One of the best ways to make meaning from tragedy is to use the experience to help others. Below, staff members of New York City nursing homes hit early in the pandemic graciously offer their advice to teams across the country that might be anticipating or currently grappling with the pandemic.
- Stay calm.
- Anticipate everything. Be proactive. Order supplies early because once it hits, it’s too late. There’s nothing available, even down to alcohol pads.
- Cohort residents with symptoms on the same floor.
- Distribute PPE in a timely fashion to prevent transmission of infections.
- Be a source of support and encouragement to staff.
- Validate their experiences.
- Order food for the team.
- Encourage staff members to support each other.
- Let workers know that they’re not failing when residents get sick despite all they’ve done to help them.
- Provide support to each other, talk to staff, listen to staff, share your own feelings of grief, anxiety and panic because we all have so much in common.
- Note the mood and behaviors of your own team. You’re all sharing this collective grief as your clients become ill or pass away, yet you are tasked with caregiving and supporting their families while grieving at the same time.
- Encourage staff to seek professional help. Telehealth is now available with flexible hours to accommodate schedules.
- Watch for distraction while on the job, like incomplete work, irritability with families or clients, tardiness or absences when these behaviors did not previously exist. Be understanding, show empathy when addressing these issues and encourage staff to seek help.
- Look at everyone like they have COVID-19.
- Protect yourself. Wear N95 masks protected by a surgical mask, gloves and face shields or goggles.
- Have hand sanitizer with you all the time.
- Don’t run around with gloves thinking you’re protected. It’s too easy to touch your cell phone.
- As a worker, you need to go into every situation expecting that you can get the virus and you can’t let down your guard.
- Maintain presence of mind as much as possible so you can follow infection control procedures rather than let anxiety take over.
- Follow all the precautions and don’t be afraid.
- Focus on your purpose of helping people and know that many of them will get better even though they have the virus.