.”
Employee and patient screening questionnaires are being utilized prior to home visits and entry to offices to identify potential exposures. New policies and procedures have been developed in adherence with guidelines regarding COVID-19 set forth from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health. Competencies and educational refreshers have been offered to staff regarding infection control. Administrative staff has been assigned to perform daily job duties remotely while visit schedules have been restructured to allow the caregiver staff to reduce patient contact. Tireless efforts to acquire personal protective equipment for staff has been a daily challenge.
With the focus on providing seamless care to patients in an uncertain time, the agency identified a core group of caregivers that included nurses and therapists known as the COVID-19 team. These frontline health care providers are assigned to perform home visits to COVID -19 positive patients in a manner that highlights excellent skilled care, dignity, and infection prevention. This allows such patients to receive the same gamut of skilled interventions – wound care, infusion therapy, medication and chronic disease management, physical, occupational, and speech therapies, and patient education – that Traditional Home Health Care excels at.
Jamie Ruiz, RN on the COVID-19 team stated, “Of course we must be cautious. It’s just another obstacle in the healthcare field that we will adapt to and overcome. I feel it is my duty as a nurse to be available to these patients and their loved ones. I feel Traditional has provided adequate supplies and support in protecting me so that I can perform my job and help these patients.”
The landscape of healthcare is certainly changing in light of this pandemic. Telehealth has become very instrumental in allowing for a continuum of care when regular direct patient contact may not be prudent. Traditional Home Health Care has worked with IT to develop Best Practices for telehealth care allowing nurses, therapists, aides, and social workers to communicate with and visualize patients. This new means of patient communication also allows the agency to keep primary care physicians and health
care providers in the loop of patients’ health issues in a timely and consistent manner. The use of telehealth during this time of crisis may be setting the stage for a new mindset on physician-patient and caregiver-patient interactions.
Prior to March 2020, the superheroes I knew of wore armor, shields, capes and possessed powers like X-Ray vision and invisibility. The real super heroes of today are wearing rubber gloves, paper masks and face shields, sometimes homemade, and they possess true hearts of gold.
Thank you to all the staff of Traditional Home Health Care and Thank You to all Front Line First Responders!