Provider systems face a new crisis from COVID-19: Staffing

Dr. Sean Kelly
Mar 27, 2020

Staffing has emerged as one of the most pressing challenges for provider systems dealing with the global COVID-19 crisis

Healthcare systems are desperately increasing staffing capacity to gird for the expected tidal wave of patients suffering from COVID-19. They need doctors, nurses, and other support staff trained to care for acutely ill patients within the proper infectious control guidelines.

A staffing shortfall is not what you want when a staggering volume of patients, with higher acuity, is headed for your hospital; especially with all the added workload of operating under strict infection control protocols. To maintain infection control protocols, all providers must completely re-work patient triage and flow, as well as undertake numerous time-consuming steps – pre-screening, triage tents, “clean” and “hot” zones, properly donning and doffing personal protective equipment, etc.

Despite increased staffing needs, we simultaneously anticipate increasing attrition of deployable staff due to providers falling ill and being quarantined.

How are we going to address these staffing challenges? In many regions, there have been callouts to retired and other inactive providers to bring them back into the fold to care for patients if needed.

In addition to increasing overall numbers of staff, healthcare systems are rotating staff between jobs, departments, and geographic sites. This often requires re-provisioning for access and authorization to use different EHR systems and other tools and apps.

In my next post, I’ll talk about what we can do to help nurses and doctors be prepared to rotate between departments or even hospitals to address increased patient volume/acuity or any staffing shortages.

In the meantime, just know that healthcare providers are working hard to take the steps necessary to face this crisis.