Lessons Learned From the Pandemic
Despite an increase in the number of partially or fully vaccinated Americans, our efforts to conquer the pandemic are still ongoing. We have battled COVID-19 for just over a year now and, from a healthcare standpoint, have learned valuable lessons that we should apply long after the pandemic’s end.
Many healthcare facilities found themselves overwhelmed during the pandemic as the number of COVID-19 patients requiring in-patient care skyrocketed. Everyone did what they could with what they had. Sometimes, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.
Now, with an end in sight, we have the breathing room necessary to plan for the future. No one wants to see even a single hospital at capacity ever again, and with the right strategic actions, we’re hoping to avoid a similar situation in the future.
We’ve identified three main lessons learned from the pandemic — often the hard way. Improved communication, increased flexibility and better training for a diverse patient population are essential for preventing a tragedy on a similar scale from occurring ever again. By learning from these lessons, we hope to create better working conditions for our healthcare workers and provide exceptional patient care.
One of the reasons the COVID-19 virus spread so quickly and effectively was a lack of communication. Information was either inaccurate, inaccessible or not disseminated in many cases. Panic and denial teamed up to create an untenable situation. Patients and healthcare workers alike suffered for it.
Lines of communication must stay open between the leaders of healthcare systems, healthcare providers, support staff and the general public. The information shared needs to be accurate and trustworthy. That’s true even in everyday circumstances, but especially during a global pandemic.
How can hospitals and other healthcare facilities improve communication? An editorial published in Patient Education and Counseling has helpful suggestions for several different types of communication, including:
- Handling uncertainty and fear
- Promoting behavioral changes
- Communicating with patients and their families virtually
As the pandemic continues to wind down and more research is done, we’re likely to see major advances in the field of health communication.
The COVID-19 pandemic made it clear that most hospitals weren’t built with the need to create isolated zones for a highly contagious respiratory virus in mind. It goes without saying that we’re all fervently hoping never to experience anything like this again, but flexibility in hospital designs would be useful in other instances as well.
Even if the COVID-19 pandemic is the last one we ever see — and the odds of that aren’t good — most hospitals are one man-made or natural disaster away from facing significant challenges in providing adequate room and care.
It’s one thing to say that healthcare facilities need more space or better organization and design. It’s something else entirely to put those ideas into practice. Where do you even begin?
The time and money to rebuild every single facility from the ground up aren’t there, although we should build new facilities with flexibility as a top priority. Designing rooms for more than one use is a great place to start. Beyond that, more research is needed.
It might be helpful to embrace telemedicine more thoroughly, but there’s always a risk that you will miss something if you don’t have the patient in front of you. Cross-training for healthcare workers could cover staffing shortages if extended quarantines are ever necessary again. However, more work isn’t what an already exhausted and burned-out employee population needs.
While we’re sure to see changes in the future, what those changes entail will depend on different healthcare facilities’ priorities.
Training for a diverse patient population
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a case study in healthcare disparities. People of color and other minority populations have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic all across the country. That is unacceptable.
We’ve known for years that healthcare disparities exist but haven’t meaningfully addressed them. Now is the time to change that. Healthcare facilities must redouble their efforts to treat underserved populations more effectively.
The change needs to begin in schools and research institutions. Too often, medical education and research primarily focus on heterosexual white males as the norm. Doing so can affect every other group a physician may find themselves treating. When a patient’s life and identity are considered different from the outset, they may not receive the best treatment possible, no matter how many statements about diversity and inclusion an organization releases.
The physical infrastructure to allow marginalized groups access to healthcare facilities needs to be put into place too. That might mean building a new facility, improving public transit, increasing telehealth availability or something else we haven’t thought of yet.
The pandemic has highlighted weak points and gaps in the entire American healthcare system. We have the opportunity right now to take these lessons learned from the pandemic and make the changes necessary to ensure we’re prepared the next time we’re faced with a disaster. The lives and well-being of the general public and healthcare workers everywhere depend on it.
If you are a facility in need of staff, TinkBird can help. We specialize in placing top-tier physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and other skilled medical professionals. Contact us today to learn more.
If you are a medical professional looking for a position, view our available healthcare job listings.