It’s tragic that this even needs to be a topic of discussion. However, recent events have made it clear that now more than ever it is a matter that we cannot continue to ignore in healthcare. Unfortunate as it is, the facts are in order to better serve the communities to which they belong, hospitals must create a culture of preparedness, along with policies and procedures to ready staff in times of mass trauma and beyond. The question is this is “how?” Here are 3 ways to prepare for mass trauma in healthcare.
- Design response plans
How do you prepare for the unknown? The truth of the matter is that you can’t. The closest we can get is to design a response plan for any number of scenarios you see possible. A good place to start is with a little research from past tragedies and create plans based on what those particular intake hospitals experienced. This can include triage planning, what to do when you run out of beds, and how to deal with family members. What’s more, you’ll want a clear understanding of the nearest hospitals, their specialties, and a plan to transport patients quickly should it be required.
We can’t stress enough how important communication is to ensure that your hospital can achieve a culture of preparedness. Knowing is truly half the battle here. Once you create or change a plan of action make sure all vital staff are aware it.
Train frequently. It’s that age-old adage, practice makes perfect, and while in healthcare there is always room for improvement, we want to be sure to leave little room for error. Practicing ensure your staff feels comfortable in their roles when faced with the burden of heavy levels of stress.
- Test your staff
A test is a great way to gauge staff knowledge. It’s in a way a combination of the above three steps, but should not be used in lieu. Every step plays it’s role here in creating a culture of preparedness. That being said, testing staff every quarter or annually on policies and procedures around emergency protocol to ensure comprehension. Tests can let you know which staff members have a strong understanding of policies, procedures, and protocols, as well as which staff could use a little refresher. An extra step to provide administrators and executives with the peace of mind in knowing their hospitals and its patients are in good hands.
- Create a plan for the aftermath
In this case, we mean for your staff. Having to deal mass trauma can be incredibly stressful and taxing on one’s psyche. Develop a support protocol following the trauma that includes support groups, professional help, and time off.
Beyond this, it’s important to remind staff to stay focused on what’s going on inside as opposed to what people and the news are saying are going on out there. It’s natural to feel curious, but there’s a job to do, and that’s focusing on the patient. Of course, beyond intake, you’ll also want to have a media policy and procedure in place. Is it okay for staff to speak to the media? If so, what is the message they should be sharing? If not, who is it that they can direct media questions to and, what can they say to let the press know they won’t be answering any questions? All of this falls into creating a comprehensive plan for preparing for mass trauma in healthcare that we hope never needs to be used.