Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
No one wants to furlough staff, but there may seem to be no alternative when client counts drop and PPE costs rise. Clear communication before, during, and after furloughs is key for reducing tension, fear, and resentment among staff. Here are a few practical suggestions (most are from
“How to Make Furloughs More Humane," an article from the
Harvard Business Review):
Before implementing furlough
During the furlough
After the furlough
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Telehealth is a wonderful option for maintaining access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it may be difficult to adapt to the new interpersonal dynamics—and to the routine of spending several hours a day on camera or over the phone. As much as possible, try to run telehealth sessions the same way you would run an in-person appointment: start the appointment on time in a quiet and private space, spend a few minutes chatting at the beginning to set the client at ease and establish rapport, and use eye contact and body language to convey active listening (e.g. nodding your head, leaning forward in your chair). You can also gather feedback from clients about what would help them feel more comfortable during the sessions.
If the patient presents with a life-safety risk of harm to self or others—or has a medical or other type of emergency—you may need to call 911 to get immediate, in-person assistance. Keep the following steps in mind:
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Social distancing, constant mask wearing, and fears surrounding COVID-19 are emotionally draining components to this crisis. These factors can impact how we express warmth, compassion and how we support those around us. One method is to reframe
social distancing as
physical distancing—a subtle shift that reminds us we can still build strong relationships even as we refrain from physical contact or close proximity. Throughout this crisis, we have utilized a variety of social platforms to remain physically distant from others: calls, FaceTime, texts, Zoom, Netflix movie parties, and even mailed letters. Vary and switch around methods to mitigate fatigue for one method and ask colleagues and clients what changes they may need for support and interpersonal communication.
Masks make it more difficult to interpret how people are feeling, so use this time to become attuned to other cues, such as body language, tone of voice, and speech cadence. Likewise, be more aware of how your body, voice, and gestures align with your words and emotions. If your staff do not already wear staff ID badges, consider issuing photo badges to staff (and residents, if applicable) so people can still see one another’s faces.
Since masks interfere with typical greetings such as smiling and saying “hi,” it may seem easier to simply walk past people, but try to at least wave hello to encourage a sense of connection. Also, check in on people more frequently than you might have before, and if you are have the time for a longer conversation, ask people how they are
really doing. Be open with your staff about how you are feeling as well (e.g. “I’m glad to be back, but I miss how things used to be”). Mutual honesty can be an opportunity to build interpersonal bonds even as you remain six feet apart.
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